We can do better for our dogs


With camera in hand, my sister and I head out to visit her breeder.  Finally after all these years, I was going to meet Dawn; the woman behind all the stories.  Sadly I was meeting her after the passing of my sister's much loved Ruby.  

Turning into the driveway, I scanned the springtime terrain that was trying to escape the winter cover.  The ground was very wet and muddy; giving off the very familiar smell of spring.  Even though April is a messy time of year in Canada; it carries with it the hope of sunshine and warmer temperatures of summer to come.  

Getting out of the car, I stepped over a big puddle to avoid getting a soaker (foot submerged in water).  We head towards the house where we got our first sneak peek at the Tollers who were enjoying the outdoors in a fenced area off to the left.  The door opened and we were welcomed in with open arms and hugs.  Dawn and my sister (Bonnie) are family; family through the mutual love of a very special dog.

After our welcome we sat in the living room and waited for the releasing of the hounds.  Excited barking could be heard before a sea of red charged through the doorway and headed our way.   Three Tollers (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers) and a small but mighty Toy Poodle welcomed us to their home.  Immediately after our welcome the retrieving started.  Tollers love to retrieve.  

Our conversation began with who was related; where everyone came from and breeding.  Dawn then opened a book that held a wealth of information.  I was amazed as she sifted through the family (Toller) records with the topic turning to Ruby's siblings.  Two siblings remained and Dawn shared the history of the rest.  It amazed me that she kept track of each and every family member (Toller) who had left her charge over the years.  The families who had adopted a Toller from Dawn were indeed family.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

It is rare to find someone who is as passionate about dogs as I am but Ruby's breeder (Dawn) is most definitely that and then some.  I have not met a more conscientious breeder.  These are the type of breeders we need to support.  We talked about extensive health testing, health, breeding and temperament testing in detail.  I learned a lot as Dawn shared her Toller mission with us. 

Throughout our discussion Dawn shared a great deal of information that she had learned over the years.  We talked about a wonderful company that focuses on changing the future of dogs called Avidog.  She also explained Nomographs, which I have never heard of.   Nomographs are done by testing a mother's blood to see what level of antibodies are being passed to her puppies in  her colostrum.  This lets a breeder know when it is best to vaccinate puppies.  This explains why puppies given vaccinations too early can get ill.  Fascinating. 

Between the canine conversation, I tried to capture a few photos of the dogs.  It was clear that the little Toy poodle was the boss.  Easily outweighed by all the red dogs she was confident and happy to rule the roost.  

As our visit neared the end we head outside and toward the kennels.  Dawn also runs a boarding kennel.  We were going to meet Ruby's brother who is one of the two siblings remaining from her litter.  As soon as we set eyes on him, it was impossible not to see the resemblance.  Bonnie knelt down to meet the old man; a link to her much loved Ruby.  It was a moment; one that most of us never get to experience.  

 Meeting this old man was an honor for me.

Meeting this old man was an honor for me.


Before we left we were lucky to meet the future of Dragonluck kennels.  The new members who will continue the legacy of filling the position of much loved family members with their offspring.  

 Perhaps the future.  

Perhaps the future.  

As we drove away, back down the driveway and head for home we reflected on our visit.  This is what a breeder should be.  Dawn has a wealth of knowledge, a caring heart for dog and human; with a drive to do better and desire to know more.  This is what you want to find when you are searching for a breeder; no matter what breed you are looking for.  This is who we should be supporting.   

 The Queen

The Queen

Temperament testing in dogs

 A most perfect match made when Elsa joined our family.  Thank you Vicki.

A most perfect match made when Elsa joined our family.  Thank you Vicki.

I want to talk about temperament testing today, yes again.  This is something that I am very passionate about and wish that all breeders, rescues and shelters did.  Very few that I speak to think that temperament testing is important.  But why?  Well, from what I can glean from the conversations that I have, it seems that the idea of temperament testing is something you do when you don't "know" your puppies.  The common response I hear from the breeders who don't do it is this; "I don't need to temperament test, I know my puppies."  Leaving me to think that they feel that it is only something you do when you don't know your puppies.  Hmmmmm...

So what exactly does temperament testing do?  Well, let's first say that there is temperament testing and then there is temperament testing.  I have seen many dogs who have been "tested" that have been done completely inaccurately.  So that must be the first understanding.  When a temperament test is done it must be done by someone who is very experienced in dog behavior.  There are so many things to factor in aside from the initial result.  

What am I looking for when I test?   I look to find out who this puppy is as an individual.  What makes them tick; what they like, what they don't like.  How will they deal with life as it unfolds before them.   

What type of family scenario is going to best suit each individual puppy?  Temperament testing is not about finding the good and bad.  It has nothing to do with the best puppy; it is all about finding the best puppy for each family waiting to add one of the bundles of fur to their family.  Who would thrive in each very different individual family life?

  • Are they afraid of loud noise?
  • Are they independent?
  • Do they easily follow a human?
  • What is their recovery time after being startled?  A biggy for me..
  • Are they a soft or hard type dog?  
  • Will they do well with small children?
  • Are they forgiving?  
  • etc etc

There is no reason not to temperament test but a plethora of reason to test.  When a breeder does not test and opts to allow the families to pick their own puppy; every puppy/guardian pairing can be wrong.  It can start with the first choice to the last.  Most people have no idea what they are looking for; they go on a visual choice and who comes to them first.  Nothing can be gleaned from a onetime visit in among a litter of puppies.  

Each puppy must be looked at alone and offered many different experiences to show who they are as an individual.  Why not give each a chance for the best life that they can live.  Much more coming on temperament testing, stay tuned.  


