Where did you learn about dogs?
We have both been animal lovers our whole lives; when we met and started growing a family we realized that animals were going to have to be a big part of our lives.
Many years ago we were introduced to natural horsemanship through Buck Brannaman, and our journey into natural animal training began. Over the years we have blessed to work with Gawani Pony Boy, Pat Parelli, Marty Martens, and Leslie Desmond. While watching the miracles that occurred under the patient and wise hands of these people, we realized that this was what we were already doing with our dogs. These brilliant teachers simply gave us the words to describe it in a way all people could understand. From there we developed drills that help people tune into the necessary skills, awareness and understanding to achieve their goals with their animals. What we love about natural training is that all animals understand it: humans, horses, dogs, cats, birds. It's really about teaching people to remember the very basics of communication, which benefits them in all of their relationships.
Over many years we have worked with several different species, and thousands of dogs in order to present you with a thorough understanding how to work with your dog based on a sound relationship based on: love, trust and respect.
Why don’t you use choke chains, shock collars, pinch collars, harness or halter collars?
People like to use devices because they think it's a quick & easy fix. Many devices can be harsh on your dogs body because most of them are designed to create pain/discomfort, and when you create pain you loose trust. If you use the leash properly and teach the dog how to give to the pressure of the collar there would never be a 'pulling' dog. It's about teaching not controlling. We teach you how to properly use your leash and then no device is needed.
We only use a flat wide collar and matching leash as it is the most gentle equipment you can use. Our goal is always to be off leash, but that must be earned by you and your dog.
Our philosophy is to do as little as possible to get results - just as you you want someone to do with you. As long as you rely on a device your dog does too, and if you are without your device your dogs behavior will probably revert to it's old ways because he was reacting to the device and it had nothing to do with learning. He was being good to avoid a force or pain, but he is not learning to choose his behavior out of understanding. If you rely on a device to create the action and it will be more difficult for you and your dog to be off leash, at long distances and with distractions.
Relationships are about love, trust and respect, not force or pain.
What about Clickers or Treat Training?
Clickers are little hand held devices that 'click' when you press it, and it is instantly followed by food rewards so the dog makes a positive association to the click. We are not food focused trainers so it doesn't suit us, and we find it doesn't suit many of our clients or theirs dogs.
The 'click' replaces your voice saying 'good' or 'yes'. We consider your voice/tones to be a vital part of creating clear instruction and a strong connection to your dog.
Some people think Clicker Training is the only answer to training, while others find them bothersome to have to carry around in addition to a bag of treats. Some dogs are great with Clicker Training while others are not food motivated, or frightened by the 'click', and it can be very annoying when a group of people are training with clickers - it feels like you are standing in the middle of a popcorn machine.
If you rely on anything that is not you, your dog relies on it too, and it might be difficult to be successful at long distances, with distractions and off leash. You are often told to carry higher value treats with you so you are ready for the high level distractions, the trainer will say "get some liver, fresh chicken, or steak, and start throwing food on the ground if you have to to distract the dog". Unfortunately you could toss a steak in front of many dogs who would still rather have the squirrel, and it often ends in failure. This is all because you are relying on food to coerce your dog to comply. We prefer that your dog complies out of a sound relationship with you, not a relationship with food. What if the person next to you has better food? What if you don't have food with you or the dog is full? We get calls everyday from people who complain that their dog won't listen unless they have food in their hand; essentially your dog is holding you ransom - if the food does not have greater value than the squirrel, then the dog will pick the squirrel. Not our style.
How do you feel about Flexible Leashes?
Useless, dangerous and highly counterproductive. The thin line between the dog and the handle is very lightweight and does not communicate well with the dog. The heavy, cumbersome handle can be dangerous to the dog if you accidentally let go of it and the handle will be pulled into your dog possibly whacking him in the head; they have killed small dogs. The reverse can also occur if the clip releases from the collar and flies into your face, hand or body. When your dog is out on a long skinny line and suddenly takes off you, or someone near you, can get caught up in the leash and be cut by the fast moving line. Our clients, who are ER doctors, have reported frequent injuries from flexible leashes.
Flexible leashes are counterproductive because they teach your dog to have constant pressure on their neck and to push against it (opposition reflex) learning to fight pressure not give to pressure. So you are actually teaching your dog to pull against you.
