Thursday, December 30, 2010

Foods to Avoid Giving Your Pet

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA; adapted from ASPCA article)

Throughout the holiday season, questions may have arose about what is healthy and unhealthy to feed your pet(s). We are a bit late for the 2010 season, but here is a brief list of what to avoid feeding your pet(s)!

Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine

These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.


Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.


The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Grapes & Raisins

Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure.

Yeast Dough

Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones

Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.


Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

Onions, Garlic, Chives

These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.


Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.


Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Evaluating the Things We Don't "Love" About Our Dogs

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

Five Things I Love About My Dogs:

1. Their infectious enthusiasm in greeting me when I come home, even if I’ve only been gone a
few minutes.

2. Watching them run, mouths wide open like they’re smiling, the picture of joyful.

3. Cuddle time – mentality, not size, makes a lap dog.

4. If I drop food on the floor, all I have to do to clean it up is whistle.

5. They’re just really freaking cute.

Five Things I Don’t Love About My Dogs:

1. Payton barks at other dogs and people going by the window.

2. They jump up when they’re excited (sometimes with very dirty paws).

3. Finley insists on stopping for a thorough interview of every single trash can if we walk on
garbage day.

4. Payton likes to race up the stairs, and doesn’t care who he has to cut off to get up or down as fast as possible.

5. They leave fluffy little fur clouds in every crevice of the house.

One thing that’s great about making a list of things I don’t like is that I can evaluate each one, and usually find a solution to help. Here are some examples:

1. Reward the behavior you want – For barking out the window, I spend some time watching out the window with Payton, and rewarding him for being quiet when someone goes by. He now will often just whine and look at me, rather than have a frenzied barking meltdown.

2. Reward an incompatible behavior – For jumping up, I taught the dogs “go to your bed”, and I can send them there to do sit or down stays until I am ready to greet them. I will also reward jumping nose touches out to the side, so they can jump, but not on me.

3. Foundation Skills – Leave it is a skill every dog should know well, and it’s perfect for this situation.

4. Self-control exercises – Asking Payton for a wait at the stairs gets me up and down without breaking a leg, and also strengthens his self-control.

5. Well, not everything can be fixed with training. That’s when I look at my list of things I love and decide they are worth it! :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Play: How To Tell The Good From The Bad

Playing with other dogs is an important part of a dog’s social life. Frequent play sessions can help keep your dog’s social skills finely tuned as well as provide some great exercise. It can be very satisfying for you as an owner to see your dog having fun, but it can also be stressful if you’re not sure whether or not the behaviors your dog or his playmate are exhibiting are appropriate in dog play. Oftentimes playing dogs can look very rough and even aggressive. Here are some key things to look for that can help determine if you should let your dog play on, or if it’s time for a break.

Play face: When you see a dog with a very wide open mouth, you’re seeing a play face. You can see lots of teeth, and it can look frightening, but a truly aggressive dog will have a more closed and tense mouth with the lips covering the teeth more.

Play bow: When your dog lowers the front half of her body with the hindquarters still raised, she’s doing a play bow, a move to entice others to play. Play bows can be held for awhile, or they can be a very short and subtle bend in the legs.

Pawing: Using a front paw to bat at another dog is an invitation to play.

Role Reversal: When two dogs are playing, it’s a good thing to see them switch positions every now and then. First Spike is on the top, then Fluffy is on the top. First Maggie chases Sadie, then Sadie chases Maggie, etc.

Taking Breaks: Because play can be very arousing, and sometimes arousal can spill over into aggression, it’s good when dogs are able to take brief breaks from play. This may be as simple as taking a break from wrestling to offer a play bow, or to shake off. If you have a dog who doesn’t take breaks like this, talk to your trainer about how to help your dog learn this valuable play skill.

Growling: This can be one of the most difficult things to interpret in dog play. You really need to evaluate the rest of the body language because some dogs are just loud players. Generally though, growling signals a higher level of arousal, so look for the growly dog to take breaks from play as mentioned above. Also, if the growling is very low pitched, or decreases in pitch, that signals a more serious intent.

Hold one back: When two dogs are playing, if you’re concerned that one dog is bullying the other, hold the bully back for a second or two and see how the other dog reacts. If the other dog shakes off and walks away, you know the bully was a little much. If the other dog comes right back at the bully, they were having a good time and enjoying the play.

Respect for Signals: It’s important that dogs respect “back off” signals from other dogs. Freezing, looking away, and snapping are common signals that a dog needs more space. Ideally your dog will recognize these signals and leave that dog alone, but if he doesn’t, go over and call him away.

Raised Hackles: When the hair on a dog’s back goes up, many people think that dog is aggressive, but this is not necessarily the case. Piloerection (the technical term) just signifies arousal. Watch for other body language. If the dog also has a play face and is pawing, don’t worry about it.

Mounting: People are quick to assume dominance when one dog mounts another, but this has never been proven to be the case. The current literature is so varied on this, ascribing it to everything from stress to a play invitation. The bottom line is that if you don’t like it, or the other dog doesn’t like it, call your dog out of the situation. A strong leave it cue (take your attention away from that), can help if this is a recurring issue.

The next time your dog is playing with another dog, watch for these signs of appropriate and inappropriate play. Remember that it’s important to let dogs use their body language, so never punish your dog for communicating with another dog. If you or your dog are uncomfortable, just get out of the situation.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Dog Is Barking and Won't Stop: Here Are TIPS!

(by Brianne Statz)

We recently added a challenging exercise to our group classes – spend 2 minutes or so working with your dog without talking. It may not sound that hard, but it’s surprisingly difficult for our very verbal human brains to accomplish. We like to talk to our dogs, and our dogs do build quite an impressive vocabulary, whether it’s words we purposely teach, like sit and down, or words they pick up on their own, like W-A-L-K. Despite their capacity to learn verbal cues, dogs are generally more visually oriented and communicate more by body language. That means they bark a lot less than we talk. But even so, barking is a behavior that many of us find irritating, and want to eliminate as much as possible.