Old Dogs

 Ruby, who I was honored to have photographed last November.  She was my sister's family's heart.  Ruby was cherished in her golden years giving both her and her family those special moments that we will always remember.  

Ruby, who I was honored to have photographed last November.  She was my sister's family's heart.  Ruby was cherished in her golden years giving both her and her family those special moments that we will always remember.  

Elsa and I were out walking early at the park yesterday morning.  We were enjoying the warmth of the sun as it rose over the hills and came through the tops of the trees.  I love this time of year; as the spring rains end, leaving a blanket of green and blossoms in their wake.  The sound of birds fill the air; bringing with it a sense of tranquility all around.   Early morning is a great time to get out and find some peace before the day begins.

As we made our way around the park we passed by others who were out enjoying the dawn.  We walked by a couple of little white fluffy dogs, a  Golden Retriever who was wanting nothing to do with retrieving, a big Akita, a rambunctious black Labrador and a Rottweiler.  None of the dogs phased Elsa, except for the Rottie.  As I discussed on my last "LIVE" session on my Facebook page; Rottweilers freak Elsa out.  The lack of tail and dark body leave her with little information to read.

As we continued our walk, further down the path and just ahead of us a bit was an old guy.  An old Siberian Husky who's legs told of his younger years gone by.  They buckled with each step; but his human guardian took her time.  She was meandering with him and smiling as he stopped to smell the bushes.  Old dogs make me smile.  I love old dogs.  

After living with many dogs through their youth, adulthood, middle age and into the golden years; I have been privilege to the joy and wonder of old dogs.  It is a time when we step up to be there.  Our dogs give us their all, they share their life with us and teach us many things throughout our lives together.  But it is in their final years when we learn the most about love, patience, caring and giving.  It is a humbling experience and one that I cherish at every turn.

Living with an old dog is a gift.  One that gives just by being in the moment with our dog.  The memories come flooding back when I think of my dog's golden years.  Luke was my most recent "old guy," and he left behind a legacy; one that I draw on regularly and lovingly.  He was my heart and those last months with him were some of the most precious moments of my life.

Yes, living with old dogs is work.  Many ailments can inflict a dog as they age, just like us.  How lucky are those of us who are given the gift of caring for an old dog.  Many people never get to experience this as they lose their canine companions before the golden years.  Giving is what life is all about.  It comes in many forms but is a life altering act.  

To give - to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow:

Old dogs force us to slow down, be in the moment, take in life as it unfolds before us.  Watching an old dog as they enjoy the warmth of the sunshine on their body, take in the smells of a passing breeze or simply sit and watch the birds all around, is moving. 

I have experienced so many "moments" with my old dogs over the years.  Just having their head rest on my lap as they sleep and dream of years gone by, is such a gift.  Far too often life gets too busy; we get wrapped up in everything else that those special "moments" pass us by.  Once gone they are gone, never to return. 

Right now, if you are living with an old dog, enjoy it.  If the golden years are still out in the future for your dog, look forward to them.  For those are the years that will impact you the most.  Of course a life spent with a dog by your side is wonderful at every step.  But after so many years together, those intrinsic years of gold are priceless.  


Isle of Dogs-the movie



The first time I heard about Isle of Dogs was only a week ago.  I don't know why it had not come to my attention and not crossed any of my feeds before then.  Once I finally saw the trailer and asked others about it, they had known about it already.  Anyhow, I went to see it yesterday and this was my take away. 

First let me say that I was shocked that you can now get wine at the theater, guess it's been a while.  So with a plastic cup of Pinot Grigio in hand I waited for the movie to start.  I didn't really have any huge expectations except that the movie was about dogs. 

My only complaint was that there could have been fewer humans in the movie; and more dog interactions.  But that is just me.  It was an amazing production when you consider how stop motion movies are made.  I can't even imagine the time and patience it would take to create the movie.  It was done expertly.

Isle of Dogs is set in Japan in the near future when the dog flu sweeps over all the pet and stray dogs and they are banished to a garbage dump island to live out the rest of their lives.  That is until some of the humans (the bad guys) decide to euthanize all of the dogs on the island.  The battle between good and bad ensues.

 The story is mostly about a young boy who loses his guardian dog to the island and he sets out to find him.  A gang of previous "pet dogs" take up with the boy and attempt to find his dog for him.  Albeit one stray dog (Chief) who was never a pet.  He has a rough exterior that he holds strong to retain.  

Isle of Dogs


The movie is not for children; it has a few disturbing scenes that would not be okay for young children.  Because of the animation idea around the movie; one might think that it is for kids but it is not, in my opinion. Some dark parts of the movie come from the humans who are against the dogs.  But there are also good humans in the movie who are trying to save the dogs. 

Isle of dogs

There is some translation throughout the movie so that you can understand some of the Japanese spoken segments.  But there are some that are not translated which leaves you with just getting an emotional feel for what is being said.

There are a lot of really big actors who lend their voice to this movie and they are great.  Some were recognizable to me, others not.  

I don't want to give too much away if you are planning on seeing it.   The movie is very artsy and I would assume will be winning awards for the work of art that it is.  It is different, not exactly what I thought it would be but worth seeing.  Being the dog lover that I am; of course I felt that I needed to see it. 

It is definitely a movie that leaves you thinking that this type of situation could actually happen in perhaps a lesser fashion.  Something to think about.

Hold tight to your dog and enjoy every second you can with them.  