The dog is also all around you in 'recess' doing as they please but not learning how to walk nicely beside you. They are not getting anymore exercise walking 4 feet in front of you than they would walking nicely beside you.
We haven't met a trainer who approves of these devices yet - please don't use these dangerous devices. They do make excellent clothes lines for drying your laundry.
There is lots of talk about 'alpha' and 'dominance' training, how do you feel about it?
We aren't big fans of those terms as they seem to illicit the wrong attitude from people. Many years ago the study of wolves (being dogs closest relatives) and pack mentality led many people to think they had to dominate their dogs and be the 'alpha', which unfortunately led to people acting like real jerks. We believe that you should simply be the decision maker in your relationship with your dog. That means you have an opinion about the things they do and you take the responsibility to teach them how to make good decisions about their behavior - just like having children.
There has also been a backlash to the dominance theory - as in 'never say no' to your dog. We aren't big fans of this either because it just isn't what happens in the real world. Parents, friends, coaches, teachers all say 'no' sometimes, but good parents, friends, coaches and teachers should try to say 'yes' as much as possible.
The word 'no' has saved our horses, dogs, cats and parrots from making near fatal mistakes. It is am important part of communication and can help a dog find the guidance he needs to make a good choice. We work hard not to overuse it, as you don't want it to become the most frequently used word in his vocabulary.
Does this training work with all dogs?
Our training works with all ages, breeds and issues, because it is how dogs understand the world. The key is communication and developing an ongoing relationship of love, trust and respect. Our goal is to teach you to understand your dog, and know how to develop healthy a relationship with her.
We give you the skills to communicate effectively, clearly while learning how to read your dogs intentions. It is very simple - you just have to practice.
How long should my training sessions be?
A relationship is on going all of the time, not done in sessions. You don’t think of being a good parent or partner for 10-15 minutes a day; it is who you are as a parent or partner all day long and the same applies to your relationship with your dog. With a large vocabulary you can communicate and connect all day long – giving your dog lots of jobs to do to keep him busy and entertained. This creates a happy human and a happier dog.
What kind of leash/collar is best?
We are very picky about the collars and leashes we recommend. The wider the better for the comfort of the dog and it should be made of a stiff material that does not collapse and become narrow if the dog were to push against it. Narrow collars can cause damage to the trachea or thyroid, and cause too much discomfort. Think of pressing one finger sideways against your throat - it's very uncomfortable! But if you press three fingers against your throat it disperses the energy and you can press even harder and it won't bother you. We don't want your dog to be good because he hurts, we want him to be good because he understands.
Be sure that your collar is comfortable to your dog. It should be a strong, but comfortable material, we prefer nylon, and double the width - like 2 collars sewn together. Beware of the designer collars that may be pretty but are not functional - they may feel soft to your hand but they could cut into your dogs neck. Take your collar and put the edges between your thumb and forefinger and press down – does it collapse and become narrow? Then it is not stiff enough to be gentle to your dog. A collar needs to be stiff enough so it disperses the energy if the dog leans against it.
The same can be said for leashes. A ¾” – 1” wide leash made of a double thick nylon is the best as it is more comfortable to your hand and it has greater weight with which to communicate. Light weight leashes are no good – it is like trying to take your dance partner around the floor by one hair – you have to work too hard to get results. By holding your partners ponytail you can do less and accomplish way more. Remember – always do the least amount possible to get results – it is what is fair to the dog.
How do I fit the collar to my dog?
Place the collar high on the neck so you are locking it in at the narrowest point of the neck just behind the skull. When the collar is on the dog you should be able to fit a flat hand (four fingers) between the neck and the collar, not too big to slide off and not too small to choke. A loose collar is very dangerous and can get caught on anything resulting in a strangulation. Even dogs playing together can get a jaw stuck in the collar of the other dog, panic and twist, causing choking.
*If you are sizing a collar on a puppy, please make sure you check the sizing every couple of days – as puppies grow quickly and could out grow the collars before your know it.
When should training start?
Right away. We believe dogs are never too young or too old to learn. Puppies are learning all of the time so it is better to begin now and teach them correct habits and good manners, rather than wait until they have learned all of the bad ones and you have to work twice as hard to get on the right track.
Rescue dogs could use a little time to get used to the new environment, but don’t wait too long. As soon as he seems to have settled, start with some of the simpler rules of the house and build from there. That way he is clear about his status in his new home and he will feel more secure.