Here are a few strategies to help curb undesirable barking:

· Train an incompatible behavior – It’s harder (though not impossible) for your dog to bark when he has something in his mouth. Teaching a “get your toy” cue can help for excitement barking, such as when you come home from work or you have a visitor at the door.

· Train an alternative behavior – If your dog knows that something other than barking will be rewarded, chances are he will choose that option. For example, say your dog barks at other dogs while walking. Every time you spot another dog, stop and ask your dog to sit and generously reward him for paying attention to you. As you do this more often, your dog will see other dogs as an opportunity to earn some goodies from you, rather than something to start barking at.

· Reward quiet – This one sounds simple, but can be a true test to your patience. Simply wait for your dog to stop barking and reward the quiet. It works best if you try to be preemptive and reward your dog for being quiet before the barking starts. For example, if your dog likes to bark when he sees someone walk past the front window, spend some time sitting with your dog by the window, and as soon as you see someone going by start lavishly praising and feeding your dog as soon as he sees the person. If he does start barking, wait for him to stop, and then reward. Up the ante by gradually waiting for longer periods of quiet before rewarding.

· Manage the situation – When you don’t want to work on training the bark away, do your best to manage the situation. Close the blind to the front window, give your dog a stuffed Kong or bone to chew, or do a day of doggy daycare to get him really tired.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pets' Pet Names

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

Does your pet have a nickname? Pseudonym? Alias? All of the Above? Most of us call our pets by a variety of different “pet names”. Here are mine:

· Payton, my Australian Shepherd is known by all of the following: Liam’s Sweetness Forever (registered name), Tony, Tony the P, PMan, Paytey, Jerkface, Steve Smith (by my brother who wanted me to name him that), and Turd Ferguson (from an SNL sketch – celebrity Jeopardy anyone?)

· Finley, my husky mix is known by these monikers: Fin, Finch, Finchface, FinBinley, and Findersox

· Joan the cat gets called all of these: Baby Joan, JoanBee, Miss Beazley, Little Miss and Snotface Joan

A pet name is a term of endearment and affection, and there is no harm in having them for our pets. Or is there? When it comes to training, they can actually be a problem. One of the first things we talk about in group classes is Name Recognition. We need our dogs to respond to their names so we can get their attention when necessary. We start out in our beginner and puppy classes by having each owner call their dog’s name and reinforce if the dog looks at the owner.
Through the rest of the classes, we work on adding distraction – bouncing balls, squeaking toys, etc., with the goal of our dog’s head immediately jerking around toward us when we call her name.

But when class is over, most of us don’t practice name recognition at home. And to add to that lack of practice once class is over, we frequently use nicknames. What is happening when I call my Aussie Tony, PMan, etc is that “Payton” may not be getting reinforced. So when I do call “Payton”, and don’t get the quick response I expect, I might get frustrated. I think to myself he knows his name – he should look at me when I say it!

Whenever your dog doesn’t respond to his name, take a second and think about the last time you actually rewarded (with a primary reinforcer like food – not with just a “good boy”) your dog for responding to his name. And the last time you rewarded a name recognition without any strings attached (i.e. without making him come inside or stay, or do anything other than simply look at you). All behaviors need to be reinforced every now and then to keep them alive.

Does this mean we shouldn’t have pet names for our pets? I know I couldn’t stop myself if I tried. It just means that we need one “go to name”. One name that we expect a quick response when we call it, and that we put the effort into training that quick response.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Show Off Your Creative Side!

(from the KONG website:

The weather is getting colder, and that usually means less exercise for our dogs. If the weather is frightful, get your doggy some mental exercise! One way is by purchasing more "mental" toys, such as Kongs. There are other stuffable toys, as well.

Perhaps you already have a couple Kongs lying around your house. Does your dog love his/her Kong? Are you at a loss for new things to try with it? If you haven't tried filling a Kong and then freezing it, you should! Freezing the goodies makes it more challenging.

While you are at it, take a few of these Kong recipes for a test drive! Your dog will really love the new flavors, and it will make the Kong exciting again.

1 fresh banana
2 tbs wheat germ
1 tbs plain yogurt (can use your pet'sfavorite flavor as well)
Any KONG Toy that best fits your pet'schewing temperament
-In a bowl, mash up banana. Then, add wheat germ and yogurt. Mash all ingredients together and use spoon to add to KONG. Freeze for 4 hours. Makes 1 serving for Medium KONG. Double for every KONG size that is bigger.

Cheesy Dental KONG Delight:
3 Slices of your pet's favorite cheese
Any Dental KONG toy
-A very simple and creative way to make any pet drool in delight. Just place the three slices of cheese directly into the grooves of your pet's Dental KONG (if model has rope - make sure cheese does not get onto it). Melt in microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. Give to pet after it cools.

Philly Steak :
Steak scraps
1 ounce cream cheese
Appropriate KONG toy
-Place small scraps of steak inside KONG toy. Spread cream cheese in large hole to hold scraps.

Fruit Salad:
Apple and carrot chunks
1/4 of a banana
Appropriate KONG toy
-Place apples and carrots in KONG toy. Mush the bananas in large hole to hold fruit in place. You can include other fruits and veggies: orange slices, peach and/or nectarine chunks, celery sticks, broccoli and/or cauliflower, tomato and black olive mixture.

Veggie KONG Omelet:
Your choice of shredded cheese
Any veggies that your pet may like
Appropriate KONG toy
-Scramble egg and fold in veggies. Put into KONG toy. Sprinkle with cheese over the top and microwave for about twenty seconds. Cool thoroughly before giving to pet.

