Dog walking pouch


Do you use a fanny pack, or pouch as I like to call them? No? Why? Do you think they are nerdy? Let me tell you they are not nerdy, they are very cool and good for many reasons. Let me enlighten you. ;)

Reasons why you should use a dog walking pouch (much cooler name than fanny pack).

  1. Allows you to be hands free which is essential.

  2. It carries items that you should bring on your walks.

  3. It can be used to hook even more “stuff” onto it (carabiners).

  4. Makes you look like a serious dog walker.

  5. You’ll never be without a poop bag.

  6. It will save you from filling all of your pockets up with stuff.

  7. Lets face it ladies when you wear leggings or workout pants, those things don’t even have pockets. As an avid weight lifter I’m always in workout pants.

  8. Everything goes in the pouch so you never lose your stuff.

  9. Ever ready so you don’t even have to think about what to bring.

  10. They are very fashionable right now, yes, you heard right. ;)

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I see all types of walkers out there and the really experienced ones I see have pouches on. Oh sure you can carry a bag, stuff your pockets or even throw a purse over your shoulder but nothing beats the dedicated dog walking pouch for utility worthy walks. They are just so great for so many things.

My newest pouch is a favorite so far and believe me, I’ve been through a few. The Waterfly slim pouch is water resistant and has lots of separate pockets for your essentials. It comes in 28 colors and patterns which made it a difficult decision for me but I finally settled on the teal blue.

This is my smallest pouch so far and I love it for day walks. It is really sleek and very cute I might add. Of course if you need water, a water bowl, pepper spray or something to clip your flip flops onto; I suggest adding the handy dandy carabiner, a girls best friend (at least for me anyway). If I’m headed out for a longer walk or let’s say the beach, out come the carabiners for my extra stuff.

I had such a hard time picking this color out that I might just have to get a few more to add to my collection. Nothing beats great gear when you are out and about with your dog. Always have your stuff with you.

Evolution of a relationship

The human/canine connection

The human/canine connection

When a puppy joins your existing family, much changes. Over the weeks and months with the new member of your family, things will typically grow into a flourishing and mutually beneficial relationship. But, in the very beginning things can be very one sided.

Our side -

  • Cleaning up after the puppy.

  • Feeding the puppy.

  • Training the puppy.

  • Going without sleep.

  • Buying lots of new dog stuff.

So what does your puppy offer in the beginning? A fuzzy little face that offers hope for a great future.

At the inception of your relationship, it can seem very one sided indeed. It is give, give, give and give more. So what does the puppy offer to us? Cuteness, right? They are adorably cute and it is a good thing sometimes; especially those days when we want to pull our hair out over that little cutie.

During the weeks when your relationship is new, puppies don’t tend to care what you think about them. I clearly remember yelling across the backyard at Riggs…”Get out there,” as he turned around loking at me like “just chill dude.” The relationship isn’t there yet; he actually did not care if I was mad that he was stomping over all of my flowers.

Over the next few months you and your dog in the in the fledgling stage of your relationship. Your connection grows as does the “caring” meter. What was once a “dude relax” moment for your dog as you lost your cool will be replaced with “oh oh, Mom’s mad.” This is what I wait for and when it happens it is a glorious day. Verbal error markers can lessen, volume goes down and frustration decreases. The puppy then longs to hear the mushy, gooey stuff that means they are such a good dog.

“He doesn’t even care that I’m mad,” says dozens of new canine guardians. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it over the years. And then there comes a day that they do care and we rejoice. If and when this happens you will know that you have done a great job to grow your relationship. And I’m not talking about fear or forceful punishments; it is about respect and growth of a relationship. As rules and regulations are set in place and enforced; your dog learns that following in line works in a pack. There will be harmony when you listen to a follow the rules. It is as simple as that.

Let your dog get away with murder and do what they please? Harmony tends to fly out the window.

Routine for dogs


Routine is a funny thing. For some dogs, second hand, nervous type, worriers or fearful dogs, routine can be a great thing. It often gives them a sense of security in a big scary world. For other dogs routine can become a problem quickly. I want to talk about routine and dogs because it’s a thing for a dog like Riggs. He’s smart, scary, crazy smart. He gets over stimulated quickly and can take some time to calm and settle. So…..

This morning as I put my socks on; something I typically do each morning, whether I’m going to the gym or going to walk a dog. Elsa sat quietly watching to see what the socks meant. Was I going to the gym or was she going for a walk? Riggs was starting to puff (open mouth panting) in excitement. To him socks means a walk; he has not noticed that socks also means that Mom is going to the gym. He has only focused on the “walk” result of putting on my socks. Along with his panting, he is nibbling my toes. Yes it’s cute but part of his whole ramping up to over excitement. Then he starts to run out of the bedroom and back again. He’s trying to get me to get a move on.

Riggs is one of those dogs that doesn’t miss a thing. I mean he really doesn’t miss a thing; like sniffing the little trucks that are on my Grandsons pajamas noticing things. Crazy. He also learns routine very, very quickly which can be great and it can be bad. He most definitely keeps me on my toes. I am constantly trying to foil the little bugger. So I’m on the switch it up routine currently.