Canine relationships


We have a house guest.  One of my Granddogs is here for the long weekend.  I have often had Penny here for several days or a week; but this time our visitor is Luna.  Luna is a little rescue mix.  We are not sure what she is but she looks like a mix of cavalier and Japanese Chin to me.  

Luna is a very tiny girl with a big luxurious coat.  She came from a rescue group with no past information on her life before her new one.  She is not fond of new people until she gets to know them.  It can take a couple of visits but once your in, your in.  She is not a fan of large dogs but likes others her size.  

When we introduced Luna to Elsa it took sometime until a face to face was advisable.  Luna is a very alpha female.  Elsa is a fun loving, highly energetic, rambunctious girl., mature and non submissive.  In other words she will always choose to play over anything but will not back down when confronted.  In the beginning of their relationship, Luna wanted to be the boss; telling Elsa what to do and when.  Knowing that Elsa would not appreciate this in her home, we took our time.  

As you can see from the image above, they now coexist.  If it was up to Elsa they would be best buddies.  When Luna arrives at our house, Elsa spins, leaps and smiles.  They charge out to the backyard where Luna stops.  She gives Elsa a "look" to remind her that she does not indulge in this crazy behavior.  Off they go with Luna peeing in the yard and Elsa peeing on top of every single pee that Luna does.  Is in Elsa's yard and she knows it.  

Not all dogs get along the in the same way.  Many relationships need a great deal of work to a good place.  Luna and Elsa now hang out together.  Luna is not a touchy feely type with Elsa and so they co-exist.  They can eat together and are at this moment on my bed together as I write.  The bed could be an issue but I have made it a very structured event.  Supervision, supervision.  

I love when I see them lying together on their own.  It is a funny relationship but it is just that, a relationship.  No relationship is the same as another.  Luna sleeps in another room and is only allowed on the bed while I write.  The bed is Elsa's special place and sleeping with me is her right as my constant companion.  Both girls are sound asleep right now, nice.  

When it comes to dogs and relationships with other dogs; you must look at each as a separate entity.  If you have a houseful of dogs; each will have a different relationship with each other.  You cannot force a relationship but you most definitely can nudge it with very careful work.  Knowing your dog/dogs is essential.  

I know that Elsa loves other dogs who are non threatening.  She will always choose to be friends if the other is willing.  That said if the other is pushy or threatening then it will not go well.  Luna is use to being the boss lady so she has had to learn that she cannot be the boss in this house.  

I have to laugh when I watch Elsa choose to lie beside Luna outside in the sun.  The look on Luna's face is priceless.  Her expression and body language clearly says "really blondie, you have the whole place and you have to lie right here beside me?"  :)   


Grooming your poodle

Today is grooming day.  With the temperatures rising, Elsa needs a shave.  She is a Standard Poodle and needs to loose some fluff to accommodate the upcoming weather change.  Elsa is a very active girl so keeping too much coat on her makes her uncomfortable.  Poodles and poodle mixes come with a grooming warning.   "Extensive grooming" most pages state.  With the regular grooming requirements can come big cost.  But it doesn't have to cost a fortune.  I have been grooming for almost forty years and love to share my experience with others.

"I can't do that" is almost always the response I hear when I tell others that I groom myself.  I am here to tell you that "YES YOU CAN."  Yep, if you want to groom your poodle, you can do it.  Should everyone groom their own dog?  Nope.  But those who want to, should.  If you have no desire to DIY then you shouldn't.

From the big fluffy and extensive groom of a show poodle to the easy peasy shave down and everything in-between.  I've done it all and can switch it up, touch it up whenever I like.  That is a huge benefit to doing it yourself; touching up whenever you like.  

There are many other reasons why grooming yourself is great.  

  • Bonding time.
  • Trust building.
  • Physical check up can be done regularly when grooming.
  • Your dog does not become stressed by having to go to the groomers.
  • Save literally thousands of $$$$$$$$$$

There is an initial expense of equipment; although you can do a great deal of grooming with very little equipment (which is thoroughly explained on both courses)  I groomed many poodles over the years with the bare minimum.  

Will your dog look amazing when you first dive into grooming?  Maybe, but chances are not.  It, like anything else you begin is a learning curve.  I have just started learning how to golf.  Am I great?  Nope.  

Grooming your own dog can be intimidating.  For this reason alone, I have created an in-between course.   Grooming in-between pro grooming visits can give you the confidence that you need to do full grooms.  

If you want to save a ton of money, want to groom your own dog, learn the ins and outs of maintenance, equipment and grooming techniques.  Take a look at my online courses listed above.  Oh.... and "YES YOU CAN," groom your own poodle.  In fact I know you can.  ;)



Indulging our dogs

 Those eyes, honestly.

Those eyes, honestly.

 Do you indulge your dog?  I do.

Indulge - to yield to an inclination or desire; allow oneself to follow one's will

There are days when Elsa gets to accompany me where or what I want to do.  Other times we go out it's all about her and then there are times when we get to both indulge.  

So what did we do today?  

Very early this morning, as the sun was just starting to hit the open field; we were out there indulging Elsa.  She was getting a good long round of Chuck it in.  With my hands tucked into my fleece jacket I tried to keep them warm from the early morning chill.  I was indulging Elsa.  That is why we were at the park so early in the morning; for some nice long Chuck it indulging.  

With her tongue hanging out and my fingers nearly frozen we head for home.  Once home we had some downtime for Elsa to cool down and I jumped in the shower.  After about an hour we ate.  We basically shared our breakfast.    I heated some some yummy Filet Mignon left over from the night before, scrambled eggs, added spinach, a little cheese and yum.  Elsa enjoyed it as much as I did. 