Mac 'N Cheese:
Leftover macaroni and cheese
Small cube of Velveeta
Appropriate KONG toy
-Melt Velveeta in microwave until gooey. Add mac 'n cheese to KONG toy. Pour heated Velveeta into KONG. Make sure it has cooled before giving it to your pet.

Aunt Jeannie's Archeology KONG (for advanced dogs)
(by Jean Donaldson)
-Fill your KONG toy (the larger the better!) in layers and pack as tightly as possible.
LAYER ONE (deepest): KONG Stuff’N Beef and Liver treats.
LAYER TWO: KONG Stuff’N Tail Mix or dry dog kibble, Cheerios, sugar-free, salt-free peanut butter, dried banana chips, apples and apricots.
LAYER THREE: carrot sticks, turkey or leftover ravioli or tortellini. The last item inserted should be an apricot or piece of ravioli, presenting a smooth "finish" under the main opening. -

KONG on a Rope:
(by Ian Dunbar)
KONG Stuff’N Tail Mix or dry dog kibble
Appropriate KONG toy Rope
-Pull the rope through the KONG toy and knot it. Hang this upside down from a tree, deck or post. The small hole should be facing the ground. Fill the large hole of the KONG toy with KONG Stuff’N Tail Mix or dry dog kibble. Make the toy hang just high enough that it is out of your dog's reach. Your dog will spend hours trying to retrieve the treats from the KONG toy. At the end of the day, take the remaining treats and give to your pet as a reward. This is advanced work for your dog.


Frozen Jerky Pops:Peanut butterBouillonJerky Strips · WaterAppropriate KONG toyMuffin tin. Smear a small amount of peanut butter over small hole in your KONG toy. Fill with cool water and add a pinch of bouillon. Place a Jerky Stick inside KONG toy and freeze. This can also be put (once frozen) in a children's size swimming pool for a fun day of fishing for your pet. - by Terry Ryan
Simple, Tried and True:Peanut butter or KONG Stuff’N Peanut Butter PasteAppropriate KONG toySmear a small amount of peanut butter or KONG Stuff’N Peanut Butter Paste inside the cavity of your KONG toy. It's that easy! KONG Stuff’N Liver Paste, KONG Stuff’N Breath Treat or KONG Stuff’N Puppy Treat also work great. - by trainers and vets worldwide
Trixie's Favorite:Trixie, a 50 pound Aussie/Springer mix, loves turkey meat and KONG Stuff’N Liver Snacks mixed with slightly moistened dog food nuggets frozen inside her Kong. She is very clean about unstuffing - some dogs are not! - by Joe Markham

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Species

While browsing articles, Teacher's Pet Training found this. Hope you enjoy it!


A Tale of Two Species – Patricia McConnell Explains Why We Love Dogs

Written by Steve Dale

Just look at a puppy or a kitten, and you probably feel good. There’s a reason for that, according to certified applied animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell of Madison, WI, “It’s a hormone called oxytocin,” she says, “And that makes us feel all gooey which increases after, say a 20 minute session with a dog who simply looks at you. That hormone makes us feel good, partly by suppressing another hormone called cortisol (sometimes called the stress hormone). In other words, there’s physiology to explain why we’re all stupid in love with our pets.”

McConnell researched the impact of oxytocin and our relationship with pets in her book, “For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend,” (Ballantine Books, New York, NY, $24.95; 2006). “Lately, there’s been a lot of research on oxytocin in other mammals (aside form people or dogs). Oxytocin is clearly related to child rearing and social bonding. If you give a (mother) sheep a substance that blocks oxytocin, she rejects the lamb. If you supplement oxytocin (mother) sheep become more nurturing and more protective of their lamb. In some species of social mice, the dads do the child rearing. It turns out, in these species the males have higher oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a social glue that bonds us to our puppies, kitties, horses and cockatoos.”

Sure, the explanation of why we love dogs is often ascribed to the non-judgmental love dogs have for us. But our love for dogs is goes deeper. Besides, McConnell says they don’t always love us unconditionally.

McConnell recalls one women attending a herding demonstration with her Border Collie, but her dog clearly didn’t like her. By all accounts, she loved her dog, never physically abused the dog or anything like that. The dog simply didn’t care for her, and her owner didn’t have any idea. “The dog literally winced every time she touched her dog,” says McConnell. “It was awful for me to watch.”

Who’s fault is this sort of mismatch? Well, perhaps you could blame an adoption counselor at a shelter or maybe people yearning for a certain “look” without considering the dog’s personality and their own lifestyle. But then sometimes these mismatches just happen. When they do, McConnell is an advocate of re-homing. She says, “Greater love hath no owner than to realize their dog needs something you can’t give them. I’ve re-homed two dogs.”

Of course, McConnell, an expert who writes best-selling books and speaks around the world about dog behavior. If anyone could deal with any dog, it’s her. Still, she re-homed dogs “I had a puppy who just hated change, and I’m on the road all the time. He was a Border Collie who constantly needed to work; my four dogs and seven sheep just wasn’t enough. Most responsible people think, ‘well, I just can’t pass off this dog like it’s a toaster.’ And they’re right. But sometimes, it’s the right thing to do. I re-homed (that Border Collie) to a farm with 400 sheep. I knew he would be a happier dog, and he is a happier dog. I can still sob about it. I loved him. But I loved him enough to do the right thing.”

McConnell adds the most effective way you can demonstrate your love, and also a great tool for training dogs is through play. Try acting like a dog. Pretend to mimic a play bow. It’s a happy signal eliciting play, as dogs bends their front legs, and stick their butt into the air – you try to do the same. “We’re not very good at it,” McConnell says and laughs. “But it’s fun for us to try, even if we make fools of ourselves. Another one is ‘stop and start.’ Lunge a foot forward, then move back fast, to the side, then forward. Either your dog will say, ‘Ok, fun, let’s play’ or think you’re crazy.”