Just yesterday I decided to take him out for his walk first instead of Elsa. Elsa doesn’t mind waiting so we headed out nice and early and made our way to the field. Now Riggs has only been to this field twice and we don’t get there until a long walk before hand. That and I have approached the field from a different direction the two other times. So we get about half way there and he starts to pull, I mean really pull. So we start working on loose leash walking which means it takes us a long time to get to the field. Before we were anywhere near the field he knew where we were going; to the open field where he gets to play chuck it.

It was very clear to me what was going on but I was still shocked that he knew. So, when we got to the field and he began to spin with excitement we left the field. We immediately head up the hill, leaving the fun field behind. That field definitely wields far too much power for now in this puppy’s life. So we will use the field in different ways that are not much fun until he can control himself a little more.

As far as the caster of stone routine boy? It is a great thing in many ways. Day three of feeding Elsa and Riggs together, he clearly understood that he did not eat from the bowl that was placed first on the floor, he always waits for the second. When he was still in his crate he would run up at night and charge in the crate, sit nicely and wait for his treat. He goes under the table when we eat (a shaped behavior). He knows that he must wait for me to grab hold of his harness before the garage door is opened. He must sit and wait until told otherwise when the back hatch is lifted on our SUVs. So getting the routine of things is good in many ways. But in other ways it must be constantly changing until he matures a bit (which may be a long while).

For those dogs who are fearful, nervous or just plain worriers, routine can be a great thing. Routine is a problem when a dog won’t listen to you and just goes with the routine. It is a problem when it starts to run your life. Feed your dog at 8 am and 5 pm everyday and your dog goes crazy if you don’t? A problem, time to switch it up.

Although I do love some routine; most of my routine are safety measures that will not change. I’m all about safety, ask anyone who knows me. But for everything else, routine is okay but when it starts to be cast in stone, time to get a new stone and change it up. Change is good for everyone, some more than others.

Dogs are people?


Sorry guys, dogs are not people. Should they be treated like people? Nope. Do they have the same rights as people, nope. Dogs are dogs and how amazing are dogs? Crazy amazing in my opinion.

Our dogs have managed to wiggle their way into our human world where they live side by side with humans. But, the big difference is…they are dogs. I understand where the “dogs are people too,” thing comes from. People don’t like the idea that they are lesser than us. They are not lesser than us, they are simply a different species. And trying to convince others that they are humans does them an injustice.

Different in no way means less, not as good or of lower quality. In fact I think that many dogs are much better “beings” than some humans. But they are not humans and we should celebrate that difference. How amazing is it that we get to live with dogs? Dogs who are descendants of wolves? That in itself is way cool in my books. I often reflect on the “cool” factor of living with dogs. In the world of animals, there are very few that we choose to live with in our homes, by our side.

Dogs should be celebrated for being dogs. As a species they are quite extraordinary. As far as I am concerned, no other animal has done what dogs have done in the scope of living with humans evolution. Let them be dogs and lets love them for being dogs. They are not humans, we often pale in comparison to the dog.

Aversive dog training

Good vibes only!!!!

Good vibes only!!!!

I was out with Riggs this morning when we came across a group of canine guardians in a training class. I’ve come across this trainer before and his use of aversion training. Riggs and I kept going but on the way back from our long walk one woman and her dog caught my eye. I know better than to watch bad training but couldn’t help myself. I see the same woman and her dog regularly and wondered how well trained her dog was. It was quite obvious as I watched that the team was just starting out on their obedience.

As I loaded Riggs into the car I watched. The woman with the very large dog was trying to “down” her dog by physically manipulating it. A difficult task when your dog is large and stronger than you. The problem with conventional training a down (pushing your dog into a down) is that when you push they push back. It becomes a power struggle that we often lose.

I so badly wanted to go over to the woman and help her and her dog. With a pocket full of treats I could have had her dog down in a heartbeat. I teach 6 and 7 week old puppies to down, it’s really easy. As this woman struggled, she was alone…her teacher was not paying attention. The dog’s behavior got worse until he was quite literally out of control. He was becoming over stimulated and fighting back to her obedience attempts.

The woman finally called out to her trainer. “What do I do with this?” she asked and he replied “KNEE.” “No, not the knee” I thought to myself; knowing full well that it was going to go from bad to even worse. She did as she’d been told and the dog got even more out of control. At that point the trainer headed her way, not good. He very sternly told her dog off and gave the down hand signal. Okay… so not only was this aversive training, it was bad and confusing training for the dog. The dog did a down and his ears lowered, he was worried about the guy who was being aggressive towards him.

The dog was wearing a pinch/prong collar so I knew what was coming next. That was my cue to leave, so off we went heading for home. I was so shaken by this training scenario. I know that conventional aversive training is out there but to see people using it just seems unreal in this day and age. I guess when you are surrounded by positive training as I am you forget that some people just don’t know. And, then there are trainers who are steadfast in their historic training methods. They will not change for anyone and stand strong in their beliefs. Sad.

