Can Your Dog Retrieve A Banana?

Adam and Banjo fooling around in the kitchen. This is a demonstration of the “trained retrieve” … not a “play retrieve”. The difference is that with the “trained retrieve,” the dog will continue holding the object until I tell him to release it.  This is the same approach used with hunting dogs and service dogs.


I Got Kicked Out Of A Herding Dog Trial, Today

I got kicked out of a herding dog trial today… and I wasn’t even in the trial. LOL.

They told me I couldn’t have a remote collar on my dog– even though I was sitting in the audience, far behind both the gate and the barrier. That should have been my cue to leave. So– 10 minutes later, my dog spooked when he saw the cattle come out and barked. Big whoop. As I’m trying to correct my dog back into a sit-position (using the buckle collar) a woman approaches and tells me I need to put my dog away.

Excuse me? I thought this was a dog event, not a library???

What are they worried about? The cattle getting spooked and running away? Isn’t that the whole point of training a stock dog?

What You Probably Don’t Know About Living With An Extreme Dog

Living With An Extreme DogExtreme dogs require extreme owners.

Perhaps you’ve adopted a dog that is either: High drive and super-intense; has a genetic basis for aggression; is pushy and dominant beyond your wildest imagination; has displayed “red zone” aggression that has you fearing death, dismemberment or a very unpleasant lawsuit.

Regardless– you’ve already made a decision to make the best of it, and now you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into.  Here’s what to expect…

Owning An Extreme Dog Is Not The Same As Owning A Sensitive Poodle or Golden Retriever

You need to be brutally honest with yourself about your dog and your chosen lifestyle: You cannot live with an extreme dog the same way you would live with a soft or sensitive Poodle or Golden Retriever.  It doesn’t matter, “how good your last dog (from the same breed!) was.”  You can be under no illusions: The entire experience is going to be completely different.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your dog and enjoy the many benefits of dog ownership.  It just means that you’re going to need to invest more time, energy and training into your dog– as well as having a level of situational awareness whenever your dog is not in a crate or a kennel run.

Extreme Dogs Require A Structured Lifestyle

Let’s suppose that you own two super-dominant dogs of the same sex.  For example: German Shepherd dogs from strong working lines, and you know from experience that these dogs will not get along, no way… no how.

Extreme Dogs

First, you’ll need to establish a strong foundation of obedience training on both dogs, so that they’re under voice control when in the presence of all types of distractions: Food, tennis balls, cats and other dogs.  This will give you some level of confidence that if they, “get into it” with each other that you’ll at least have a chance to get them apart.  But more importantly– with a solid foundation of obedience training you will have the tools to prevent such an incident from happening in the first place.

Nothing In Life Is Free

I’ve written before about my approach to Nothing In Life Is Free.  When you own an extreme dog, the dog needs to be working for everything.  There’s no more milling around the kitchen while you prepare dinner: Your dog needs to be holding a down-stay.  When you play with one dog, the other dog will need to be on the “place” command.  All interaction must be structured and controlled.  The dog cannot be left to make hardly any decisions for himself; He must look to you before deciding to do something… especially before interacting with another dog.

A word on having two extreme dogs in the house together:  Yes, it can be done.  But no, the dogs are not allowed to socially interact with each other.  The dogs need to be taught to keep a wide berth around the other dogs.  This becomes a show of respect, as both dogs need to be taught to respect the other dog’s space.

The dogs can never be allowed to be together, alone.  Never.  If you cannot keep one eye on the dogs and one eye on whatever else you’re doing… then at least one of them needs to be put in a secure kennel run or kennel-crate.  You must be vigilante about this.

The Down-Stay Exercise And The “Place” Command Will Become Something You Use Frequently

When we sit down to watch TV, each dog has his own cot or pillow.  The dogs are not allowed to choose where they lie down.  Why not? Because you are the Alpha Dog/Pack Leader… not them.

When the dogs get fed, one dog is fed after the next and the dog that isn’t eating is kept in a separate room, in their kennel-crate.

If we’re preparing a meal for ourselves, then the dogs are put in the down-stay position.  If a carrot is dropped on the floor, then (at our instruction) one dog is allowed to get up and get it while the other dog is made to stay in the down-position.

