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Rio Goes to Tampa

I was so excited to attend the PPG Summit in Tampa, Florida last month. Tampa is just a bit more than a 2 hour drive for me. And for years I’ve wanted to take one of my dogs to a professional training conference. All the locations have been too far to drive and my dogs are too big to fit under the seat of an airplane. So while I have been fortunate to attend many conferences, this was the first time I was able to take one of my pets.… Continued

The Many Reasons to Look Forward to the PPG Summit

I attended my first professional dog training conference in 2003. I can still remember how excited I was and how much information crowded into my new to dog training brain. It was a wonderful experience that subsequent conferences have never quite matched. This year, I am full of eager anticipation for the first ever Pet Professional Guild Summit, taking place in Tampa, Florida on November 11-13, 2015. There are several reasons this event is high on my agenda. First is I am fortunate to be the 12th person to achieve… Continued

People Skills for Dog Trainers

Being a dog trainer is great. I love training dogs. But, I also love teaching people. Being a dog trainer requires a huge and unique set of skills. First, you must be adept at recognizing and understanding canine behavior. Then, you need to develop the manual skills to teach that non- verbal being to follow your cues and live in a world with vague rules that have no parallel in the canine world. Once you have mastered the dog communication and training portion, you need to have people skills. Included… Continued

Learning by Observation

This is a really exciting time to be a canine professional. Dogs have come to the forefront in research, giving us new information about how they learn as well as their cognitive abilities. This new data allows trainers and behaviorists to influence canine learning and explain behavior using innovative and scientifically valid methods. A simple example is dogs learning through observation. When I began training dogs 15 years ago, we did not believe dogs learned by watching us or other dogs. I distinctly remember being scoffed at by my mentor… Continued

Remedial Socialization

  I’m embarking on a new adventure in remedial socialization. I have a foster dog who is wonderful with other dogs, but totally avoids humans whenever possible. Sally is playful and sweet once you get to know her, but her first impression leaves a lot to be desired. Since she is reluctant to approach new people, Sally, and dogs like her, linger in shelters due to their inability to connect with potential adopters. I have coached quite a few clients through similar issues and have helped two of my other… Continued

Provide for Your Pet’s Care in an Emergency

One of the saddest things I see at the shelter is pets whose owners have passed away and left no provision for them in their wills. These pets are heartbroken and confused. I’m sure their owners would be devastated to know their beloved friend is pining in the animal shelter. If you love your pet, it is well worth your time to be sure your companion will be cared for in the event of illness or death. It is a good idea to have plans for an emergency as well… Continued

Are We Meeting Our Pets’ Needs?

I think it’s part of our American culture to love the idea of having a pet. Whether it’s a dog or cat or a pocket pet, many of us enjoy our lives more when we share it with a companion animal. There is another side to the equation. And that is how is our companion is enjoying their life with us. Animals have needs. The essentials are shelter, food and water. But even more so, particularly in the case of dogs, our companions need time and attention and some freedom … Continued

It’s All About Relationships.

I became a dog trainer to facilitate the relationship between dogs and humans. My goal was to create a relationship based on trust and understanding. By opening the lines of communication, I felt like I could achieve my goal of keeping more dogs in their homes and educate people about force-free training. Now, fifteen years later, I realize I was partially correct. Dog Training is about creating relationships, but not just between dogs and their people. It’s about friendships between people with the love and enjoyment of their canine companions… Continued

Train Your Dog Early and Often!

If you got a puppy around the holidays, now is the perfect time to start training classes. The prime time for socializing is before 16 weeks of age.  By 12 weeks, your pup has received most or all of his vaccinations. He is generally physically and mentally mature enough to really benefit from group training classes. Ideally, the class would be open only to puppies less than 16 weeks of age. However, in some areas, it may be difficult to find this specialized type of class. If no class just… Continued


Happy New Year everyone! Like so many of you, this is a time when I reflect back on the old year and think about how I would like to improve things for the new year ahead. Dogs just want to have fun. When it comes to dogs and dog training, there are some many areas that can use our attention. If you are a dog sport competitor, you may focus on a new title or skill in your chosen event. If you are more casual dog owner, you might want… Continued

A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is in the past, our focus turns to Christmas. Finding the perfect gift for a loved one can be a daunting task. If you are considering giving or getting a pet as a present, please do some research. First, be sure the intended recipient wants an animal.  A client once confided in me she didn’t really want the dog her children gave her. The children thought the woman was lonely after the death of her spouse. The woman had been looking forward to traveling and living a… Continued

Spending Time with Dogs Brings Joy to Our Lives

When I add a dog to my life, I consider our relationship the beginning of a voyage. I look forward to creating a bond based on understanding and trust. There isn’t a timetable for these events to occur. The bond takes time to happen. My idea is to enjoy the journey. In these days of cell phones, texting and reality TV, many of us expect instant gratification.  In human and canine relationships, taking the time to establish communication is critical. I like to prioritize the behaviors I want my dog… Continued

Multiple Dogs Create Joy and Challenges

For many of us, dogs are like potato chips, you can’t just have one. Living with multiple dogs can be joyous and chaotic. For 3 years, I had 3 dogs. The dogs, Dale, Jesse and Rio, got along fine for the most part. Dale was firmly in charge of our household. She was the play police, making sure canine activities didn’t get too wild. That is, until it was time to run out the door to bark at our neighbors dogs. Then she led the charge. Quite the queen, the… Continued

Get the Best From Your Pet

I read a great quote the other day from a book titled Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey Daniels. Here he is talking about positive and negative reinforcement: “It is important to know the difference, because the characteristics of performance generated by each are very different. Negative reinforcement generates enough behavior to escape or avoid punishment. The improvement is usually described as “just enough to get by.” Positive reinforcement generates more behavior than is minimally required. We call this discretionary effort…” In the world of behavior, negative reinforcement involves… Continued

Pet Loss and Grieving

In my opinion, the only downside to having a dog is the brevity of their life span.  Recently, I said good bye to my canine friend of 15 years, Dale. Dale had a good long life for a large dog, but it was still too short to me. I will be forever grateful for all the things she taught me. Dale was the last dog I trained using punishment and the first dog I trained with a clicker. She was incredibly athletic. Through her, I became involved in the sport… Continued

Ode to a Kong

I think that there shall never be/A toy as useful as the K-O-N-G/They give our dogs stupendous joy/Who hasn’t used this wonderful toy? Have you ever used a Kong? I find creative stuffing is the key to success. So often my clients tell me they have one, but that the dog isn’t interested. Then, I shove a tiny delicious treat in the small end, pack in some kibble and seal it with a semi soft treat. Voilà, the dog is entranced! A stuffed Kong is useful in so many ways.… Continued

Never Look Back: How the Switch to Force-Free Changed My World

Like so many of us, I got involved in dog training thanks to a dog who entered my life. While I had always had dogs, my only attempted at formal training was a failure. Back in the early 80s, the methods were forceful. My dog hid when I got the training collar out for class 2. I took note of his message and terminated our classes. In 1999, another dog entered my life who was extremely challenging. She was mouthy, easily aroused and reactive to other dogs. After several classes… Continued