Training should be fun and it is never fun for any dog to be yanked and pushed around. This type of training puts guardians and trainers in a really angry state. You can see it happening when you watch it. There is nothing about the thought process and figuring out road blocks which is what positive training is all about.

So please…for the sake of your dog, don’t go the aversion route. And, like I always say… “if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.”

Give your dog a smooch for me. ;)

K-9 association

Associations can happen at any time.

Associations can happen at any time.

Association - the connection or relation of ideas, feelings, sensations, etc.; correlation of elements of perception, reasoning, or the like.

This is how dogs learn, action/reaction or association.

A great example of this happened over the weekend. Almost every morning we share peanut butter Perfect Bars with Elsa and Riggs. Elsa has been eating these for several years now but for Riggs, the Perfect Bar is a fairly new treat. Over several years Elsa has occasionally asked to lick the wrapper clean and every once in a while she has scored an extra piece that was hiding down in the wrapper corner. The extra tid bit that she has gotten a couple of times keeps her wanting to lick the wrapper.

It was evident over the weekend as we sat out on the deck enjoying our coffee and Perfect Bars that Elsa was hoping for an extra bit. My husband allowed her to lick the wrapper and she did so with enthusiasm;; The kind of enthusiasm that clearly shows she thought there might be more. When Riggs was offered the wrapper to lick he did not do so with the same gusto. He licked it and pulled away with a face like “it’s gone idiot.” He did not have the same association to licking the wrapper that Elsa did. He has yet to score that extra bit that would keep him trying and licking for more. Gone was gone to Riggs, not Elsa.

How about socks? When I put socks on, Elsa keeps a close eye but Riggs goes crazy. Over the years Elsa has learned that socks can mean the gym or a walk; so she watches for more clues as to what is really going on. Riggs being fairly new thinks that socks mean a walk. Socks have meant a walk more than me going out so he associates socks to fun.

Associations often happen by accident and they can be the cause of a many behavior issues. Many people don’t even realize that an association has been established until someone on the outside looks in to see what’s going on.

“Why will my dog not come into the living room anymore? “ I was asked by a very worried guardian. His dog had been coming in the living room at night to enjoy down time with him for years; when all of a sudden he stopped coming in and stood fearfully on the outside of the room. Looking around the room for clues I spotted a screen that was leaning up against the wall. “What happened to this screen?” I asked. The owner told me he had come home and found the screen on the floor one evening. That night his dog had greeted him at the door like always and then gone straight up to bed. I leaned over and touched the screen which caused the dog who had been standing outside of the living room to shrink and run away. This is what happened and your dog is now afraid to come into the living room because the screen fell off when he was in the room.

Association is very powerful; it can works both ways, good and bad. As we understand the capacity of association for dogs we can better communicate with them. Association is why I hate pinch/prong collars (along with the pain inflicted) and we will never greet a dog who is wearing one. When a dog approaches another dog with interest or excitement and they begin to pull; the dog receives a pinch which is then associated ti whatever the dog was doing at the time of the infliction. This is why many dogs who have leash aggression, have leash aggression. Dog approaching = painful pinch.

I could go on an on about association. Right now as I sit writing, both Riggs and Elsa are relaxing. But if I should push my chair even the slightest bit, they will both be on their feet. Chair moving means Mom is moving somewhere.

When you are training, educating, trying to figure out a behavior that your dog is doing or attempting to unravel a seeming brain freeze with your dog, think association.

Dog litter boxes


Hello, you’ve stumbled upon this blog because you were looking up litter boxes for dogs. I commend you for doing your research and hope to explain my opinion on the subject fully.

Am I in favor of litter boxes? Yes, but yes with conditions. So here goes.

Breeders who opt in on litter boxes are very smart. Why have your puppies peeing and pooping all over when it is very easy to teach them to go in one place. This is most definitely a plus and the very beginning steps of house training.

Anywhere from 8-12 weeks a puppy typically goes to their new home. Now this is where I differ in my opinion to the next steps of how a litter box should be used. Breeders who have been teaching and using the litter box method of elimination will often send home a box and litter to their new puppy homes. The new guardian is instructed on how to set up the box and keep the usage ongoing.

But what are we teaching our puppies by putting a pee/poop box in the house? That’s right, to pee and poop in the house. When we bring home a new puppy we have the chance right then to change things. If they are accustom to using a litter box then we can utilize that learning with a twist. When I brought Riggs home he had been using a litter box with pellets in it. It was wonderful to see the puppies go into the large box and relieve themselves. But I didn’t want him thinking that he should relieve himself in our house so I declined the box but took home some of the litter.

Once we got to our house I put some of the wood pellets out back in the yard. The transition took all of a few moments. We took him out to where I had placed the pellets and presto, done. The pellets remained in the grass for a very long time (months). They sort of fell apart and lay beneath the blades of grass. When we went out each time I would sort of give them a kick to release the wood scent and Riggs would immediately relieve himself on them.

I do not agree with using litter boxes once the puppy goes to their new home. That is unless you are planning to continue the use of a litter box in your home. I AM… a big fan of litter box usages for those who work long hours where their dog cannot get out to relieve themselves. Or those who live in an apartment and will utilize the benefits of a litter box.