With the bulk of her exercise done, a rest time and full stomach we got ready to go out again.  We were heading to the outdoor mall for some shopping.  I wanted some new shoes and I know that Elsa is more than welcome at this specific mall; even inside the stores where the employees welcome her with open arms.  So off we went.

Once we were there I further indulged my girl.  Being that it is very dog friendly there is a lot of peemail to read and Elsa loves to catch up on her mail.  We meandered through the mall stopping at every single tiny bush.  I wasn't in a hurry and it makes me happy to make Elsa happy.  

To indulge is not a bad thing; if it is something that you want and you will not regret the indulgence.  Want to skip the gym and hit the donut shop?  Do it if your not going to obsess over the decision.  

I like to indulge Elsa at least once a day.  That could mean a great long retrieve session, maybe going to the park, a long slow peemail walk or play date with a friend.  If we can both indulge at the same time then we get to do more fun things together that we both enjoy.

Indulging is a good thing if you will not regret the decision.  If the end result is not worth the indulgence, then skip it.  

Do you consider the things that your dog would like to indulge in?



National puppy day

Do you want a dog

You want a puppy?  Do you really?  You think you want a dog but do you?

Many people go through the process of adding a puppy to their family only to discover shortly after that they don't want a dog.  

If everyone who was thinking about adding a dog to their family could see into the future and get a glimpse of what was to come, they might not get a dog.  Of course I adore dogs but not everyone does; not everyone wants to deal with dog issues.  Issues that are very species specific and normal for any dog but not just any human.  Sadly many people don't realize this until after they get a dog.  

Puppies and dogs are work, bottom line.  Dogs deserve companionship which often elude those who add a dog to their family.  Dogs should be considered a member of the family.  They are not a creature that you purchase to complete the image of a family.  Dogs deserve a life of togetherness; they should never be left in a yard to live their life alone.  Although the backyard is where many dogs find themselves after the family realizes that they didn't really want a dog.

Dogs are amazing; and what they give us should be given back to them.  The canine/human connection is a wonderful thing.  An intense bond forms from quality time together.  But is often lost from those who find a dog to be do much work.  

Isle of Dogs

Check out this new movie.  Isle of Dogs - I can't wait to see it and would love to hear if you see it.

Yes dogs are work, especially puppies.  But if you truly want to live with a dog; living side by side as true companions, the work doesn't feel like work.  When you love someone, acts of care and giving feel good; they do not feel like work.  

As I write this morning, Elsa is draped across my legs, dreaming.  She loves her mornings in bed and I love that I can work in bed with my laptop.  We are connected and this very special time in bed confirms that.  Elsa feels safe here and enjoys the comfort of connection restricted to family members.  

When a dog joins a family, they should be blanketed in the cloak of family.  They deserve nothing less.  Living alongside the family is where dogs belong.  Piled on the couch, resting on their own bed by the fire, enjoying hikes, mornings in bed, evenings on the porch and much more.  Loving a dog is good for you; it is a humbling experience.  To truly know a dog will change you forever. 

Once you've been connected to a dog, there is no going back.  

When we allow ourselves to connect with another species; to genuinely share our lives with a canine, we grow and flourish to a much better self.  Dogs deserve our very best because they don't know how to give us any less. 

Do you want a dog?  Just know, there will be work; and your life will never be the same.  Loving a dog will come back to you tenfold.  Do some research, find out if you really want a dog.  If you really want to live with a dog; you are in for an amazing connection.

If you've got a new dog and want to know what you need to know, check out my book.  




Protecting our dogs-United Airlines


It's our job to protect our dogs.  We stand between our dog and everyone else; creating a shield of human guardian protection.  We are appointed this very serious obligation when we add a dog to our family.  That dog then becomes a member of the inner family circle and protected as such.   

I want to address the incident that was in the news yesterday.  A young French Bulldog died after being placed in the overhead compartment of a United Airlines flight.  The owner has stated that she was told to put the dog in the compartment.  If she was told that her dog needed to be placed in the overhead compartment, she should have declined (if she thought that it was not a good idea).  If the employees of United Airlines persisted, she should have left the plane.  

How much protection do we owe our dogs?  Complete and absolute.  

Common sense dictates that free flowing and fresh air does not exist in the airplane overhead.  How any canine guardians would allow their dog to be placed in the compartment and then have the hatch shutdown, I just do not understand.  I would think that most guardian would say "NO," at this type of request.  That and then follow up by standing strong on the protection of their dog. 

This is such a sad scenario in so many ways.  Not to mention a horrific death for the dog.  It is our job to protect those living beings in our care.  This never had to happen.  So many humans failed this dog but the sole responsibility lies on the dog's guardian.  

Guardian - a person who guards, protects, or preserves.

It's our job, bottom line.

I am not pointing fingers; I am simply stating that our dog's well being and safety is in our hands.  We as guardians should never do what we deem dangerous with our dogs; especially at someone else's request. 

Humans failed this dog.



Frustration in dog training


Every person is an individual; every dog is an individual.  

Individual - a distinct, indivisible entity; a single thing, being, instance, or item.

This reason alone is why dog trainers need to be very flexible in the training approach.  There is no one size fits all when training individual dogs.  Knowing how a dog reacts to stimulus is very important when working towards a positive training session.  

I am an instant gratification type person.  Not that I need reward instantly but when working on a project, I don't like the finished result being weeks or months out.  Which is why I love digital photography so much; snap an image, plug it into your computer, presto!

Some dogs need rewards or success more often.  I have seen dogs being trained who become frustrated when they don't succeed fast enough.  They may even shut down, cease working at all as they have given up.  So what does frustration look like?  