If you’re not at the point where you can keep your dog in the down-position (or on the place board) — then you’ll need to alternate which dog is allowed to be with you in the kitchen until you’ve proofed your obedience commands.

“If I Only Have One Dog In The House… Is This Type Of Extreme Training Regimen Necessary?”

Yes it is.  An extreme dog needs structure and discipline in his life.  Otherwise, it’s too easy for him to assume the position of pack leader.  Without a “Nothing In Life Is Free” structure supplemented by obedience exercises where the dog is made to listen to commands around high value distractions, you will never achieve any level of peace in your household.

Have hope: You can do it.  It’s a lot of hard work, but eventually your dogs will adapt to their new routines and learn how to properly fit into your lifestyle.

From Beast To Beautifully Behaved Dog: Why I Teach My Dogs Good Manners

I adopt a lot of dogs.  I train them and then place them in good homes.  If it’s a truly exceptional dog, I’ll keep him for myself.  When I first bring a new dog into the house, my objective is to teach the dog good manners as soon as possible.  Here’s how I do it:

First, many of the dogs I adopt have a lot of raw potential: They have intense drive to chase a ball and they have high food drive.  They may be cast-offs from a potential client who finds it easier to give me the dog than to work through the problems, themselves.  Or it could be a police dog wash-out.

Needless to say, they almost never come to me as nice, well-mannered dogs.  They come as high drive, obnoxious, rude dogs.  Good dogs with bad behavior.

Dutch ShepherdSo, since I need to live with these dogs first-and-foremost and I may not be able (in some cases) to start formal training right away, teaching good manners immediately is necessary to get through those first few weeks.  Here’s what I teach:

Crate Training:  Teaching a dog to sleep quiety in the crate is the first order of business.  This helps with house training and gives the dog a quiet place where he can de-stress.  It also allows me to know that the dog is safe and not getting into trouble when I can’t keep one eye on him.

The Recall Command:  I don’t want to be in a position where a momentary lapse of attention means that the dog is out the front door and running down the block.  Been there, done that… too many times.  So, teaching a rock-solid recall command (Come!) is top of the list.

Boundary & Perimeter Training: The dog needs to know where he’s allowed to go in the house and where he’s not allowed.  For example: We don’t let our dogs up on the furniture or in our bedroom.  We also insist that all dogs wait for a “free!” command before going out the front door or the back door.  This also includes learning to keep paws off counters and not jumping up on people.

Good Manners Around Other Animals: Because we raise working dogs, I don’t let the dogs play with each other, willy-nilly.  Play is an activity reserved for me and each of our dogs.  It is a relationship building activity and something I want my dogs to look to me for, not to the other dogs or animals for.  This creates a deepr bond between dog and owner and it also teaches impulse control around other animals.  We also insist that our dogs either ignore the chickens until we tell them to actively help us “round ’em up” when it’s time for the chickens to go back into the chicken run.

Most people would probably say, “Wow! That’s what I’d consider a trained dog!” — but let’s remember that this is all just taught in the initial first few days.  After that we continue on with formal obedience exercises like the sit, down, heel, loose leash/attention getter exercise, formal ‘come’ and off-leash proofing in a variety of environments.

To learn more about my approach to training I go into greater detail in my book, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer!”

Adam Reveals His Daily Training Regimen With His New Dog

As many of you know, I recently acquired a one year-old Dutch Shepherd named, “Petra.”

Since Petra had only a minimal amount of training, I’ve been scrambling to get her “up to speed” so that  I can use her as my demonstration dog.

A client recently asked me to write out a typical day’s schedule with Petra, from morning to evening.  As you can see– getting fast results with your dog is not about spending three hours a day training; Nor is about waiting for the weekend to get out to the park to train.  Instead, it’s slipping the training into your everday rituals.  Of course, it’s much easier when you work from home.  But even if I had a job that required me to work in an office, I’d want to incorporate the training into my lifestyle, before and after work and on weekends.  The trick is to make your dog work around your lifestyle… and by work, I mean “train”:

Adam’s Schedule:


5:30 AM – Wake up, let Petra out of the crate.  Petra must hold a sit-stay while I put the e-collar or prong collar on– depending on what I’m planning on training for during the day.