McConnell says, “Sometimes I wonder what dogs think of us. They clearly know we’re not dogs, but what are we? We’re creatures with happy faces, who never grow muzzle; who have less functional teeth; some of us are pretty endearing, but others are unpredictable; we have a disabled sense of smell, but are still really amazing hunters able to go to a big box and instantly create a meal.”

“What other two different species on the planet will risk their lives for the other?” ask McConnell. “I argue the relationship we have with dogs is a biological miracle.”

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

Canine Freestyle Videos

Hello Teacher's Pet Followers!

Did you know that we have a Canine Freestyle class available? So far, we have had MANY successful students. Follow this link for the evidence!

Interested in getting your video up? Check out for how to enroll!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

He’ll Probably Outgrow It

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

Puppies are seriously cute. They can also be seriously annoying. Yes, I said it. I recently asked a group of new puppy parents in class for a show of hands on how many people have gotten mad at their adorable little puppy. Everyone admitted they had. Between housetraining, mouthiness, chewing and other less than desirable behaviors, it’s not surprising that all puppy owners get frustrated with their furballs. The good news is that there are many behaviors that puppies tend to outgrow (although it’s not always the case), such as the following:

· Mouthiness – By the age of six months or so, adult teeth have come in, and much of the mouthiness will go away. Some dogs do have a tendency to get mouthy when excited, and arousal control games like tug (ask your trainer how to play appropriate tug) and exercises like stay can help. It is appropriate to give him a time out when he is excessively mouthy by either walking away from him, or putting him in a crate for 30 seconds – 2 minutes. Then give him another chance to be more appropriate by offering him a toy or bone to occupy his shark teeth.

· Submissive urination – Many puppies release a small amount of urine when greeting new people or dogs. It tells the other party “Please do me no harm”. Often by the age of 6 months this behavior decreases and goes away as he gains confidence through good socialization. Keeping greetings calm and working on sitting politely, or a simple hand target (“touch”) for greetings can help, as can pairing greetings with treats or toys. Avoid punishing him for this. Remember “Please do me no harm?” If you do him harm, he may have to try harder (i.e. urinate more) to try to communicate with you.

· Won’t go for a walk – One of the quintessential dog/owner activities! But puppies are not born knowing how to walk on a leash. Puppies go through “fear periods” (often from 8-11 weeks, but varies by individual) during which they may be more sensitive to new stimuli. This combined with the novelty of the collar and leash and being moved around by them can often lead to a puppy who puts on the brakes in the front yard and refuses to move. You can encourage him to walk a little with a toy or treats, or even a stick you can find on the ground. Most dogs love to sniff, so reinforcing walking with the opportunity to sniff new stuff can be very effective. Avoid dragging him or forcing him to walk. You want him to learn to love walks, not to find them painful or frightening.

On the other side of the matter, there are many undesirable behaviors puppies aren’t as likely to outgrow, like the following:

· Jumping Up – This is a very normal behavior to dogs. Familiar dogs often jump all over each other. But it’s not appropriate when he jumps up on your clean pants with muddy paws, or knocks over grandma. Sitting politely for greeting exercises, and not reinforcing jumping with attention are essential to get jumping under control.

· Chewing – Dogs chew throughout their lives, and it is important for dental hygiene. Puppies need to be taught what objects are appropriate chew things. Offer your puppy a variety of toys and bones to chew on, pick up everything else and supervise, supervise, supervise! If you are consistent with interrupting and redirecting to legal chew things, your puppy will eventually learn to leave the table legs alone.

· Resource Guarding – Protecting one’s resources is also a normal dog behavior, but if directed towards humans, it is one that definitely requires attention. If resource guarding tendencies (stiffening when you walk by his food bowl, growling when you reach for his bone, etc.) are apparent in a puppy under six months of age, it’s likely he has a strong genetic basis for the behavior, and early intervention is key to changing the behavior. Talk to your trainer if you see any warning signs!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

10 Reasons It Is Great To Be A Dog!


1. If it itches, you can reach it. And no matter where it itches, no one will be offended if you scratch it in public.

2. No one notices if you have hair growing in weird places as you get older.

3. Personal hygiene is a blast: No one expects you to take a bath every day, and you don't even have to comb your own hair.

4. Having a wet nose is considered a sign of good health.

5. No one thinks less of you for passing gas. Some people might actually think you're cute.

6. Who needs a big home entertainment system? A bone or an old shoe can entertain you for hours.

7. You can spend hours just smelling stuff.

8. No one ever expects you to pay for lunch or dinner. You never have to worry about table manners, and if you gain weight, it's someone else's fault.

9. It doesn't take much to make you happy. You're always excited to see the same old people. All they have to do is leave the room for five minutes and come back.

10. Every garbage can looks like a cold buffet to you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teaching Your Dog Self-Control

(adapted from article by Suzanne Clothier:

Does your dog pull on lead when someone approaches? When he sees another dog? If a cat or squirrel dash through the yard? Is he hard to control at the vet's or groomer's? When people come into your house?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, chances are your dog needs to learn self control. Just as children must learn to control their impulses before they can mature into responsible adults, dogs must learn self control before they can become well mannered canine citizens. Self control must be taught, just as you teach him to sit or speak or come when called.

Some ways to begin working on self-control are:

Train, don't restrain. Taking a firm grip on the leash and collar teaches the dog nothing except that you can restrain him. Instead, ask for a simple skill, such as sit. If he breaks position, quietly and calmly ask again. Another excellent skill to ask for is a touch/target.

Ask for compliance, not submission. View working with your dog as you would working with any friend. Avoid creating a struggle by asking the dog for more than he can do at the time. For example, if your dog is really excited, he may be unable or unwilling to lay down, but agreeable to sitting quietly with a few reminders from you. Compromise and be reasonable - if your dog is extremely aroused/excited, chances are he probably will not complete a long "stay" for you.