  • walking away
  • barking at you
  • stress triggered behaviors like yawning
  • quickly offering other already known behaviors
  • shutting down

If  your dog becomes frustrated easily; breaking a behavior down into tiny baby steps can help to eliminate this.  Some dogs need such tiny steps and constant positive feedback that you may need to pre-plan your behavior lessen.  Sitting down and figuring out the steps needed to get to the final behavior should be thought out.  

Some dogs will "get" the whole behavior taught at once; but many need it to be broken down to avoid frustration in the learning process.  Neither  is better or smarter than the other.   The success lies in the trainer knowing how to teach the dog.  The ability to see a dog struggling is so very crucial to happy and successful training.  

Teaching your dog to shake

shake a paw

After sniffing the treat, Yogi stopped and gave me eye contact.  Asking "what do I need to do to get this treat?"


Shake a paw.  Everyone wants their dog to shake, right?  Strangers often walk up to dogs expecting them to "shake."  

Shake a paw is cute and very easy to teach a dog to do.  It can be evolved into other cute behaviors like high five and waving.  So how do you teach a dog to shake?  Patience, much like many other behaviors; you need to wait until your dog offers a behavior.  The best way to ingrain a behavior is for the dog to figure it out themselves.  That means no cheating.  No grabbing their foot and shaking their paw for them.  

The way that I teach the shake exercise utilizes both lure and shape training.  The lure is a piece food in the hand and the shape is waiting for the dog to paw the food.  

 Sniffing the treat under my thumb

Sniffing the treat under my thumb

Here's how

  • Put a small piece of food (not too high value) in the palm of your hand and cover it firmly with your thumb. 
  • Place your hand on the floor near your dog with your palm facing up.
  • You can break the exercise down into many baby steps but I normally prefer to wait for the pawing action.  But if a dog is easily frustrated I will then break the behavior down into baby steps (next blog) to avoid this. 
  • Wait for dog to paw at your hand and immediately open hand, rewarding dog.
  • Do this until the dog is reliably pawing at the hand immediately.
  • Then remove the food from the hand and put it into your other hand and behind your back.
  • Place the empty hand on the ground in the same position with thumb on palm and wait.
  • As soon as the dog paws at the hand reward them with food from the other hand.  Repeat.
  • Next paw attempt, hold your dog's paw gently while rewarding.
  • Move hand up from the ground and remove thumb from palm
  • Add verbal cue "shake, give me paw" etc. 
  • Gently add a full foot handshake while rewarding.
  • Be careful to never grab the dog's foot negatively (too hard, too long, too much shake).  This could create an unwillingness to continue. 

So there you have it, the shake.  

Yogi didn't get the shake behavior at my house on this day as we only worked for a few minutes on it.  I was showing his Mom what to do when she went home.  After a few moments at home working on it Yogi's Mom accomplished the highly prized "shake."  

 Trying to nudge the treat out of my hand

Trying to nudge the treat out of my hand

You can evolve this behavior to the high five and wave by simply moving your hand slowly to different positions and rewarding.  




Dog training help now. Online Consultations!


No matter where you are...

"I need help, right now" the email said.  The woman was having some huge canine issues with her new puppy and needed HELP!!!!!!  I replied right away "I can help right now."  I sent her the questionnaire and we began immediately.  

The new canine guardian had been ready to pitch everything.  She was starting to regret ever getting a dog and was ready to give up.  Sometimes you need help right away; and that help can come in many forms.  One form of help that I offer is my online canine consultations and I have to say that "I LOVE IT."  I love being able to connect with people right away.  The ability to get them started on their very personalized remedy to their problem with their dog, instantly is wonderful.

So what does my online email consultation look like and who can benefit from this service?  First it is a very cost effective remedy to your canine behavior issues.   We work via email which enables us to communicate back and forth over a period of time.  This lets you, the canine guardian get to work right away.  We can span the emails out as far as you like.  As you and your dog make progress we walk through new things that arise until you have a handle on your problem.

And it doesn't matter where you live, which is the greatest thing EVER.  

Online canine consultations are geared to those who want to address their problems.  That means that I tell you how to help your dog.  Then you tell me how its going and we work on fixing more, until you are happy with your dog's behavior.  Sound good?  

I offer local hands on behavior modification but I'm not limited to local anymore.  I love helping people all around the world with my online canine consultations.  

Often a couple of emails are all that's needed for a canine guardian to be on their way to complete success.  And I might add, they did all the work; which I believe is essentially important for the best possible outcome.  This is because a guardian needs to understand what's going on. With the personalized give and take of an online consultation, that happens very naturally.

So wherever you are and whatever your canine problem, shoot me an email.    


Dog on a leash. Pay attention!

 Fanny pack gone wild.  :)  I had to bring several balls with me to this beach in Connecticut.  Other dogs stole the balls all the time so I had extra bags to put the wet balls in.  

Fanny pack gone wild.  :)  I had to bring several balls with me to this beach in Connecticut.  Other dogs stole the balls all the time so I had extra bags to put the wet balls in.  

I see ducking dogs everywhere.  Team after team stroll past Elsa and I; at the beach, the park, malls and street, ducking.  What do I mean ducking?  

Ducking - to avoid or evade a blow, unpleasant task, etc.; dodge.

Humans strolling along, walking their dog with their arms swinging back and forth.  Along with their arm swing is also the leash swing, perhaps a poop bag swing if you are one of those folks who attach a poop bag holder to the leash.  While the leash swings the dog ducks to avoid the constant and annoying leash and/or poop bag holder hitting them in the face or head.  