It goes without saying that litter boxes are better for small dogs. If you use one with a big dog then it has to be a very big box, so that’s kinda gross in your home. But for small dogs in an apartment or condo, a litter box may be a wonderful thing. I know that I worry about my dogs getting out if I’m away too long. It is what always keeps me watching the clock.

Imagine if you work long hours and your dog has no where to relieve themselves midday? How great would it be if they could just go in there litter box and be comfortable? It can be an ideal situation for dogs who cannot get out for long hours at a time. I recommend them for this. But if you are going to want your dog to go outside and they will not be using a litter box in your home in the future, ditch it now.

I commend breeders who use litter boxes with their puppies. Those little suckers can learn big stuff right from the get go. But send your new guardians home with just the litter if they will be using their backyard as the “go to” spot. For those with an apartment or who will be using the litter box forever, have at it.

That’s my opinion on the subject. Have a fabulous weekend.

New Puppy Frustrations

Yep, you can do it. Just read this and you’l be ready to go.                                                 Buy this book

Yep, you can do it. Just read this and you’l be ready to go.

Buy this book

Do you have a new puppy? Are you going out of your mind with frustrations? Are you asking yourself “what the heck were we thinking?” Believe me when I say “this is normal and it too shall pass, more than likely.” There are those who completely change their mind once they have a puppy. They either had no idea what they were getting into; forgot what it is like to have a puppy or it may be a very bad match. No matter what the reason, there is a learning curve and hump to get over.

Believe me when I say “even dog trainers get frustrated with new puppies.” Truly. I think the most important advice that I give to new k9 guardians or those with a new puppy is “you can do it.” It is absolutely essential that you think that you can. I can guarantee that if you feel incapable of training, caring and teaching your puppy, you will be.

Having a puppy can be tough if you have no idea how dogs communicate, function or think. But with just a bit of information you can have an “AH HA” moment and be on your way to a wonderful relationship. I cannot tell you how many times my clients have said “Sherri you make it look so easy.” Well, that is because it is for me, it’s what I do. But it can be easy for you too once you understand what you are doing.

Hire a positive trainer, read a positive reinforcement book or new puppy book like the one I wrote (wink wink). Don’t be stubborn. After all we are humans and we barely get by with trying to communicate with each other let alone trying to teach another species. Help is close at hand.

There is a great deal to understand about guiding a puppy through the early years; even before the actual obedience training begins. It is all about understanding each other and yes you can.


Dog behavior issues

Learning manners

Learning manners

Are you dealing with k9 behavior issues? Do you feel like pulling your hair out daily because you feel overwhelmed about what to do? This is so normal…believe me, even dog trainers feel like this now and again. When I see a new behavior that I don’t like I take a breath and think. It is easy to go to a place like of helplessness; throwing your hands in the air and giving up. That’s usually when I get the call; and when we address the problem and the guardians ALWAYS wish that they would have called sooner.

As I always say each dog, person and problems are different. But hiring someone who can sit back and figure out either where the problem is coming from or how to fix it is easy peasy. With our new boy Riggs, we are dealing with lots of new stuff; many behaviors that I have addressed with client dogs but not my own. So in my home I have to consider how best to change it.

Many things factor into changing a behavior and the longer it has been going on, typically the longer it takes to change. A committed guardian is a big aspect; along with consistency and clear, precise directions and steps to take. The more complicated and foggy a solution to change a behavior is; the less likely the guardians are going to stick with it. I have long learned that people will only do what they find doable. This is huge to understand as a k9 consultant specializing in behavior modification.

I truly love helping people to smooth out a relationship with their dog. It is why I have a FB page and go live often on most of them. There are no stupid questions; asking questions makes you look smart in my books.

K9 Lifestyle


As I sit here writing this blog, Riggs is on a bed in front of the patio window sound asleep. Elsa is up on the big (human) bed asleep as well. My life pretty much revolves dogs; my dogs and lots of client dogs. Are you living the k9 lifestyle if you have a dog? Not always. For me, the k9 lifestyle is sort of like the whole ”Living your best life” with Oprah. It means living your best life with your dog/dogs.

I have been a dog trainer for a very long time but living a great life with dogs is a lot more than just training. It is true that dogs that have no training or guidance can be a real pain to live with but it is the humans who need to do the work. If they don’t do the work then they suffer the consequences.

So let’s look at the definition first.

Lifestyle - the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, etc. that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group.

So what one lifestyle may look like another will not. Your lifestyle probably does not look like mine. But within all of the different lifestyles there is the k9 lifestyle. The style of living with dogs as family members. There is lies the difference; it is not how you live but how you live with your dog.

As a dog trainer I help clients live their best life with their dog. That often means that I am giving nutrition advice, purchasing of beds help, recommending great products and sharing about waste of time products. There is so much more that goes into the canine/human relationship than training.

K9 lifestyle can improve and decline by taking certain actions, purchasing products and better understanding of the “dog.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. There is a big difference in just a dog trainer and a dog trainer/dog lifestyle coach. I hope to share my K9 lifestyle work with you all in my upcoming blogs.