5:40 AM – Let dogs out to potty. Practice recall when it’s time to come back inside, usually with the e-collar.

6:30 AM – We have breakfast while Petra holds a down-stay (commonly called, “duration work” or “impulse control”) on her place-cot.

7:30 AM – Get ready to take dogs for a 1 to 1.5 mile walk.  Petra is required to hold either a sit-stay or a down-stay while I get the leashes organized, put on my shoes, get my jacket out of the closet, etc…

7:35 AM – Wait at the front door (even though the front door is now open).
During the walk, she is required to walk alongside our Golden Retriever without pulling on the leash.  At various times throughout the walk I’ll make her do “sits” and “downs”.

8:05 AM – As we return from our walk, Petra holds a sit-stay while I get the mail, then Petra’s job is to carry some of the junk mail back to the house.

8:10 AM-8:20AM – Play fetch in backyard.

Dutch Shepherd and Golden Retriever

8:20 AM — Feeding; Petra must hold a sit-stay while I scoop food into her bowl and she waits for the “free!” command.

8:30 AM – Back out to the yard to potty, then into the crate.  Or she loads up into the car to go meet with clients.

10:30 AM – 11:00 AM – Formal training if working on a specific exercise. (See video below)

11:00 AM – Back in the crate.

12:00 PM – Potty break.

1:30 PM – Petra practices the “Load up!” command and then rides in the back of the car while we run errands– if I’m going to a dog-friendly place.  For example: Today we went to Home Depot and Lowes.  Yesterday we went to “Julie’s Signs”.  Everybody loves to see such a beautiful dog and it’s good socialization for Petra.  In addition, we’re able to practice impulse control and duration work by using the sit-stay and down-stay commands around distractions. Or if we’re meeting with clients, she’ll come with me depending on what we’re teaching. Even if I don’t use Petra during the session, I’ll pull her out of the truck and work with her for five or ten minutes while I’m waiting for my client to show up.



3:00 PM — Back at home, I’ll usually do a quick session working on positions while in the kitchen for 5-10 minutes.  Or Petra will hold a a place-command while I do computer work in the office.  Alternatively: Meeting with clients where she is expected to either participate as the “distraction” dog or sit quietly.

4:30 PM — Let the chickens out.  We practice the recall command around the chickens and when we’re done, Petra loves to wrangle the chickens back into the chicken run.  (She’s getting really good at this!)

5:00 PM — Back in the office where she must stay on her pillow and chew on her bone or sleep. She’s a snorrer!

6:00 PM — Dinner, same as breakfast.  Then immediately back outside for a potty break.

6:30 PM — Petra again must stay on her place-cot while we have dinner.

8:00 PM – 8:25 PM —  Tug toy play: This is productive play where she must go into a different position (heel, down, between legs, spin, circle) and her reward is to tug on the toy

8:30 PM – 10 PM — Petra must stay on the pillow in our home office.

10 PM — Potty break and then into the crate for “bed.”

To learn more about my approach to dog training, take a look at my book, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer!”

Should You Neuter Your Male Dog for BEHAVIOR Problems?

At the post-end of the day (the awkward time at most vet’s offices in between official closing hours and the act of leaving with doors locked behind us), a client walked in with a question: her 6-year old intact Dachshund was being an absolute hormonal boy in reaction to a bitch in heat somewhere. The owner suspects that the bitch had urinated in the yard, which might explain why this particular episode was more severe. The dog would stand at the front door and whine constantly. She asked what she could do about it. There are multiple answers to this, which make it no easy fix regardless of which avenue she took. Since she came into a vet clinic, the first answer would be to obviously neuter the dog. At 6 years old, any benefit he’s derived from keeping his testicles and allowing his hormones to positively affect growth and development has obviously taken its course. As intact males age, the risk of prostate enlargement (which does NOT equal cancer!) increases, which is also why older men must bend over for the doctor and ads for questionable saw palmetto-based supplements pepper the airwaves. In addition, removing his testicles has the potential to significantly reduce his drive to use them. Unfortunately, from a training and behavior point-of-view, that last point is a bit of a gray zone. Let’s look at the behavior of neutered dogs (MALES ONLY, in keeping with the spirit of the situation in question), especially considering the extremely large population from which one can sample. While veterinary clinics see a great number of these dogs on a regular basis, one drawback is that the environment is simply not suitable to making definitive statements. I would be more inclined to give weight to those from a trainer who is able to observe and work the dog either in the home environment, or in a residency program, which allows said trainer to pretty much assimilate the dog into his/her lifestyle. These people are actively working with the dog to learn appropriate behavior to be a good citizen in society, and it is the rare trainer who requires all dogs to be sterilized as a part of their program.