Remember the dog does not know what his options are. A dog who is lacking self control simply does not know that it is possible to sit quietly in the face of distractions. It is the owner's responsibility to show the dog that he has options other than lunging, pulling or leaping around.

Move slowly and talk quietly. A dog who is highly excited needs calm, slow handling. A common mistake owners make is to move quickly, grabbing at the leash and collar, raising their voice and speaking in short, sharp tones. From the dog's point of view, the owner appears as excited as they are, and short sharp tones often sound like barking. Instead of calming the dog, this reinforces his excitement. By moving slowly and talking quietly, the owner sends a clear message to the dog that he is not excited and is in control of the situation.

Remind and ask, don't demand. A dog who is already excited is likely to resist a harsh correction or respond by becoming more excited.

Work on teaching self control in all situations. Begin by working in distraction free areas, and ask your dog to sit on a loose leash for five minutes. Gradually move on to more exciting situations, and practice often. Work at home, at friends' homes, in parks, shopping centers, at dog shows, training classes and the veterinarian's. As your dog's self control and respect for you increases, you can add laying down quietly for up to 30 minutes to his skills.

A game you can play is called "Go Wild and Freeze." You get your dog excited for a short period of time, and follow it with a period of calming/relaxing. At first, how much excitement your dog can handle will be pretty short. That is fine! You will want to watch your dog for signs of overarousal. Such signs can be barking, jumping with force, mouthing, etc. If your dog begins to do those things, chances are he/she has gone over "threshold." The first couple times you play this game, you will figure out how long it takes your dog to reach that threshold level. When you determine that, you will shorten or lengthen the excitement period to be just below what you know your dog can handle. For example, if I play this game a couple times with my dog, and I find that I can get her excited for about 10 seconds before she starts barking frantically at me, I will only do 8 or 9 second excitement periods. Eventually, I can add another second. During the calming/relaxing period, you will work on a settle behavior. So, you will talk softly and calmly to your dog, practice massage, etc. You will reinforce the quiet and calm behaviors your dog offers. This game will help your dog regulate his/her emotions better and faster.

A further step to "Go Wild and Freeze" is to ask for skills directly after the excitement period. For example, after I get my dog excited, I would ask for a "sit" or "down." This gets your dog prepared to respond to cues even when excited/aroused.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Do Trainers Use Food When Training?

Adapted from APDT Website:

Behaviors that are rewarded are statistically more likely to be repeated, so when we regularly reward our dogs for a job well done, they’ll want to continue to respond! Not all rewards are created equal, and understanding what your dog finds rewarding is an important step in the training process.

Food can be a very valuable reinforcer for dogs during training. It’s one of a very short list of things that dogs are born already knowing is good. While most dogs easily learn to enjoy praise, petting and play – all of which also make good rewards -- food still holds a special place in their mind due to its primal nature.

Some people express concern about using food in training, worried they will create a dog who will only work if he knows there’s food. This is a valid concern, as it can happen if food is mis-used. The trick is to make sure that food is being used as a reward and not a bribe. There’s a big difference!

If you ask the dog to do something, he does it, and you give him a treat, that treat is a reward. If you ask the dog to do something he knows how to do, a behavior that he has demonstrated repeatedly on request for a long period of time, and he doesn’t do it, maybe you ask again. If he STILL doesn’t do it, and when you then reach into your pocket and get a treat, and the dog springs into action to comply with your original request, THAT treat just became a bribe! You asked him to do it, he didn’t, you got food, and he decided to get to work. Good training strives to avoid this.

The trick is to get the visual presence of the food out of the learning picture as soon as possible. For example, when lure-training (think cookie on the dog’s nose and over his head to achieve a sit), you want to get the cookie off his nose just as soon as you see him grasp the physical mechanics of the behavior. At that point, start using the same gesture minus the cookie, and reward the dog with a treat from your pocket once his rear is on the floor. This helps teach the dog the important lesson that he must successfully do the work before you’re willing to dole out the reward.

Another important tip for preventing accidental bribery is to make sure you have your dog’s attention before asking him to do something. Often, people resort to bribery because the dog didn’t respond the first time they asked – but when they asked, the dog wasn’t even paying attention. Before asking your dog to sit, lie down, or come when you call him, do your best to make sure he’s looking at you. Teach him to respond quickly to his name, so that when he’s distracted, using his name will prompt him to check in, at which point you can ask for the next behavior.

Once your dog is reliably responding to your hand-signals, begin to vary how he gets his rewards. Sometimes use a treat, but often times, use something else he’s telling you he wants – like his leash put on to go for a walk, his favorite toy to be thrown, or an invitation to join you on the couch for snuggle time. By using these types of “life rewards,” you’re teaching your dog that keeping you happy by complying with your requests is the key to opening the door to everything good in his world – not just food treats! This also allows you to use food randomly – as a surprise – which is extremely exciting for dogs, and often motivates them to work even harder.

Teacher's Pet Training NEWS

Hello all!

We have not posted an update in a couple months, as the summer has proved very busy. We hope you have joined either our Backyard Agility or Canine Freestyle class to enjoy a new doggy sport! If not, you still have a chance to sign up for Freestyle in early August. Come and check out a fabulous way to bond with your canine companion! You will learn new tricks, improve attention skills, and MORE!

Teacher's Pet has also had some leadership changes. Ana Grimh is now the Program Director. Brianne will still continue to lead classes, but Ana will be taking on the business-related projects. Ana is very excited to build upon all of Teacher's Pet's successes!

More articles to come soon!

Thank you,

Teacher's Pet Training

Friday, May 21, 2010

Seminars, achievements, and other news!

Hello again from Teacher's Pet!