There are a lot of products out there and sifting through them all can be daunting. I’ll share what I think is good and not so good. There are some things listed already on my website under my “store.” Some behaviors of our own can make matters worse for our K9 lifestyle; one of those is allowing our dogs to make the rules. You can read about that in my first free article on my website. l will be adding to the article page soon.

So stay tuned, lots of life with dogs coming soon.

Canine evolutions


Life is an evolution for all of us; each day brings with it new experiences and lessons. We should hope that we evolve and strive for evolution for both ourselves and our dogs.

Evolution - any process of formation or growth; development:

So how do our dogs evolve? Dogs evolve like we do, through experience and knowledge. It is not merely training…learning to follow specific behavior cues. Evolution is growth, so for our dogs it is learning how to live in our human world; acquiring life skills so that they can manage their way through without too much stress and anxiety. It is about learning about impulse control; something that Riggs is in the midst of. He is very VERY impulsive. Evolution means to grasp what is acceptable and unacceptable.

It is our job to help in the evolution of our dogs. When they come to us they are the rawest state of themselves. Of course the breeder has had a part in who they are at that moment; so they may be thriving with early life experience or lacking drastically. From the moment they enter our family, it’s up to us.

Helping our dogs in their growth to become a good canine citizen is a very big job. There is a great deal to know about your dog before you even attempt to assist them with their evolution. If you are a first time canine guardian then I recommend that you read and read and listen and listen until you feel prepared to help in your dog’s growth.

Your dog in your hands

I am a big fan of guardians doing the work. When you live with a dog in your home, they are a part of or should be a part of your family. The more you learn about your dog, the more you can help them to acclimate in our world. This in turn helps you in your own evolution; at least in your evolution to be a better canine guardian.

Life is an evolution of oneself. Is your dog evolving? Are you?

Dogs and babies - an update


It’s been a while, a whole month actually since I blogged. Since then, we have added two more human babies to our every growing family. #4 and #5 grandbabies arrived happy and healthy. Both Mamas and babies are doing wonderfully and this Grandma could not be more excited.

Little Riggs has been in constant training and is doing great. He is house trained, which is a wonderful thing to get behind us. We are in training mode pretty much all the time as it should be having a six month old puppy around. He has so much more to learn. Jumping is a thing for him, he is pretty much a kangaroo so not jumping is tough for him. He sleeps wonderfully through the night and gets to have the run of the house with Elsa when I have short errands to do.

Riggs has met three grandsons from early on and enjoys them with much supervision. The almost 2 year old is a bit of a challenge around Riggs but constant supervision, hovering and short interactions is needed. He has met one of the newest babies and other than sniffing, he was not phased, even when she cried for a long while.

Babies are different from adult humans; just like puppies are so different from adult dogs. Many dogs are dog friendly but not puppy friendly; just like lots of dogs are friendly but not so much with babies or toddlers. Supervision is a must, constant supervision. Even with dogs who love babies, you can never become lax.

Elsa (Nanny dog) was introduced to the newest and first granddaughter, Nellie two weeks ago. She was beside herself and licked her toes even inside of her jammies. Elsa is the most amazing dog around her babies; I love how much she loves them. But even she needs constant supervision. And she got to meet the newest little one yesterday, little Odin. She knew right away that there was a new baby in the house and seeked him out; welcoming him into the family, Elsa style. She adores babies just like she adores puppies; Elsa is quite a girl.

As a side note I have been struggling with my email and I am about to give up on it. I may have to change it and all of my business cards etc. Such a hassle but I’ve already spent so many hours trying to figure out what the problem is and Yahoo has been no help at all. I will keep you posted on my FB and IG pages.

I’m working on several new projects and look forward to sharing them with you in the near future.

Our dogs are always watching


As I started to turn the corner, I looked down to notice Luke watching my feet. I’d noticed for about a week that he was always looking at the ground when I was up and moving. I was pretty sure about what he was doing so I tried it out. I turned my foot to the left and he followed left; I turned my right foot and he followed that. Yep, he was watching my feet. He was my first very obvious foot watcher and the dog who taught me the most out of all of my dogs. Luke was a very clear watcher; my other dogs, like most are much more subtle about their watching, but they are watching non the less.

Canines communicate predominantly with body language. The impact that we have on our dogs just utilizing body language alone is immense. Each and every movement we make impacts our dogs. From guidance movements (as far as where we are going and reaction movements). They are always watching, learning and following.

It is fascinating to see how much our dogs watch us. Not only do they use our movements as a “whats up” signal but also use it to learn. Learning comes in many forms and for dogs they learn intensely from body language. From the moment we get up in the morning to the minute we turn out the light and drift off; they are constantly watching us.

Because our body language is so influential with regards to our dogs; I will be holding a webinar on human body language and how it impacts our canines. Stay tuned for more info, it promises to be fascinating and informative.