When I am working with a client on walking, loose leash walking or heeling, I'm all eyes.  I was trained as a youngster in obedience by a very strict obedience teacher.  She was unfortunately a harsh conventional method trainer but that was many, many years ago when there was nothing else.  She watched our every movement looking for things that would interfere with the robot like obedience we were training our dogs to do.  

The obedience teacher hated when the human students swung their arms about willy nilly.  She'd scream at you until you stopped.  If you held your body crooked, you'd hear about it.  Anything that was unlike a statue was not allowed.  So, although I hated the training method; movement was something that was drilled into my head.  To this day, the arm that holds Elsa's leash is motionless, typically held by my waist.  For those students who did not catch on to the "no flailing" rule; they were told to keep their hand in a belt of waist of pants.  

I see people walking along, not paying any attention to who is on the other end of the leash.  The leash can be whipping them in the face, their collar half pulled over their head, the humans hand even hitting the dog in the face as it swings.  So many dogs walk very far away from their human simply due to an avoidance behavior.  The guardian has no idea that their dog is not enjoying the walk because of the swinging.  

When you walk your dog, pay attention.  Yes there are times when something can happen for a moment and you might miss it.  But typically if you look down at your dog on a regular basis you'll notice this kind of stuff.  Does your dog strain at their leash?  Either sideways or backwards?  Well maybe they are trying to avoid the swing.  

The whole poop bag holder is a big thing now.  I don't understand attaching one to a leash, honestly.  I wear the very chic fanny belt; although it is not on my fanny.  ;)  I carry everything I need on a walk in it, poop bags included.   

So pay attention.  Ask someone to watch you walk.  Be aware of what your body is doing.  Along with the annoying face swapping, there could be other things going on that you have never noticed.  

Canine interaction etiquette


Elsa and I got out of the car and headed to the Veterinarians entrance.  A gentleman sitting in an area off to the left reined in his Basset hound hard.  This was a "clue" for me to keep my distance.  I opened the front door, checked the area before bringing Elsa in and head to a bench on the far side of the waiting room. 

Oddly enough, another Basset Hound sat in the waiting room who was not with the other.  The dog was attached to it's human by a choke collar and extension leash (another blog).  I heard the leash release as the man set his dog free to come to see Elsa.  My protection reflex kicked in as my leg shot out in front of Elsa.  "No" blurted out as the rest of my body language followed suit.  "She is not comfortable with dogs she doesn't know" I told the man.  "Oh okay" he said in a "whatever" tone.  Do I care?  Nope.

I am a stickler for canine etiquette.  What does that mean?  It means that just because you have and love your dog does not mean that everyone else wants to interact with your dog.  Especially at the Vets, keep your dog with you.  Dogs are sick, stressed and in close proximity.  It is not the place to socialize.  I don't care how friendly your dog is, keep them close to you and under control.  

There are places to socialize with your dog.  Play dates at your home, dog parks and socializing classes.  Other than somewhere meant to encourage canine socializing, don't.  If there is a dog leash law, obey it.  Yes, you need to obey just like you expect your dog to.  When I go to a park, beach or location where leashes are required I expect to have Elsa on a leash where she will not have to worry about lose dogs running up on her.  

When out on a leash walk, keep your dog to yourself unless you ask first.  I cannot tolerate humans who allow they dog to come at Elsa or other dogs uninvited.  "He wants to say hi" I often hear.  I don't care if he wants to say "hi," Elsa doesn't.  Even if Elsa did want to say "hi;" I'm not a fan of on leash interactions.  They can get weird very quickly.  

The biggest concern in canine etiquette is you.  Do not force your dog on any other human or dog.  You added the dog to your life, not other's lives.  Always ask before putting your dog on others.  Think about it.  It is your dog, not mine.  


Trust, does your dog trust you?


The door opened and we stepped inside.  I paid close attention to Elsa's body language as the doors closed again behind us.  It had been six years since she'd been in an elevator.  Now as an adult and only dog, there would be more focus on where we were.  But she also had a great deal of life experience to lean on; that and our steadfast bond of care, protection and trust to rely on. 

Trust is so important when dogs are dealing with anything that they are unsure of.  Trust between a guardian and their canine is something that is built over time.  Forged by a history of  the "I got your back" sense of security.  Trust grows with every experience that you prove your  unwavering "step up" response for your dog.  With this type of trust, your dog will naturally look to rely on you.

As Elsa and I took our elevator ride I could see that she was a bit concerned when the transport box shook a bit.  Her pupils dilated slightly as the doors opened again.  We calmly stepped out as I thought about our next ride.  I was going to be proactive, because this elevator had a  few shakes in it.  

Armed with a bra full of treats (somewhere I keep my treats when wearing yoga pants) we made our way to the elevator again.  I was ready for this trip.  Elsa had no problem getting into the elevator.  It was just when it shook that she didn't like it, so out came the treats and sit.  I kept myself as calm and cool as a cucumber  :)  I watched for moments of calm and dished out the goods.  As the doors opened and she prepared to bolt out the door, I stopped.  We were not charging out of the elevator; that would be like running from the scary monster.  I asked for a sit, watch for a calm reaction, rewarded that and then we made our low key exit in a relaxed state.  

The next elevator ride was much better.  Elsa focused on listening to my requests and treats.  After a few more rides she was only slightly reacting to the "shake" moment of one particular elevator.  By linking the elevator with treats, it was then a different experience.  Treats were only given inside the elevator making being in the elevator much better than getting out.  If she saw the open door as a trigger to run; we had to sit with an open door then calmly exit.  