Just wanted to give a news update from April. In April, Brianne and Ana attended multiple seminars. First, on April 10th and 11th, we learned from Sarah Kalnajs of Blue Dog Training. There was quite a bit of review of dog body language, doggy development and socialization, and also some great information on Safety Zones, multi-dog households, and the most important skills to teach your dog(s).

On the 24th, we listened to Pat Miller. She went over body language, myths about dominance, review of learning theory, how to use functional analysis, aggression, and how to utilize play in building a relationship with your dog(s). Both seminars were excellent development tools, and we have more ideas for building our classes.

After a couple years of studying and teaching, Ana completed her CCPDT exam on March 20, 2010, and received her CPDT-KA in April. To maintain her certification, she must complete continuing education credits, such as attending seminars. She is excited to continue learning and teaching!

We are now offering Backyard Agility! The first session will be at Ruffin' It, on the Westside of Madison. This class will go over the "basic" agility obstacles, and have a more laidback, relaxed atmosphere. The equipment will also give you an idea of how to set things up in your own backyard!

Finally, this is the last week to register for 5 drop-in classes and receive a discount! Please see our website for more details:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reading Dog Body Language

Reading your dog's signals can be confusing. When first starting to learn, start by breaking it down into each body part - then look at the whole picture! Only basing an interpretation on one body part can be misleading, as sometimes it takes looking at everything together. For examples of body language along with pictures, please check out the sites below:

Paws Across America; How to Interpret Your Dog's Body Language, Facial Expressions, and Vocalizations:

Carol Byrnes; Reading Dog Body Language:

APDT Website; Dog Park Body Language:

There are also several books and DVDs on dog body language...

1. Aloff, Brenda. Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide to Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog.

2. Rugaas, Turid. On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals.

3. Kalnajs, Sarah. The Language of Dogs (DVD).

And many more...!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Interactive, Puzzle Toys!

Looking for some GREAT puzzle toys? These are great for when your dog is home alone and needs something to do! Also, excellent just for feeding times. Instead of using a boring ol' bowl for food, put your dog's kibble into a puzzle toy and see how much fun he/she has!

Some sites to check out:

1. Nina Ottosson -- Makes excellent wood or plastic toys. Fairly expensive, but well worth it --

2. Busy Buddy Toy Line -- Can find these at most pet stores, too --

3. Starmark Interactive Toys --

4. Canine Genius Toys -- Also available at stores --

5. Booda Rip-Ems by Aspen Pet --

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How to Pick the Right Pet For YOU!

So, you are interested in obtaining a new pet for your household. Pets help us feel loved, needed, and accepted. They can help relieve loneliness, stress, and make us laugh. Before making the decision to get a pet, spend some time to determine why you want one and what type of pet would be best for your family.

First, you need to figure out why you want a pet. Are you seeking a companion, some prestige, an exercise buddy, a hobby, for the kids, to make money, for security, to show, or something else? A pet should not be obtained for something to do. This needs to be a well-thought out decision – remember, some pets can live 10-20 years!

Really look at your lifestyle: How physically active are you? Do you want your pet to be a part of an active lifestyle? A couch potato? Somewhere in-between? Do you and any household member have allergies to pets? How settled is your life? Are you expecting major lifestyle changes over next several years? A pet that fits into your life today needs to also fit in tomorrow.

Other considerations are time, space, and money. Do you have a lot of free time now? How much time do you have every day to spend taking care of a pet? Time is precious, and adding a pet will take more of your time. Some animals require more time than others (dogs, cats, etc). Also, all pets need to live indoors and be part of the family. Do you have enough space for the type of pet you are thinking about? How safe is it for your pet? Do you have an effective and humane way of confinement? Do you plan to move or relocate in the next few years? Do you own or rent? Are you willing to spend the time looking for a place that will take an animal if you have to move?

Finally, how much money are you willing to spend for the original cost and set-up of the animal? Some things to consider are housing, licenses, food, spaying/neutering, initial vet expenses, toys, and collar/leash. This is not a comprehensive list. Other things that may come up during the year are: emergency care, replacement housing, yearly vet expenses, boarding/pet-sitting, and grooming.

After you have thought about these questions, it is time to research your pet of choice. If you have narrowed down a specific breed, do more research! Investigation is important to confirm that that particular pet/breed will indeed fit into your life. Look at expected temperament, size, grooming needs, diet and health concerns, exercise and space requirements, etc. All this information will give you more detail in making a decision. You can find more information at libraries, the vet, book stores, dog and cat shows, friends and neighbors, dog trainers, animal shelters, and other computer online services.

Once you have researched your specific pet/breed, you can set your selection criteria. Do you want a purebred or mixed breed? Male or female? Adult or infant? There are advantages and disadvantages to each one. Please see pg 6 of “Choosing a Pet”:

Have you completed your investigation? You may be ready to start looking! Other things to do prior to beginning your real search: resolve any conflicts that stop you from making a lifetime commitment, obtain all the necessary equipment, take time off of work to help animal adjust, make time to take animal to vet within first week, and understand that you may not find the right animal for you the first time you look. Avoid impulse selection, selection by what the animal looks like (would you buy a car based only on color?), selection as a gift for another person, and selection out of misguided pity.

Pondering and researching your decision is very important because when an animal is right in front of you, it is human nature to throw common sense to the wind and take it home. By utilizing your list of needs, you will ensure picking the appropriate pet for your lifestyle.

More resources can be found online - just search "How to Pick a Pet."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Can You Train Your Dog Like TV?

(adapted from APDT article - look under Pet Owner)

In their article, the APDT compares dog training reality TV to "The Biggest Loser", another reality TV show. On this show, we see overweight people vie to lose the most weight and win huge cash prizes. Week after week, the program depicts the competitors working hard to reach their goal(s). No one would expect it to be easy to get those amazing results. So why are so many people willing to believe that dog training and behavior problems that are just as long-standing and complex can be solved in a single episode?