Dog lessons on the fly


“Don’t stop” I shared with my client. I’d already explained why you should not stop when working with walking issues. But it’s hard for humans to not stop and address. The other day Elsa and I were out and about very early. I enjoy getting our walk in as the sun just starts to rise. It’s quiet, peaceful and just what we both need to start our day. Also as we are now into spring and nearing summer; early walks are an essential part of living in Southern California.

So we were out walking when I saw a man and his small, white fluffy dog far off. I’m a scanner, something I think is also essential when you are a canine guardian. I saw him as soon as he stepped out onto the path. Like I said, he was far off. He quickly kicked into his training mode when he spotted us. He told his dog to sit and continued to tell the white fluff that there was nothing to worry about. Clearly the dog had leash aggression. Where the leash aggression came from I do not know but this is how he was dealing with it.

He was addressing the issue wrong (in my opinion). Our dogs are master readers, meaning that they see everything that we do. Each and every movement or request we give is a cue to them. So what may seem like a reasonable control request can soon become a cue for an issue.

Let’s take leash aggression like the man mentioned above was dealing with. His dog may not have seen Elsa and I but as soon as the man stopped, the dog would have begun to scan. It is a cue that the dog takes when another dog is approaching. This man not only asked his dog to sit; cuing the dog of some impending danger but he did so from far, far away. They sat there for the longest time…like the Austin Powers steam roller segment in the movie.

What he should have done in lieu of stopping and waiting…forever, was to keep moving. Keep moving and show his dog that we were a non issue. When a dog has behavior issues with something; be it an inanimate object, other dogs, people with big hats or little kids; it is our job to show them that these things are non issues and keep moving. Of course this means that you must learn to reward on the fly.

Counter conditioning implementation on the fly can take some practice but it is well worth it.

Counter - contrary; in opposition

Conditioning - a process of changing behavior by rewarding or punishing a subject each time an action is performed until the subject associates the action with pleasure or distress.  

So if every time you see the trigger for your dogs reaction, you stop; then it only fuels that reactive behavior. When you keep moving you instill a “who care” attitude so that your dog can learn that it means nothing to you. Then by adding something good, a tug toy, treats or a ball to the situation; it then goes from a bad thing to a good thing. Make sense?

Love to hear from you. Leash issues are the biggest and most common thing that people deal with.

Puppy biting and/or nipping


Looking down at my wrist, I didn’t have to think long before coming up with today’s blog topic. Puppy biting, ahhhhh…those wonderful/horrible little piranha teeth. The above image is where Mr. Riggs raked his ever so sharp k9 across my wrist. My husband and I had been away for five days at a family event; and when we returned home, both Elsa and Riggs were over the moon with joy. Well, this is how it played out for me.

As I stood soaking up the blood dripping from my arm; I discussed the past five days with my pet sitter. We were both surprised by the scrape because Riggs is very much a soft mouth. I feel very lucky to have a lesser piranha that many puppies. Oh, I’ve had really bad piranhas over the years. Both Tilley and Elsa were horrible piranhas; and I clearly remember hearing “MOM” when my kids couldn’t handle the biting.

Let me just put this out there…


Puppies bite and they should bite so that we can teach them to bite/nip gently. Puppies who never lay a tooth on another creature never get the feedback required to learn how to use their mouths correctly.

The first thing that many new guardians do when I arrive for a training session is to very angrily say “NO BITING” as their puppy begins to feel me out. I quickly let them know that I am fine and that I want to gauge their puppy’s bite inhibition. As I talk to my new clients; asking questions about their puppy, I am being chewed upon and assessing.

Bite - to cut, wound, or tear with the teeth:

Inhibition - a restraining, arresting, or checking of the action of ;

Puppies need feedback, it is how they learn. Without feedback how are they to know if their biting is bad or not? So when I address nipping it starts out with the hardest biting and moves on from their. We offer feedback for the ouchy bites first. Then move onto the lesser and lesser pressure bites. Finally moving onto the “no teeth on skin” rule. This rule is the k9 guardians to make or not.

Having your puppy play with other dogs can really assist with bite inhibition. Other dogs will let your puppy know when they are using their mouths incorrectly. Other dogs will yelp or scold a puppy for biting too hard. This is what we need to do as well. Paying close attention to the pressure of a bite; offer feedback for the hard ones. A loud “OUCH” is typically enough feedback for a learning curve. But if you have a puppy that does not respond to a loud “ouch” then leaving the room abruptly may be required.


The scrape shown above on my arm was from an over exuberant k9 tooth raking across my arm in joy. Riggs was doing the very typical arm hold greeting. Unfortunately puppy k9s are the last to go. He has lost the bottom right one but still has three more. I will be more than happy when they are gone.

A New Puppy

First alone walk on the beach, big time life experience for baby Riggs.

First alone walk on the beach, big time life experience for baby Riggs.

You’ve got a new puppy, where do you begin? What are the first things you need to do? Let’s discuss.

With the addition of a new dog to your home and family, there is much to do. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard from new guardians “I don’t know what to do?” Puppies are a lot of work and there are many important things to teach them before you even get started on the official obedience stuff, that is other than “sit.” “Sit” is so very important to teach right away; it is the beginning of learning about manners.