Having the ground move under your feet can be a very freaky thing for a dog.  Elevator visits should definitely be on the puppy socializing list.  Elsa was introduced to elevators as a youngster and it definitely helped her when she was reintroduced as a six year old. 

BUT, trust as a reliable leader can never be underestimated.  

Shutdown behaviors in dogs


You can clearly see the puppy edging out of a shutdown.  Elsa doing her expert work.  

They're there, then they're gone.  Shutdown behaviors are common in dogs but often misunderstood.  What is shutdown?  Shutdown is when a dog ceases to react.  The only reaction may be eye movement.  They will typically be hunched down, having reacted into a final spot of discontinued behavior.  Like all other behaviors, there are many different levels of shutdown.

From mild shutdown in highly sensitive dogs to paralyzing shutdown in severely fearful dogs, shutdown is just that, a shutdown of most behaviors.  Although shutting down is itself a behavior to be addressed.  When a dog shuts down, it is a signal that they can tolerate no more or they feel a sense of helplessness.  

We had a foster puppy here several years ago that demonstrated shutting down.  It was a tiny and very fearful puppy, who was not comfortable with Elsa's advances.  Elsa is an expert at dealing with most behaviors and tried very carefully to get this little puppy out from under the furniture to interact.  The puppy displayed very aggressive behavior towards Elsa, without actually connecting.  Elsa got lower and lower physically in her attempts to convince the puppy that she was not scary.  When Elsa stood up to get closer the puppy shutdown; ceasing any further behaviors except for being frozen.  It was like the puppy had left the building.  In seeing this Elsa hit the ground again and went upside down.  This was expertly offered by Elsa which pulled the puppy out of shutdown and began the interaction process.

Just yesterday, Elsa's best friend Yogi displayed shutdown behavior.  Yogi is the sweetest boy around and highly emotional.  He tends to worry about a lot and is not a fan of Miss Elsa's over exuberant retrieving.  He has been in the path of Elsa's retrieve before and the more she charges around the more he shrinks.  Even picking up Elsa's ball will shrink Yogi, he really does not like the action packed retrieving that Elsa adores.  He can only tolerate a small amount until he sticks his head under the table and there he remains frozen until the retrieving is over.  He may even go and stand in a corner until the retrieving is over.  This behavior has grown over time so we have switched things up when they are together.

Seeing that Elsa's supercharged retrieving disturbs Yogi, we have stopped picking up the ball.  If there is no tossing and no retrieving by Elsa, they will interact and play intense chase and wrestle games.  Just don't pick up the ball.  

Anything can cause a shutdown, knowing how to help a dog out is key.  I have dealt with many dogs who have  history of severe shutdown resulting from harsh training.  Constant punishment can also cause shutdown.  When harsh physical treatment directed to a dog causes shutdown, aggression can follow if they are pushed further.  

Addressing shutdown requires patience, thought and counter conditioning.  Changing how a dog feels about a particular stimulus.  Whether that reaction comes from flying balls, the advance of a dog or human interaction or anything else that trigger a sense of overwhelm must be addressed slowly.  

Removing the trigger stimulus and reintroducing along with counter conditioning can help to remove or lessen a shutdown.  




Repairing mild trauma in dogs


What happened?  What's going on with my dog?  These are common questions when faced with fear reactions that our dogs can exhibit.  Often we are able to figure out where the problem came from, sometimes not.  Whether or not we can conclude a reasonable explanation for a fear behavior matters not.  The behavior needs to be addressed head on to help repair a trauma.  , 

Trauma has many different levels and degrees.  I am addressing mild trauma; something that triggers a fear response but is not all consuming on a 24 hour a day basis.  Just yesterday Elsa and I went live on my FB page.  Someone who attended the "Just Dogs and Wine with Sherri" event explained how her dog has a fear response to some noises.  Noise is a common fear trigger.  Something visual can also be a trigger.

So what do we do to help our dogs get through their trauma?  Some traumas will remain longer than others; the length of time that it has been going on will factor in on repairing or replacing the trigger with something else. 

Counter conditioning is what should be implemented.  This involves changing how the dog responds to a stimulus by associating it with a positive activity.  One cannot be fearful and non fearful at the same time.   

A good example is a thunder storm.  Many dogs are traumatized by booming thunder; it is a very common fear.  But, if you introduce a thunder sound at a very low level and far distance while implementing a positive stimulus then you can work over time to erase the fear response.  The positive association must be valuable or good enough to begin the repairing and replacement of the fear response. 

Counter conditioning is done in baby steps; some times even baby steps need to be broken down into baby steps within baby steps to achieve the best results.  If you consider the whole "association" in repairing a trauma it is easier to understand.  You must replace the negative with a positive association.  Many dogs have traumas; what you do with that trauma with either help to repair or make it worse.   



Dog training, Orange County, CA

 Laguna Beach, ca

Laguna Beach, ca

I'm super excited.  Yep, I'm training again; the hands on fun stuff that I love.  I've been a dog trainer in South Orange County, CA for a long time but took a much needed break a while back to catch my breath and write some books.  Books are done, breath caught, sort of and we're back at it.  

Training and behavior is in my blood.  Even though I took a break from the hands on stuff I never stopped working.  I am constantly studying dog behavior both in the form of books, courses and live studies.  There isn't much more interesting research than watching dogs interact with other dogs and people for me.  I could literally watch and study 24/7.