Reality: Good dog training takes work, a lot of consistency and tons of commitment. It takes some time and effort to practice the behaviors to fluency in order to get the desired results. Some problems can be improved with only a few minor changes in management or handling, but most training and behavior programs take a bit more effort.

You’ll see many TV dog training programs where very intense problems are seemingly ‘cured’ in just a few minutes by the change of body posture on the part of the owner or by uttering a particular syllable in a certain way. But in reality, long-term training and behavior problems are just not going to go away in minutes!

Every TV dog training program has some good and not-so-good points mixed in there. It’s really up to you to decide what to keep, what to toss in the way of advice, and what “tips” you’ll pick up from these shows. Here are a few points to consider as you evaluate each episode:

* "Don’t Try This At Home." If the TV dog-training program starts out with a disclaimer, take it seriously! Some TV-personality trainers have good dog-handling skills that may not transfer successfully to you through the airwaves, so you’re probably not going to be able to successfully replicate their results at home. Ask yourself if you’d feel comfortable doing this yourself or having your children do it. Also, note if the TV trainer or owner is bitten or injured during the session; if so, this is NOT a technique you’ll want to implement on your own.

* The same apparent behavior problem or training challenge may have many different causes, and therefore many different solutions. So if you’re not a trained dog trainer, you can’t assume that the miracle cure you observed on TV will apply to your dog, and you can’t assume that your execution of that technique will be as effective as what you observed on the (heavily-edited) TV program. How many ‘takes’ do you get in real life?

* As you watch your TV dog training program, turn off the sound so you’re not influenced by voice-overs, dramatic music and other sounds that may influence your judgment. Then just watch the dogs. Do they seem to be willing participants in the process or are they stressed, frightened or worse, being hurt? Is the end result a happy, engaged and friendly dog or has the dog just shut down and “given up?” By observing these signals this way, you can make some better decisions about whether this method you’re watching is the one for you.

* Most folks are amazed at how much their dog’s behavior is influenced by their own. So watch your TV dog-training program carefully to see how much training the dog’s owners are getting. With proper instructions, whatever results are achieved can be maintained once the trainer has left and the credits roll. Embarrassing and reprimanding the humans doesn’t count, either! A good trainer or behavior consultant will educate the humans in a judgment-free environment without engendering guilt or other bad feelings.

* Encouraging people to get their dogs out for more activities is a good thing. Just remember that exercise doesn’t really cure problems by itself, but can tend to mask problems by simply exhausting the poor creature. Many companion dogs also don’t have enough structure in their lives. Not knowing where he fits in the family and household can result in unwanted behaviors on the part of your dog. Working with a qualified trainer, you can understand how to convey this message to your dog in a way that’s meaningful to him.

Just as with everything else we see on TV, be sure to keep in mind that those programs are there for the entertainment value. While watching them, it’s important to keep your eyes, ears and mind open. Watch those programs with a critical eye and make sure to discuss what you see with your favorite dog trainer; you and your dog will be happy you did.

Good luck, and happy training!

Please see for the entire article.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to pick a training class/trainer!

Group classes and individual sessions each have their place. Whichever is right for you please watch at least one session before committing yourself. If the trainer won't let you observe find another trainer. At Teacher's Pet, you may observe any class beforehand!

Watch the trainer's interaction with dogs and people. How do the dogs react? How do the humans react? We try to create a fun, educational, and positive experience for all participants (instructor, owner, dog). If there are any negative feelings, it's time for a break and/or a game!

How long has this trainer been a professional? How long has the trainer been training in the area YOU need help with?

How was the trainer taught? How many and what types of seminars or continuing education does the trainer go to every year? The apprentices and assistants at Teacher's Pet learn from watching and speaking with the lead trainers. There are opportunities for continuing education, apprentices pass a test before becoming assistants, and assistants become leads when they feel comfortable with theories/methods and instructing.

Make sure you are clear on your goals. Competition obedience is not necessarily the best selection for a well mannered pet. Pet manners classes won't prepare you for competition obedience. If you want to compete, be sure your trainer has experience and success in that area. Currently, Teacher's Pet offers limited classes for competitive teams. We do offer a few dog sports, but not focused on competition.

A skilled trainer is flexible, observant, open, and patient. The trainer should be asking you what you want to accomplish, and how you want to accomplish it. Feel free to ask questions and provide feedback. Teacher's Pet trainers want to hear your thoughts!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dog Park Body Language

(adapted from APDT Owner website)

If you decide to visit a dog park, it is important to be able to read the body language of your dog and the other dogs present. The ideal body language is playful, but dogs will exhibit a variety of behaviors as they contact new dogs and spend more time at the park. Overall you are looking for balanced play between dogs – sometimes one is on top and next time he’s on the bottom.

It’s always wise to leave the park if your pet shows signs of tiredness, stress or fear or if there are dogs present who seem threatening.