We have a new puppy and it has been a ton of work; puppies are a substantial amount of work up front. But the pay off for all your hard work is a well mannered k9 member of the family. Like humans, all puppies are different; each comes with it’s own personality and issues. Some require more work than others; there is not a one size fits all when addressing the addition of a k9 to your family.

With Riggs nearing the 5 month mark, we’ve been busy. For the last 5 days my husband and I have been away on a family trip. What this means for us is getting back at it hard and intense. Much of the rules and regulations that I have instilled have gone by the wayside with my absence. So we have started off this day with strict rules and Riggs is remembering easily.

Without even addressing the obedience stuff (other than sit) there is so much to work on. Food guarding, nipping, jumping, house training, crate training, socializing (life experience) and so, so much more.

My book above covers all the things that you need to know when you have a new dog. Without getting into too much official “obedience;” it covers all the essential basics that you can address to avoid problem issues down the road. It is a must read for any k9 lover or guardian (if I do say so myself.) ;)

Our human world is vastly differently than that of the k9. It is our job to assimilate them into our world as best we can. Some have a more difficult time than others but they can all “get it,” with our help. As our dogs age and things start to become easier, we will drop the ball to a degree. This is how we humans work for the most part, myself included. So when we begin a new relationship with a canine we must start off with a bang.

That new little canine brain has got so much to learn in a very short time. And I have to say that I cannot believe what they can learn in a fraction of the time that we learn. They are amazing, truly.

Training and treating

Full attention

Congratulations, you have a new dog. You’ve done your research and decided that you are going with positive training. First, good for you; your dog will thank you for it. There is much to know about positive reinforcement training; the first and most important part is timing. Timing of the delivery of the reward, be what it may. Timing will be saved for another blog; today I’m discussing the actual treats or rewards. What do you use when?

The difference between the results of using a low value versus a high value treat can be amazing. Low value treats are used around the house when you want to say “yes, that is what I like.” High value rewards are used for difficult times, big distractions or major attention requirements.

Just the other day I took Riggs to a favorite walk destination where Elsa and I have frequented over the years. It is a marina/harbor on the coast. Dana Point Harbor is beautiful and a must see for anyone visiting from out of town. The walkways through the yachts, pelicans, squirrels and turquoise water is a hot spot for folks walking with or without a dog; and is a great place to get in some quality life experience.

Recently on some of my “live” sessions on FB I have explained how walking Riggs is very much like walking a kite. Well, that’s the best way that I can describe it so I knew that I’d need to up the value of my treats if I’d want some attention in such a high stimulus area. Armed with a full pouch of ground turkey and beef we head to the harbor. Yep, messy, messy.

The difference was incredible. As soon as the first piece of beef/turkey was delivered I had Riggs’s undivided attention. The contrast between low value and high value was remarkable. In fact I had to lower the value at times during our walk so that he could experience everything around him. When I needed undivided attention, I got it.

But positive reinforcement is not all about food; it is about incorporating whatever motivates a dog. I use a great number of reinforcers - tug toys, balls, catching , a squeaker, whistle etc. You need to know what motivates your dog.

If it is food then you need to dish out the rewards appropriately. That means that they need to have the right amount of value for the moment. Too little and they are useless; too high and the dog cannot even think straight. It is a juggling act.

Value - relative worth, merit, or importance: the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange.

It’s not what we consider to be valuable; it is entirely up to our dogs on what is valuable. This is why it is essential to know your dog. Or to have a trainer who can very quickly discover what motivates your dog.

Motivation - something that motivates, inducement; incentive:

If you aren’t sure what you are doing, hire a trainer. Buy a great book or schedule and online consultation for extra help or some questions that you might have concerning the whole “reward system” of positive reinforcement training.

Now, go train your dog.

Nutritious and delicious for your dog

real food for dogs

What do you feed your dog? Kibble? Raw? Real? I feed mostly real. The little one is one his way to completely real but we are taking our time. I do not want a puppy with diarrhea, no thank you.

What the heck is “real food?”

Real - being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary:

Food - any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, promote growth etc.

Okay, so real food is good for you versus highly prepared food. Kibble and/or prepared food can sustain us and our dogs but does it allow us to thrive? I think not.

Do my dogs eat the best of the best every day, no. But, neither do I. I try to eat really healthy most of the time and I try to feed very nutritious food to my dogs most of the time.

The most important thing for me in feeding real is variety. The more variety you feed the more nutrients you feed; that is as long as you are feeding real food. As far as cooked or raw, I feed mostly cooked but throw in raw when I can sneak it in. Elsa is not a raw fan although I’m sure that Riggs will be.

I feed lots of different types of animal protein; which is the most important part of a dogs meal. When I cook it I just barely cook it if they are eating it right away. If I am making batch food I will cook it a bit more but it is never over cooked.

Beef - 20% protein/3 oz

Chicken - 25% protein/3 oz

Cod - 15% protein/3 oz

Egg - 6% protein/1 large

Salmon - 17% protein/3 oz

So these numbers are solely from the animal protein. Much of the problem with dog food is that the protein percentage is taken from meat by products and or plant protein. Things like beaks and feathers can be used to up the protein level in food but is not easily utilized by dogs. Also plant protein is not the same as animal protein and there is lies the problem. Dogs need meat.