Is it ever too late to train?
Saying an old dog can’t learn is like saying an older person can’t learn something new. Any dog who entered our home would be expected to learn the rules of our house and they would all be capable of doing so, no matter the age. All dogs are willing and able to adapt to a new environment and this often means learning better manners or expanding their vocabulary. Sometimes it just takes extra patience to help them overcome old, bad habits.
Is it okay to get 2 puppies at the same time?
We do not recommend it. You are bringing a puppy home to develop a relationship – if you bring two puppies home they are far more likely to have a stronger relationship with each other than with you, and you will be hard pressed to become part of their happy twosome.
We recommend that you get your first dog and teach him to be the best he can be, and when he is really connected to you, has great manners and is more mature, then you can think about bringing in another baby. The beauty of this theory is that the older dog will teach the younger one the tricks of the trade. However, if the older dog is not so good, than the same thing will happen and he will be teaching the younger dog bad manners and your troubles will multiply.
How do I get my puppy used to the leash?
Practice and patience. First they need to get used to the collar, so let the puppy wear the collar around the house while you are with her. Practice taking it on and off in a calm and gentle manner. Have fun with it and make it a positive experience. She might fuss and scratch at it, but just ignore this and let her keep it on until you no longer see her fussing. The collar needs to become like a shirt on your back – when it’s on you don’t even notice it. If you were to take the collar off while she is fussing, then she would learn that fussing works and that the collar is negotiable and it is not. She will quickly forget it’s even there.
From there you introduce the leash. What bothers a puppy the most is the pressure she feels on her neck when hits the end of the leash. Most pups will react to this pressure by acting like a little bucking' bronco - fighting it with everything they have. Calmly hold the end of the leash and when the pup stops fussing give lots of calm praise and encourage the pup to come into you, you can give it a gentle pull forward and when the pup take that first step release the pressure and give lots of soft, warm praise. The most important thing to teach your puppy is to give to pressure not fight it. You can do this by giving a gentle pull forward and then release it the second the puppy takes a step forward - think of cuing your dance partner to move forward. Typically this means pull forward 1-3 inches and then release when the pup takes that first step, repeat the pull forward and then release again. Each time the pup steps forward give her happy, loving praise. She will learn that giving to pressure is what you want, and it feels much better than fighting it. This should take only a few minutes.
Should I send my dog to the trainer so he can train him for me?
As we have mentioned before, this is all about you and your relationship with your dog – not about someone else’s relationship with your dog. The trainer needs to be teaching you and you need to be teaching your dog. You wouldn’t send your child to someone else’s home to learn manners. You got a dog to have a relationship, make the best of it and learn to become a great dog person.
When should we socialize?
The best answer is always and forever. Dogs crave socialization – it’s who they are. The important window for socialization is the first four months of a dog’s life, unfortunately, people are reluctant to socialize young puppies because they haven’t had all of their shots. This is a terrible catch-22. It is truly important to continue good socialization for life.
Socialization is about experiencing new things in a positive manner - not just the same dogs doing the same thing over and over. We encourage you to take your puppy to as many new situations and environments, as you deem safe. Many stores are puppy friendly and this gives you great opportunities to teach your puppy that the world is a wonderful place full of wonderful things.
It is just as important to introduce other animals into your puppy’s world. Use good sense and arrange play dates with physically and emotionally healthy dogs of all ages, shapes and sizes. Try to include other animals like cats, cows, horses - anything to increase your dogs experience in the world is good to do.
Dog parks can be too risky for young ones, so try to wait until the puppy is bigger and emotionally stronger to handle the big dogs playground - we usually don't recommend a puppy goes to a dog park until they are at least 6 months old - too many things can go wrong.
Doggie Daycares can be great if they are well run. Research your options just like you would a daycare for your child. Where do they play? How do they correct bad behaviors? How large are the groups, and how many people are present? Is there a nap time? Do they get crated? Can you watch the activities on-line?
Is it okay for the dog to be in our bed?
We think it’s just fine to share your bed with your dog. It is natural for the pack to sleep together. However, it is not okay for your dog to think the bed belongs to him. You need to teach your dog that he is welcome on the bed when you invite him up and when you tell him to get down from the bed he must do so with no arguments. You do not want to see how many dogs are in our bed!!!
