Sunday, February 16, 2014

I've Moved!

This is the last post on this blogging page. My blogs have moved and will continue on my website at  Please follow me there where you will find the latest class start dates, registration forms and of course the most recent blogs!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tongue happy?

I recently commented in a discussion on this video on Patricia McConnell's blog about do dogs "kiss to dismiss" This is the link to her thoughts about it and then below is my response to the video. (

I watched this video several times before commenting and then again & again & again. As I watch, I think this dog is using the lick as a distancing behavior. I feel the dog is guarding the bone but not to the degree that most people think of as resource guarding. All the calming signals are stacking up. The intensity of the lick increases the more invasive the child gets and when the child backs away or stops the licking also stops. I would say the dog had been trained to have great tolerance when items are taken away, either through R+ or through means of reprimand.
The reasons why I see guarding. The ears are never forward, but one time that I noticed, but always back in a slightly stressed fashion. The dog is very fixated on the bone when not licking the child's face; when the kid is waving it around the dog is following it with his eyes. The licking happens when the child is very involved with the bone or has possession of it. While the dog isn't growling and does seem to be very gentle, he uses his feet several times to stop the child's hand & he moves away from the kid like giving the cold shoulder (calming signal). After moving, and the kid comes back in closer, the licking goes to the most extreme and he licks and licks and licks. Could it be the tongue flick calming signal but making contact with skin? The lick isn't going from chin to the forehead, they are quick repetitive licks. Tongue flicks  are another distancing signal. Around 1:25 after regaining the bone the dog becomes quite still & starts intently sniffing the bone, another displacement/distancing behavior. After the kid reaches for the bone again the dog gives a direct stare, although maybe not a hard stare. In the dog world, direct eye contact or direct staring should lead the other dog to respectfully move away or increase distance. To then make his point more clear, the dog gets up and licks a lot, almost as to say enough is enough. It would have been interesting to see if left uninterrupted would the dog have licked until the kid crawled away and then the dog taken his bone and relocated?
 I would be interested to see other footage of this "Kiss to Dismiss". In this case, I feel strongly it is a distancing behavior based off of all the other calming signals the dog is giving.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Abuse or Lack of socialization?

Rescuing a dog is one of the greatest things that a person can do in the animal world. There are so many dogs in need of a home. It can certainly be a challenge obtaining a rescue because we don't know what there previous life was like. A lot of time if a dog is shy, timid or fearful of a particular situation or object they are quickly labeled as having been abused. But is that really the case?
While we are quick to assume the worse, like physical abuse, I feel that lack of socialization plays a bigger hand in how these dogs developed. Dogs have a very small socialization window, the critical period being between ages 3-14 weeks, and most of that time is spent with the breeder. When we acquire the puppy the window shrinks substantially. During the critical period of development you want to expose your puppy to everything and anything that could be a part of their life. Just as quickly as they can form positive associations to people, places, things during this time they can for negative ones too. It is important to keep socialization short and sweet! If you properly socialize a puppy they can adapt quickly to situations or items that may not have been exposed to them in that critical period. They start to generalize that weird objects, people or loud noises are nothing to be afraid off, if exposed in a positive manner.
What about the puppy who doesn't get the proper socialization. Puppy mill dogs are a perfect example.
A puppy who is kept in the barn stall with his other litter mates and never meets anyone except the "breeder" until the day he's purchased it likely to be a very shy, timid puppy. Any object would be new and scary, to be touched or handled would be very invasive. Any quick movements towards the puppy would likely make it back away and cower. A puppy who is cast aside with the mother and pups to live on their own might be more comfortable outside than in a home. These puppies might grow to be 4-5 months or older before they find their first home. While nothing physically abusive happened to these puppies someone might believe they were abused because the way they act.
Socializing a puppy or a dog is such a vital part of owning a dog, if not the most important. It is important for mental stimulation and to continue to build a confident, stable dog. If you have a dog that is older or a puppy that is just beyond the critical period doesn't mean you can't socialize them. It will be a slower process but you can still do it! If you have a dog that you believe to have been abused or maybe now you think they might have been undersocialized you can still teach them and condition them daily to gain confidence. It isn't fair to have dogs go through life fearing weird objects, or particular types of people because we've accepted that is how they are. We need to work to help these dogs and rehabilitate them.
Have you ever rescued or know a dog that is scared of a particular situation or object?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Photo Friday

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Confessions from a Dog Trainer

When people find out I'm a dog trainer conversations often lead to talk of dogs and owner confessions. Fortunately, I love talking about dogs and helping people better understand why their dogs behave the way they do. It isn't uncommon though for people to look ashamed when they tell me about their dogs and supposed bad behaviors. "I let my dog sleep with me, I know I shouldn't."  "I feed my dog people food". The truth is these behaviors aren't frowned upon by all trainers. In fact, I do a lot of things with my dog that people think leads the dog to be *gasp* dominant. Well here are my confessions.

*I let my dogs sleep on the bed....and the couch.
        Both my dogs know an "off" cue and when given will get off the bed or couch. If they ever growled at me I would not allow them there.

*I feed my dogs from the table.
        I like to reward good behaviors. When my dogs are lying down quietly next to my chair I reward them for it. They are not jumping on the table at any point in a day looking for food. 

*My dogs go out the door before me.
        It is easier for me to send both dogs out the door or down the stairs in front of me. I can make them wait but it doesn't make them dominant to go first. If they were pushing past me and knocking me down we would do training to change that.

*I don't always make my dogs heel.
       I allow my dogs to sniff on walks. On a crowded street they would heel. 

*I play tug with them, there are rules.
      If my dog misses the toy or bites me, they game ends. Tug teaches your dog good self control and impulse control. If your dog continually bites or lunges for the toy I would recommend a different game.

The fact that my dogs get to do these things does not make them dominant. It is how I have trained them. At any point if I don't like how the behavior has developed a new training protocol will take place. If you find your dog doing any of the bad behaviors, growling, stealing food, pulling on leash, then I would recommend training. The training will help you strengthen your relationship with your dog and allow you to still enjoy your dog for who they are. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Holidays

Best wishes and happy holidays to you. May you have a safe holiday and I'll see you in the New Year with a tip a day in honor of National Train Your Dog Month!

Scout and Henry love posing for their annual Christmas Card.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Discount Opportunity

January is National Train your Dog Month! For the remainder of December, anyone that registers for a 6 week session in January will receive 10% off the registration fee! Don’t miss out on this great opportunity and spread the word! Contact me at or at 207-485-0851 for more information.

Class includes topics such as loose leash walking, coming when called, jumping, sit, down, & leave-its. Imagine being able to take your dog with you anywhere you went...
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