Neutered dogs still actively hump other dogs, objects, and can even achieve a mating tie with a bitch given the right circumstances

While humping is not always a sexual behavior, especially in a pack setting in which there is no bitch around (much less one intact, even less so one in estrus), it is certainly not a behavior people like to see. Unfortunately, as dogs are dogs, it is part of their repertoire. It establishes hierarchy, creates puppies, and in many dogs (indeed, more than one might initially think), is also pleasurable. No one likes to talk about it, of course! Neutering a dog might decrease the desire to mate, but for a 6-year old dog, that’s very questionable. A younger dog might not have had the time to mature and allow his sexual drives to come forward, so he’s not going to be aware of bitches in heat and what those smells mean. Many older dogs might have that drive diminished, but not completely disappear. And there are the rare few for whom neutering makes absolutely no difference at all, and they will STILL attempt a tie given the opportunity. The good thing is that, to paraphrase what a good friend wrote about the issue, ties with court eunuchs are much shorter in duration and produce no puppies. Neutered males still hump pillows and cushions. They can still hump other dogs. If you were unaware, there are sex toys available to dogs whose owners feel the desire to give them an “outlet” for their humping. But, in the long run, it’s just easier to correct the behavior instead of cater to it.

Neutered males can be territorial and aggressive

Good fences make good neighbors, until the dog starts in with how he thinks he should run the show. Barrier aggression due to fences, which can at first seem like territorial behavior, is actually built out of frustration from the inability to physically reach the dog on the other side of the fence—a truly territorial dog is more likely to have a resource-guarding mentality, in that the house is HIS. The yard is HIS. That toy over there is HIS. That person on the end of the leash is HIS. He is anxious that someone will try to take what is his, and it is easier to be offensive and prevent them from TAKING these things than it is to try to take it back once it’s gone.We see it in the dogs who separate spouses, do not allow even good friends to hug each other, and give warning signs of a very real impending bite should anyone reach for anything that is THEIRS, concrete or otherwise. They are the perfect Abusive Boyfriend dog. Appropriately, these are NEUTERED MALES we’re talking about, and if you think I’m only talking about the stereotypical five-pound landshark with Big Dog Syndrome, you better think again. At the vet’s office, some of the smaller landsharks can be handled with welding gloves, a muzzle, a towel and possibly a syringe full of sedating drugs. The ones about which you need to think again need a tranquilizer pill 3 hours before the appointment, and the possibility of (but attempts to otherwise avoid) using a rabies pole and a syringe full of sedating drugs. These are NEUTERED MALES. Dogs with no testosterone in their systems—it’s hard to blame the aggression on hormones when there are none present!

Neutered males slip out the door, escape the yard, otherwise get lost and risk being hit by a car