Where should a new puppy sleep? The laundry room?
We put our new puppy in bed with us for the first few nights. Puppies are taken from their litters too early and still benefit from sleeping next to a warm body with a beating heart. He’s actually bonding with you while you sleep. Tiny pups sleep hard through the night and there is little worry of accidents. As they get older we put a short leash attached to the puppy and our wrist so we get a little tug if they start getting up and we can take them out to potty and come right back to bed, (no playing).
Starting your puppy out in your bed does not mean you will have to have a dog in your bed for the rest of your life. As soon as your puppy has gotten used to the routines and security of your home (approximately a week) then it is fine to move him off the bed and into a crate or onto his own bed next to yours.
Puppies should not be ostracized to another room for sleeping. This can create an insecure and independent personality. Puppies never sleep away from the pack in nature – they would howl and cry for the pack to come and find them before a predator does. If they don't feel your protection and support they give up and think "well, guess I have to protect myself and do my own thing".
You also need to be aware when your pup has an urgent need to go out. If the pup is downstairs then accidents will happen and you won't be there to help.
What do you think of crate training?
It can be a great training tool and comfort for your dog. Crates are just like personal dens for your dog and he will take comfort in having one. No matter where he is, if he has his crate he feels safe and at home. It is important to make the crate a positive and safe place. Never use it as a punishment. He should get his best toys and bones in the crate. Crates are great for keeping a young puppy safe when she can’t be watched in the moment. It can help in potty training, because a dog should not soil their den. However, pet store puppies are highly likely to soil their crates because they were forced to in the store environment.
Crates are very handy. We use one during the more intense training periods in the first year of a dog’s life, and not as much as the dog matures. One of the more intense 'chewing' stages is between 8-10 months old and a crate is awfully handy to keep your dog and your stuff safe. Once a dog is trained to the crate it is always an option when you need it.
What do I do about separation anxiety?
Insecure dogs, previously abandoned or overly attached dogs can have terrible issues when you leave the house. They actually think they will die, because the leader is gone and may never come back. The damage they do while you are gone is their way of stressing out; torn furniture, soiled carpets, or scratched doors – all efforts to save themselves or release the stress.
You must teach your dog that you come and go all of the time, it’s no big deal. Do not dramatize your departures or your arrivals.
Pretend you are working on a project outside and all of your tools are inside the house. Go out of the door and then come back in to get a tool then walk right out again – not noticing the dog at all. At first he will get all excited each time you enter the house, but if you do this 30 times, he will get bored and barely lift his head as you enter or leave. For some dogs it will be 30 times for other it will be 300 – everything is always according to the needs and sensitivity of your dog. Try to increase your time away from the house in little increments.
Eventually you will grab the car keys and go sit in the car for a few minutes and then drive around the block. Dogs are aware of the sounds and behaviors involved in your leaving for work, so try to create a realistic experience as you desensitize him. Plan on spending your weekend practicing until you see a change in your dog, it will pay off with a lifetime of security and peace.
Crates can be handy for separation problems. While some dogs feel better having the whole house to roam about and protect, others feel much better being confined to their crate, it feels safe and secure, and the dog doesn’t’ have to worry about being responsible for the house.
Why does my dog pull so much?
Unfortunately, people are the ones who teach their dogs to pull in the first place– they don’t mean to but they do. People think their new puppy needs to sniff in 30 places before they can potty, so they pull you here and pull you there – this is the beginning of the end. Then they learn to pull you towards the squirrel on the tree or to the dog walking towards you. Each time you let them pull you 1 inch in the directions they want to go they are learning to pull better and better. Remember dogs do what works and when it works they do it more. We have great drills that teach you how to use a leash properly and teach your dog how to walk with you on a loose leash from the start.
What about carsickness?
Many puppies are the victims of carsickness; they just don’t have their equilibrium yet. Do not feed the puppy before a ride (less to toss up), and try to make the trips short. They will usually grow out of it by 8-12 months old.
Unfortunately, once a puppy has thrown up in the car, he remembers it and it affects the future trips because he is remembering that one really bad one. You can try to desensitize the puppy to the car by getting in the car and practice going down to the end of the driveway and back, then just around the block. Spend some time just sitting or playing in the car and not going anywhere. Create happier memories for him.
Ask your vet about temporary solutions for unavoidable trips that could pose a problem.
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