Along with quality animal protein I feed veggies. Lots of different leafy ones, cabbage, carrots, green beans etc. These are either wilted down or cooked enough to be easily digested by my dogs.

I sometimes throw in potato, sweet potato, squash and other things. Variety, variety.

I am not a big supplement person; not for humans or for dogs. But I do offer a few extra things like goat kefir, cranberry concentrate, krill oil etc These are never given on a daily basis but every so often when I think about it.

I am not a science type person and think that we have been pushed into a state of fear when feeding our dogs. We have been made to believe that we “cannot” do it on our own and that “dog food” is the way to go. Please feed variety. Even if you just want to feed dry kibble; switch it up and offer many different protein sources. Do your research and feed the best that you can.

Add a bit of real everyday. The more variety that you feed your dog the more their system is capable of accepting lots of different foods.

Dog manners

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Manners - ways of behaving with reference to polite standards; social comportment:

Dog training has many different aspects to it; from basic manners, socializing, house training, obedience, field, agility and far more. As soon as we add a puppy or dog to our family it is or should be “in training.”

Training - the education, instruction, or discipline of a person or thing that is being trained:

Some of the most important training a dog will ever receive is the learning of manners. I’ve met some amazingly talented obedience dogs who have no basic manners and others who have no official obedience training but excel in the manners department.

So what are the manners that we want to instill in our dogs? The first would be not to take our food from us. Which is not the same as not begging. To me begging is a non issue; it is our dog wanting our food but waiting until we give it to them, just like in the wild. Of course if your dog is accustom to getting food from you when you are eating then they are going to hang around and wait for it.

Other manners include not stealing from the counter tops or coffee tables. Not jumping all over guests when they come over to visit. And pretty much any rule that you the guardian would like followed in your life. Sitting before going out or in a door and not barging through; knocking everyone over. That would be considered a manner.

Teaching manners is easiest when you start right from the get go. If you don’t want your dog on the couch then don’t let your puppy on the couch. If you don’t want your dog to steal food from the counter; then start training now as they join your family.

Manners are really very important, both for us and our dogs. There are things that mannerly humans would not do; things like grabbing someone’s food off their plate. We would not barge our way to the kitchen just to get the first piece of pizza (okay, maybe some would.) Saying please if we would like something is essential. Heck I find myself asking Alexa “please” every time I change my mind on music in the day; I really feel rude if I just blurt out demands to her without saying please. :)

Having a dog who is mannerly is very enjoyable. But manners take time to learn and to teach. To start off we need to figure out what we’d like as far as general manners in our home. Once you have that, it is time to hire a trainer and get to work on manners. Sometimes manners are easy, often they can take some work to instill. But teaching your dog manners is really important and you will both benefit from.

I love getting comments from you all; leave one if you’d like, please.

Dog sense

My guardian

My guardian

We got closer to the steps leading up to the open field when I noticed the guy. A man was standing at the top of the stairs; legs crossed and checking out his cell phone. I took note as I am very aware of my surroundings; really important when out and about. Oddly enough, Elsa had also taken note. She stopped for a split second then continued up with me. I’m not sure if she was sensing my emotions or if she was having her own sense from this guy.

As we got closer to the man at the top of the stairs Elsa lowered her head and growled very deeply. I was surprised at the seriousness in her tone and that she felt a growl was needed. Elsa’s favorite thing in the world are people; she has only met a few in her life that she didn’t gush over. Getting closer she then barked once at him; but it was loud, clear and precise. “Keep your distance.” She was creeped out by him for many reasons. The root of her concern that were clear to me were:

  • he was standing in a strange place

  • he was frozen (not moving with his legs crossed)

  • he was dressed all in black

  • he had large head phones on

  • he had a large black backpack on

So to Miss Elsa he was some level of threat. I chatted happily to her as we passed him by; keeping my wits about me. I listen when my dogs speak; they are much more in tune to things like this than we are. Elsa let out a huge snort as we got beyond him and moved into the park and I glanced over my shoulder. “Wow,” I said to her…”you didn’t like him much.”

Had this been Riggs and his reaction, it would have meant less. He is young and finds a lot of things scary. But Elsa is nearing 8 years old and very worldly. She’s been across the country several times, lived through a shit ton and has a great deal of life experience under her belt. I think that I have a good sense of character but she is an amazing judge of character . If I feel the least bit uneasy I look to her for consensus and she has never let me down.

There have been times when worker guys come into our home and she does her typical “Hi, my name is Elsa, who are you?” routine. And then there are times when she gives a low wag and keeps herself between the worker and me. She is the most amazing dog.

Elsa tends to kick into a more attentive guarding mode when out with others. Whether we are out with babies, human friends or dog friends, she is more guarding.

The guy in black today was probably just a guy. But, he was definitely giving off questionable behavior to both Elsa and myself. If your dog acts out of the ordinary when another dog or person approach or appear, listen. They know a lot more than we do.