Most of the owners of intact males seem to have a decent idea of what they are dealing with. In fact, the dachshund’s owner is one of them. Without my knowing whether or not her yard is fenced and having not clued me in either way, she is adamant that the dog does not go outside without being on a leash that is attached to a person at the other end. While life on a leash is a bit of a downer that some reliable training can remedy, I have to give this lady a gold star in that she is properly confining and supervising a dog that is a high flight risk, mostly due to a lack of training to properly stay in his yard when off-leash and under supervision. (NB: I do not recommend leaving any dog outside unattended, especially, ESPECIALLY in an unfenced-yard, whether or not the dog is contained with a buried cable static fence. This is where behavior problems start, medical problems manifest unseen, and tragedies occur, most of them completely preventable and a few of the freak accident variety. Even if the yard is securely fenced beyond all reasonable attempts to escape or the dog is tied out on a chew-proof cable attached to a non-slip martingale collar, I recommend supervision of some kind.) Any dog can escape a yard provided the motivation to do so is great enough. This does not always have to be a bitch in heat; it could be an errant toy, the lure of another dog outside the yard, fencing malfunctions (including inadequate enclosure or height) or the desire to chase suburban wildlife of any size. Most dogs are also not properly trained to respect a door threshold, much less that of a gate, which sets up the classic scenario of an owner chasing a loose dog, losing the dog, posting lost pet flyers, calling vet offices and shelters around town, etc etc. And whether or not the dog actually returns home is left to chance. And of course there are many dogs that just don’t agree with the concept of secure confinement, be it in a crate, kennel, yard, or small room. These are remedied and managed on a case-by-case basis. Any dog that escapes in any manner, without reliable obedience to bring it back (although, with obedience the dog would ideally not be escaping in the first place!), is at risk of being hit by a car. Even street-proofing/boundary training is not a 100% guarantee that a dog in flight mode will respect the curb, but it can be a big help in reducing the possibility it will happen. Believe it or not, there is a population of dogs who are at great risk, if it hasn’t already happened, of being run over by none other than their OWNERS, most often right on their own property. Seriously: I’ve met a dog to whom it’s happened TWICE.

Neutered males have health problems

Because of the nature of castration, it should be common knowledge that cancer cannot form in an organ that is no longer present. Testicular cancer is slow-spreading enough anyway to have a high likelihood of detection before metastasizing, with castration as a cure. But the truth remains that intact males, as mentioned earlier, can have benign prostatic growth as they mature. WHEN this happens is somewhat subjective. I’ve assisted in appointments with 3-4 year old intact males with enlarged and non-painful prostates, and I’ve also been in appointments with elderly 8-10 year old dogs with normal-sized prostates. Perianal fistulas are also a reality with intact dogs, with some breeds more predisposed to them than others and sterilization is, unfortunately, not a guarantee of avoiding them completely. But what about other problems? I was lucky (perhaps that is the wrong word) to know one of the few neutered males with suspected prostate cancer. No diagnostics were ever done, but all the symptoms were there and his owners consistently declined aggressive treatment, choosing to keep him comfortable until he was humanely euthanized. Retrospective studies using established and reputable veterinary databases have shown a correlation between loss of reproductive hormones and various disease processes, some of them very significant (including many dreaded cancers). Does correlation equal causation in this case? Not always, but the results are consistent enough and the sample populations large enough to conclude that this is more than mere chance. Does timing of the neuter matter? There is some evidence that it may, and other evidence that it may not. These studies do not by any means follow the true scientific method in terms of data collection, have no control populations are generally conducted through surveys or records obtained said databases, and as such can be flawed to some extent. However, the fact that these results are repeatable and the numbers consistent enough to show up in paper after paper is enough to make some people reconsider the choice to neuter until later in the dog’s life, if at all.

Neutered males lift their legs to urine-mark, almost to the point of obsession
Urine marking is a dirty habit, and I’ve written about it before. It’s disrespectful in the majority of cases, and unnecessary in others. There is simply no need for any male, intact or sterile, to feel the absolute desire to lift his leg on any given thing on which he feels needs some urine—it is downright rude. The sheer number of sterile males who go around on walks marking every tree, every bush, every corner curb until there is no urine left with which to mark (and even then the behavior still continues!) tells me that the problem lies not with the testicles so much as it does the mentality of the person holding the end of the leash. A male dog can be taught to relieve himself in one urination (or two at most) instead of multiple squirts here and there. Most dogs actually do not empty their bladders completely, and occasional marking might occur during free play time or on an off-leash walk. The key word here is occasional; it must not be obsessive. I welcome a dog that loves to explore its environment and expand some boundaries in terms of what’s out there in this big world—what I draw the line at is a dog that think its needs to own, through a drop of urine, every little thing out there. Whether or not a dog decides to lift his leg during urination is completely up to him. A fair number of castrati seem to do this, and an intriguing amount of sexually intact dogs remain squatters during their lifetime. With this said, neutering is absolute not a guarantee that your dog will never lift his leg to urine-mark objects, or even empty his bladder completely; and again, neutering is not a guaranteed “fix” for the dog that already does lift his leg during urination.