My training focuses on a well behaved dog; whether it is a young puppy or uneducated older dog.  That means I come to your home where the work should be done.  Your home, your dog, your very personalized program.  I specialize in new puppies who come with lots of natural dog behaviors that we don't always appreciate as humans.  So work starts right away, as soon as that puppy joins your family.  

All training is done in a positive manner; no yank and choke type training EVER at Just Dogs.  This makes training more fun for everyone involved.  You will learn how dogs think and learn and how best to ensure a great connection and bond.  The whole family is invited to work and learn how to interact with your dog so that everyone is on the same page.

We have one time new puppy visits, house training specific, full course training and many more options.  Even if you are just thinking about getting a dog, I can help with that too.  

If you have a puppy or dog who needs an education, call or email me and I will show you how to train your dog.  Contact me now. 

Serving South Orange County, CA

Mention this blog and get 10%  


Dogs and common sense - Using grey matter


"I just got him yesterday," the man said.  My daughter was at the park with her children when she met this man with his "new" dog.  The dog was off leash and as any savvy Mom, my daughter was being extremely cautious.  She hovered around her two year old as the dog ran around the playground.  

First, no dog should be running around off leash in the playground area; that is unless there are no children anywhere  in the area.

Second, even leashed dogs need to be strictly supervised around children, especially children that are not your own.  

As my daughter conversed with the man she learned that the dog had just been rescued the day before.  Not only was this dog running loose in the playground, but the man didn't even know this dog.  They were in fact complete strangers; the dog didn't know the man and the man didn't know the dog.

This could be an extremely dangerous situation for everyone involved.  The man did not know how the dog would behave with children.  The man had no idea what would happen should the dog run off.  Well as it turned out, the dog did run off with the guy in hot pursuit (but of course it did.)  Honestly.  Listening intently to my daughters story, I was fuming and shaking my head.

Can you imagine rescuing a dog and then letting it off leash the next day?  I can't even ask "what was he thinking" because clearly he was not thinking.  I LOVE dogs and I ADORE children; but when the two come together, great care must be taken to protect both involved.  Not all dogs love children, especially unknown children.  I often see dogs at parks where there are lots of children and they are typically on leash and very close to their guardian; which is where they should be.  Dogs should not be wandering around a children's park off leash.  

Just a couple of days ago I was at a park with my daughter and two grandsons.  They were having a great deal of fun and as we were leaving a man with an off-leash bulldog headed our way.  I immediately got in-between them and my two year old grandson.  But I was happy to see the man leash his dog as they got closer.  You just never know how a dog will behave around children; there is no way for everyone to know every dog.  Many people don't fully know how their own dog deals with unknown children.  It is always best to veer on the side of safety.

The off leash dog at the park, who was just rescued the day before has me still shaking my head big time.  Come on...

The need for space

 Beautiful morning for a walk.

Beautiful morning for a walk.

I knew that we'd need space.

Space - the unlimited or incalculably great three-dimensional realm or expanse in which all material objects are located and all events occur.

Elsa needs space when she is confronted with dogs that she does already know.  This has evolved being attacked.  The attack on her was from a dog on leash and caught her completely off guard.  So...understandably she does not trust dogs that she does not know.  Dogs can need space just as much as we do.  

The other day I was at HomeGoods doing some shopping when I noticed a guy looking at me about six feet away.  I didn't look at him but just took note.  Then he got closer and asked "do people you for an actress?"  Making small talk I told him that I'd been told that I look like...a certain actress but couldn't remember her name.  He then told me that he would remember the actresses name and let me know.  Before moving off he had some other things to say to me that made me uncomfortable.  Hmmmmmm...time for space. 

The actresses name is Lea Thompson, by the way.  

As I meandered around the store I realized that he was following me around so I picked up what I needed and made a quick exit.  I needed a great deal more space.  The level of threat that we and/or our dogs feel factors in how much space that is needed. 

As Elsa and I walked down the path; the dog coming towards us was a shepherd mix.  He was very large, had a dark face, erect ears and a tail that was held very high.  None of these things bode well for close proximity with Elsa.  I remained completely calm as I always do to let her know that nothing will happen as I plotted my course for space.  

If I had nowhere to go I would simply put her on my safe outside.  She would snort which is what she does when she is stressed and we would keep going.  Unfortunately not everyone keeps their dog under control; often letting them lunge out at us.  I hate when people are so clueless about this very unwanted behavior, but it happens a lot.  

Elsa took things into her own paws.  She knows that space is what she needed so she took it.  With a creek on one side and a hill on the other; she moved methodically albeit calmly up the hill.  Often being on the outside of me is enough for her as we pass unknown dogs but this guy made her a bit nervous with all his body up and alert.  I smiled as we made our way three feet up the hill and she glanced over her shoulder as he went by.  I'm usually in charge of the space but she was ahead of me on this day.  She took what she needed.  She's crazy smart. 

Elsa use to snort every time we passed another dog shortly after the attack.  Since she has learned that we will give her comfort room, space to feel safe.  I have even had to step in a couple of times and physically stop a loose dog from getting to Elsa.  It's my job and I take it very seriously.  If Elsa has no faith in my ability to protect her; she will then feel the need to protect herself.  As the one who is there to make sure that nothing happens to her; she can then let her guard down knowing that I've got her back.  

Space is often all that is needed to feel safe.  Space gives one a chance to think, time to ponder and react.  I don't like surprises myself; being caught off guard is a really bad feeling.  It typically sends adrenaline lose in your body because you didn't have time to respond accordingly.  This is one reason that I prefer to be able to see what is out ahead of us on our walks.  A heads up gives us the ability to react calmly and appropriately instead of an adrenaline induced response.