Playful actions to watch for:
• Back and forth play – dogs change position – role reversals
• Bouncy, exaggerated gestures
• Wiggly bodies
• Open relaxed mouth
• Play-bows
• Twisted leaps or jumps
• Pawing the air

Signs of Anxiety/Stress to Monitor:
• Fast wagging low tail
• Whining or whimpering
• Ears may be back
• Hiding behind objects or people

Signs of Fear:
• Dog will try to look small
• Tail tucked
• Hunched over, head down
• Tense
• May urinate submissively

Red Flags that Require Intervention:
• Excessive mounting
• Pinning (holding another dog down and standing stiffly over them)
• Shadowing another dog (following) incessantly
• Bullying: repeatedly bothering another dog that does not want to interact
• Fast non-stop running with a group – high arousal situation
• Full-speed body slams
• Putting head repeatedly onto another dog’s neck or back
• Staring with a fixed gaze directly at another dog
• Snarling or raised lips
• Showing teeth
• Hackles up at the shoulders

Signs of Potential Illness – While not necessarily related to behavior, you will want to remove your dog from a park where dogs are showing the following symptoms:
• Coughing or gagging
• Vomiting
• Sneezing
• Diarrhea

In theory, dog parks are a wonderful way for dogs to socialize with other friendly dogs. It is important that owners who frequent dog parks know the limitations of their pets and act accordingly to keep playgroups interacting in a safe and responsible manner.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

10 Things to do With Your Dog During Winter

Even though the weather is frightful, there are many activities you can, and should, do with your dog(s). Everyone should strive to exercise their pooch physically and/or mentally each day. I know that fitting in a walk is challenging after a long day at work, but your dog needs you to supervise his/her exercise time! If you are having trouble brainstorming new activities, here is a short list of ideas:

1. Teach a “Find It” cue. To train Find It, get your dog's attention, then start training the game by hiding a small high-value treat under a piece of paper or a toy. Let him see you hide it, and even leave it partially in view the first time. Then say "find it!" in an excited voice. Encourage your dog until he or she finds the treat and gobbles it down.

If your dog doesn't get the idea, lift up the paper or toy, show him the treat, partially cover it again, and repeat "find it!" He or she should get the idea quickly. Be sure to keep your voice excited and your tone light and happy. It's important not to get frustrated, since this should be a fun game for both you and your dog. If he or she still doesn't the idea, try a higher value treat. Hide a second treat and repeat the process. Be sure to cheer and act very excited every time he or she finds a treat.

Once he or she gets the idea, start making finding the hidden treat harder and harder. Start hiding treats under different objects, from different pieces of newspaper to other toys. Also begin to work on distance. Start placing the hidden treats two or three feet away from your dog, then four or five. After that, try having another family member distract your dog while you hide a treat. Continue increasing the difficulty level until you can hide treats for your dog to find in another room.

This can also help dogs with separation distress by keeping them busy. In essence, you can hide a bunch of treats and/or stuffed toys (like Kongs) before you leave, tell your dog to “Find It!” and leave. Your dog will get some much needed mental stimulation from all that searching!

2. Take a Tricks and Games class! Just take one class so you fully understand the concepts, then you can easily transfer your knowledge to a whole range of tricks. Or, if you really do not have time for class, pick up a book on tricks. There are quite a few good ones at the store and/or library – check with your trainer for recommendations!

3. Check out a doggy daycare, dog walker, etc. These services cost money, but they are excellent ways to get that wintertime energy out! We usually recommend The Dog Haus and Spa Woof on Eastside, and Ruffin’ It Resort on Westside.

4. Invest in tons of mentally stimulating toys, such as Kongs. If you do a search online, you can easily find more puzzle toys for dogs. Bad Dog Frida has many options (located on Eastside of Madison)! You can even freeze the toys with the yummy treats/food inside for a longer-lasting experience.

5. Purchase a clicker and watch some online demos. Once you are comfortable with the method, start shaping your dog to offer behaviors! I used a clicker to shape my dog, Cymry, to pick up a toy. I said nothing to her, other than the clicker, and she eventually learned what I was looking for. You may want to take a class and/or ask a trainer on how to perfect the method.

6. If you cannot get your dog out for one 30-minute walk, try two 15-minute ones! Or, get moving while the sun is out!

7. Try recalls inside. Put your dog in a stay in one room while you walk to another location. Use your recall word and see how quickly your dog gets to you! This can also become a game like “Hide and Seek.” Start slow. Call your dog while he/she can see you. Eventually, work up to hiding behind things and/or being in a different room. Reinforce when your dog “finds” you.

8. Research dog sports and find a local facility that offers a class. For example, Teacher’s Pet now offers Canine Freestyle, a great way to stimulate your dog mentally and physically. There are also agility classes, tracking, rally-o, etc.

9. If you have stairs in your place, run up and down them with your dog. Or, if you practice a “send” or “go” cue (like in Agility), you can send your dog up and/or down the stairs. At first, you would have to go up some of the stairs with your dog, and when you stop, reinforce their continued movement away from you. Eventually, you can increase the distance until you are at the top/bottom of the stairs and sending them away.

10. CUDDLE! Take a moment away from your busy life to snuggle for 5-10 minutes with your best friend. It will relax you, as well as strengthen your bond.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Seminar Weekend!

Both Ana (Assistant Program Director) and Anna (Lead Trainer) attended an excellent seminar this weekend. They learned all about setting up a successful classroom, understanding personality types and how to handle certain situations, avoiding burnout, fresh marketing ideas, and developing strong curriculum. Teacher's Pet is so excited to utilize this material to help serve their clients better!

Coming soon...graduation pictures and videos! Check back often!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January Special!

In celebration of National "Train Your Dog" Month, Teacher's Pet Training is getting the word out about how much fun training with your dog can be.

If you have a stellar student already, consider trying a new dog sport, such as canine freestyle, agility, etc. One excellent option is that Teacher's Pet now offers Canine Freestyle. A 6-week cycle is starting March 1st at The Dog Haus.

If you need to brush up on skills and/or you just adopted a puppy, we have a superb class selection for you! Multiple beginner doggy classes and puppy classes are starting in February and March. Please see our main website ( for class times and days.

Another new opportunity at Teacher's Pet is Saturday classes. Starting February 6th, a puppy class and drop-in beginner class will be held at The Dog Haus. The drop-in class is very flexible; we work on the skills you are most interested in! Both classes run for 6 weeks.

So, what are you waiting for? We will update this blog weekly with more information and tips on training. Feel free to check out our main website and send feedback. We hope to see you and your dog soon!

(We are located in Madison, Wisconsin)