Neutered males are energetic and require exercise

A good friend of mine was in conversation with a client over whether or not the client should neuter their dog. The notion was brought up that he would “calm down” if neutered. My friend’s words were, to paraphrase, “I don’t think dogs keep their energy in their testicles.” However, it’s commonly stated that dogs DO calm down after they are surgically sterilized. My experience with vast numbers of castrati in a veterinary setting, as well as working with them in a professional capacity as a trainer, tell me otherwise. Dogs calm down because they have been physically and mentally fulfilled through exercise and stimulation. They are calm because of their confidence in appropriate choices in life, their ability to make those choices, and their respect and trust of the people around them, specifically the one with whom they live and train with most often. Bear in mind that this doesn’t mean these dogs can sit around in a zen state all day doing absolutely nothing; but that they are calm through fulfillment of simply being allowed to “be a dog,” with all the rights, responsibilities and restrictions thereof. They do not calm down because certain parts of the body have been removed. Even dogs that have had amputations, or those in wheelchairs, or even those few who live as two-legged specimens have not experienced decreased levels of energy due to missing limbs. The dogs who have undergone ear canal ablations or cataract removal surgery are actually MORE energetic, because the sources of pain, infection or inability to move freely without running into something have been removed. Dogs whose tails were docked at birth, or who had pieces of ear cartilage snipped away for cosmetic purposes do not experience a lack of energy due to those procedures. Even dogs who have had an intestinal resection and anastomosis, or even an entire spleen removed are unchanged after appropriate recovery period of cage rest and exercise restriction. People think that hyperactivity is cute, except when it gets in the way of leading what one MIGHT describe as a “normal” life. In reality, it’s not. Having boundless amounts of energy and nowhere to direct it is no way to go through life. Dogs are social creatures, and being excluded because of something that can easily be controlled through humane and effective training is very stress-inducing. It is frustrating to the dog to not be able to be with company. It is the equivalent of mental torture to have a mind that is so anxious and stressed that the dog can’t think rationally. It is our job to teach these skills to our dogs so that they can be included in a calm, safe manner. In closing, there are many reasons to neuter a dog, most of them health-related and even then, as mentioned before, some of those are coming into question more and more. Anytime someone recommends you neuter your dog for behavioral reasons, caveat emptor. With that said, there are some notable exceptions put forth by Heather Houlahan while, relating to golden retrievers as per her blog entry, go for all dogs: Any [dog] that lifts a hostile lip at a human being loses its gonads. Every. Single. Time. Any [dog] that starts fights with other dogs loses its gonads. Every. Single. Time. No [dog] gets to use its gonads before age four (bitches) or six (dogs). In other words, the dog is culled from the gene pool. These are not traits we want to pass on to future generations (unless you run with the Fila or the Ovcharka crowd, but that’s neither here nor there). Remember: “culling” does not necessarily mean euthanizing or killing the dog–and yes, there is a difference. Neutering is never a guaranteed cure for any behavioral issues. The only guarantees you do have are that:

Your dog is rendered permanently
sterile and will not reproduce

He will never develop cancer in organs he no longer has.
Do the right thing and train your dog right instead of depending on an elective surgery to do the training for you. And finally, don’t hesitate at all to neuter your dog if you feel that’s the right choice for both him and you. Don’t do it because it’s “the responsible thing.” What is more demoralizing is that sterilization is considered the height of responsible pet ownership when so many dogs are overweight (or even outright obese), lacking in canine social skills, unsocialized to living in our world, aggressive, not housetrained and/or living lives of anxiety, stress, and frustration behind suburban fences (except for the 1-2 times a year they are taken to the veterinarian). Responsibility is training, supervising and properly confining a dog so that it can live life in the fullest, healthiest manner in a society with the people to whom it is attached. And there is absolutely no reason that owners of well-trained, socialized, mentally- and physically-fulfilled intact dogs should be regarded as anything BUT responsible!

Using Holiday Distractions To Socialize Your Dog

Don’t lock your dog in a back room for the holidays. He’s part of your family, so he needs to be included in the festivites. So, take advantage of holiday distractions to socialize your dog and work on problem behaviors.

My approach to dog training works so well because it forces you to train your dog around the type of real world distractions you’ll actually want to have your dog with you to enjoy.

Here’s a short video (3 minutes) we did of Halloween 2013. In the video, you can see I’m using a “place board” to give the dog an area to target. This makes it easier for him to understand where he’s supposed to be.

Note: I could have used the down-stay exercise, too. But the place board leaves it up to the dog as to whether he wants to stand, sit or lie down.

Get “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer” today with immediate access and talk to author Adam G. Katz in the Master Dog Trainer Discussion Forum– that includes five full length Dog Training Videos!


How To Know If You’ve Got A Good Dog

How do you know if you’ve got a good dog?  Is it because he listens to you?  Is it because he comes when called, even around distractions?  Is it because she sits like a perfect little angel while you’re sipping your latte in front of a seaside cafe overlooking a beach in Sicily?


You may have a well-behaved dog… but whether he’s a really good dog is dependent upon your own personal taste in dogs and what you’re looking for in a companion.

Owning a dog is a lot like being married.  And in marriage, there is a courtship process you go through before deciding to spend the rest of your life (or in this case, the dog’s life) with each other.

This rubs a lot of people the wrong way.  Otherwise rational individuals who might take months or years of dating a person before committing to sharing an apartment together… somehow instantly fall in love with the first dog who crosses their path.


And just like with love, there’s nothing wrong with that, I guess.  (Unless it ends up making you crazy).

See, if you learn the right dog training techniques you can train a dog to be well behaved.   She’ll sit, down, come, heel, stay and display perfect manners around company.  But…

You can change a dog’s behaviors.
You can’t change a dog’s personality.

Do you like to cuddle?  Some dogs love it.  Other dogs hate being touched.

Do you feel safer when your dog barks if somebody (or something) is prowling around the outside of your house?  Some dogs are very protective.  Others could care less and will sleep through a home invasion.

Do you have a lifestyle where having an outgoing, sociable dog is required?  Or do you prefer a dog who is more reserved and aloof with strangers?

So… how do you know if you’ve got a good dog?  A good dog is any dog who’s personality you really like.  Bad behaviors can be unlearned, quickly.  But personality is something– for better or for worse– is unique to your dog.

Either you love your dog’s personality or you don’t.

If you don’t, then find him or her a good home with somebody who does. Life is too short.

It took me a long time to learn this lesson.  I always felt bad about placing a dog that wasn’t a good fit with me,  in another home.  But inevitably, I started getting feedback from the new owners about what “a good fit” the dog was, in it’s new home.

In summation: You’ll know you’ve got a good dog for you when you get past the honeymoon phase and you still can’t imagine yourself living without the dog.

And that’s a wonderful thing to experience.


Even The Best Dogs Have This

There is no such thing as a perfect dog.  Even the best dogs have problems.

Talk to any dog owner and they’ll admit that even their favorite dog has a few “quirks.”

Either the dog will have those quirks when you first get ’em or they will develop some sort of behavioral problem over time as they mature.  Just like human teenagers… it happens.  You work through it.

For some dogs, they’ll develop more extreme behavioral “quirks”.  For other dogs, it may be health or digestive problems.


Every dog owner must decide for themselves whether their dog’s problems are worth dealing with.

Sometimes the problems aren’t actually problems but rather a result of a poor marriage between dog and owner.  A bad match, if you will.

But more often than not it’s usually a matter of the dog owner not having enough knowledge about how to deal with the problem.

Knowledge.  Education.

That’s the difference between an enjoyable life-long experience with your dog versus a complete disaster.

Fortunately for us, most of the people who download my dog training book, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer!’ are committed to their dog.  They want to be educated and knowledgeable about their dog.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a good dog that they want to turn into a great dog… Or a royal pain-in-the-neck of a dog who needs to learn manners: For the most part, the dog owners we help are committed to working through their dog’s problems.

We generally see two things start to happen once a dog owner begins their journey:

1.  They start to develop a more satisfying relationship with their dog.


2.  Their dog becomes happier, calmer and less stressed.

So, while even the best dogs have problems… sometimes those problems can be a blessing in disguise that motivates the dog owner to dig deeper and ultimately make their dog happier.

By enhancing the communication between dog and owner and giving the dog more freedom, even the best dogs can overcome those little behavioral “quirks” to become perfect companions.


How The Hippies Ruined Dog Training

The Summer of Love.  Woodstock.  Free love.  No Boundaries.  No Rules.  No Limitations.  The hippies had it all, or so they thought.

An attitude of “do your own thing,” and “do whatever feels good,” eventually gave way to drug overdoses, single parenthood and societal burn outs. “Turn on, tune in and drop out” evolved into the “Me Generation” that eventually led to the excesses of the eighties.

We evolved.  We grew.  We’ve learned and we’ve become more mature and less idealistic as a society.  In essence: We became more balanced.

But not the dog training community.  Apparently, dog training is still stuck in the psychedelic sixties and is rapidly moving toward it’s own form of self destruction.

Image from Flickr LicenseAttribution istolethetv
Image from Flickr License Attribution: istolethetv

“Purely Positive” dog trainers– the dog training community’s hippie element– are now running the asylum and setting the agenda.  Advocating an approach that views boundaries, rules and limitations as absurdly “abusive” to dogs, they have been quietly moving into positions of authority within animal shelters and dog training associations– both here and in Europe.

Their entire hippie attitude of, “Just give warm fuzzies” when the dog does something right and ignore bad behavior is one that didn’t work for the children of the hippie-generation and it doesn’t work for their dogs, either.   In the name of the Beatles, “All we need is love,” more dogs are euthanized each year than saved because somebody running the local animal shelter would rather put a dog “to sleep” than (gasp!) safely and humanely correct a dog with a leash and a collar.

“What?  Surely they must be objecting to more than just using a leash and collar to correct a dog’s bad behavior, right?”

Unfortunately, no… they’re not.  It sounds absurd that anybody — much less a movement of “Purely Positive” trainers– could be so dead-set against a balanced approach to training.  (Telling a dog, “Good boy!” when he makes the right decision and, “No!” when he makes the wrong decision).

Making matters worse, they’ve co-opted terms like, “abuse” and “violence” to now mean tugging on a leash and collar.

Groovy, dude.

Except that it’s not.  It’s a bastardization and perversion of common sense.

This unbalanced hippie-dippy approach to dog training is hurting dogs.  By bastardizing and perverting the use of language, the “Purely Positive” hippies are dooming hundreds of thousands of dogs to an unnecessary death.

“Yes, but our approach is ‘force free.’ Can you dig it?”

No, I can’t.  What you’re really saying is that you’re not willing to make your dog do anything.  You’re giving all of the power to an animal with a three year-old’s intellect and the physical attributes to kill a person.  Brilliant.

Dogs need instruction.  They need leadership.  Like any other animal they do not always make decisions that are in their best interest.  Nor can they be bribed into making the right decisions if they find something else more interesting.

“But Purely Positive training is based on science, isn’t it?”

Yes… hippie science.  Junk science.  It’s the same pseudo-science that told us that the world was flat.  Or that ephedra was a safe diet supplement.  Or that hormones in our chicken and milk won’t make our kids have tits and mustaches by age six.

I’m skeptical about the “science” of psychology in the first place.  But then these hippies take it one step further by trying to apply their so-called, “science” to a field where the skill set of any one practitioner is variable at best, even from dog to dog.  Never mind that they usually start with their end in mind, a highly un-scientific practice.  Introduce a couple of loud-mouth PhDs into the discussion with a library of dog training dvds they’re trying to hock and you’ve got a recipe for a hippie movement that is using junk science to prove a theory of dog training that is more intent on making the practitioner feel good about themselves than it is about saving dogs.