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

download (2).jpg

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.

Leash aggression


Leash aggression has got to be the most common problem that k9 guardians deal with on a regular basis.

Leash - a chain, strap, etc., for controlling or leading a dog or other animal; lead.

Aggression - the practice of making assaults or attacks; offensive action in general.

There are many reasons for leash aggression and most are not true aggression. Leash aggression can be caused by fear, over excitement, lack of education or a misplaced leadership status. There are some cases that are truly dominant aggression but most are not. Even the friendliest of dogs can display leash aggression.

Let’s take Mr. Luke (now gone nearly 4 years) for example. He was one of the worst leash aggression cases that I worked with, yep my dog. The funny thing about Luke was that he was also one of the friendliest and most stable dogs with other we’ve ever had. He was a rock solid lover, not a fighter. Even if a dog picked a fight with him; he’d laugh it off, turn on a dime and head the other way. Many a dog were left standing alone as he chose not to fight, ever.

But the love of my life sure had a blustery case of leash aggression. So where did it come from? As soon as we strap a leash onto our dogs they change. Their ability to move and communicate freely is taken away. They are also close to us, their guardian and may have a guarding behavior kick in. Body language communications are misread as our dogs movement is restricted. Excitement can be misread as aggression when a dog strains at the end of the leash. Back and forth the dogs are misreading much of what could otherwise be a friendly greeting.

A few bad experiences can lead to leash aggression as well. A face to face greeting gone wrong can lead to going on the defense. I am not a fan of face to face on leash greetings. Dogs get tangled, get too close, send wrong communications due to the leash etc. etc.

So what do you do if your dog displays leash aggression? You find the trigger and change the association. Is it other dogs? People? Cars? Once you discover the trigger then you find what most motivates your dog; food, balls, tug toys, catching etc. Then you associate the trigger with the great stuff. Depending on how bad the leash behavior is will factor in on your time to full or partial recovery. If you really want to get rid of leash aggression; then you will implement many different things to connect a positive association to the trigger.

Along with the great “thing” you need space. Space if your friend when dealing with leash aggression. You will not achieve success if you walk right up on the trigger. You must distance yourself far enough to NOT elicit a response. So for some people that may mean 6’ away, 12’ away or 50’ feet away. Once you achieve a tiny bit of success then you can reduce the space by small increments. i

One of the biggest factors in leash aggression is us. Yes, we humans can fuel a leash aggression problem so it is imperative to get a grip and get your chill routine down to a t.

Hire a trainer to help, they will let you know what you are doing right and wrong to solve your leash issue.

Fearful behaviors in dogs

So you have a scaredy cat, but it’s a dog. Lots of dogs have fearful issues; in fact Elsa had a good startle just yesterday morning. I’m not quite sure what happened; even though she was right next to me on her leash. We were walking in one of our favorite places, very early in the morning. She was sniffing hard as she’d already indulged need for speed in some great chuck it time. Suddenly she lunged forward with a huge startle and let our an even larger snort. Snorting is Elsa’s way of communicating stress.

I’m think what might have happened was while she was in the thick of sniffing she accidentally brushed up against a tree with her raincoat. This made an unusual sound that frightened her. Ever since Elsa was attacked nearly 5 years ago; she is a little on edge when we are out for walks. She has PTSD which is common in dogs as well as humans when something traumatic happens. Elsa was attacked out of the blue by an English Bulldog on leash. She was also chased by a huge Bouvier when she was young that really scared her.

So even though she ADORES her walks and is mostly at ease; things that happen unexpectedly can give her a good scare. After the tree incident she very quickly and literally shook it off and we continued. Dogs will shake after a stressful event and if she was not a poodle I would have seen her hair go up more than likely as well.

All I can do to help Elsa with her startle fears is to clean up the mess afterwards. This is extremely important and the more times that she startles and then sees me chatting happily the more she puts her trust in me and learns. Life is a learning curve for everyone…us and our dogs.

When you have a dog with known fears or is just learning about life as in puppies; there is so much that you can do to help the fears to disappear. Linking a positive association to a fearful situation can get rid of the fear. Of course it depends on how long the fear has been going on and how deeply rooted the fear is.

If it has been an ongoing fear, then you have some long term work to do. You must work at the furthest distance to the trigger and make it good.

Lets use the good old hair dryer as an example. For many dogs, hair dryers are a way of life. But many puppies are really afraid of them. So how do you warm and dry and soggy puppy after a bath in the winter months? The blow dryer, but it takes time. First you have to link the sound to something great and if you have a food motivated puppy then you are in luck.

You start slow and grow as you see success. Turn the dryer on a toss treats to your puppy who is very far away because he’s not coming anywhere near the dryer. Soon the sound is not so scary and he starts to relax. Then you need him closer so you toss the treats closer and closer. Next you point the cold running hair dryer at the ground and up the value of the treats. Puppy must come into the flow of air to get the yummy treats.

Next move the dryer around his body while feeding treats the entire time. Wow, he’s not so afraid anymore. ;) Next is to rub while blow drying and treating intermittently. You’re almost there. Now he needs to come running when he hears the dryer…now you are there, bath time. Have fun.

Dog crates, yes.


I am a huge dog crate/kennel and expen fan. I love them and think that they can keep many a family happy when used correctly. Is a crate cruel? Not in any way unless it is overused and/or abused. I have used a crate at night with all of my puppies and an exercise pen during the day. Because my puppies sleep in crates all night when they are young; I don’t like to put them back in the crate during the day for any amount of time. I have the luxury of having a couple of exercise pens so I use them and love them as well.

Over the years I have met many people who are not fans of crates. The common response from them is that they don’t want to cage their dog; that they consider it to be cruel. Okay, I get that very human idea but setting puppies lose in your house is a recipe for disaster. Why? Because puppies get into everything, literally everything.

Another very common reason for not using a crate or expen is the crying, whining and screaming. Yep, it can be pretty bad. In fact Elsa was one of the worst, she was great about going in and sleeping or resting but if she thought it was time to get out then she let us know very loudly. This went on for a good three months, yikes! But I stood strong and stuck to my guns with the crate and expen until she was old enough to be out for good.

Why are crates a good idea? Crates or expens keep puppies safe when you cannot be around to supervise them. They also give us, the k9 guardian…freedom. Yes, freedom, it is a glorious thing. If you have to stay home with your puppy until they can be left alone safely, you are going to go stark raving mad. I love my freedom and being able to go out and enjoy myself for a couple of hours; knowing that my puppy is safe and sound at home is amazing.

There is no way I could ever go out to run errands with any peace of mind if I didn’t know what my puppy was up to. I can’t even imagine what could happen.

I have been called to many homes as a last resort. New guardians are tired of their home being destroyed and are contemplating getting rid of the dog just because of this. It is such an easy solution, containment.

Dogs are den animals; puppies naturally like to sleep in small spaces. Small areas with a cover make them feel safe. Crates are just dens. Once they get accustom to them, they typically love their crate. I have perfected the overnight crate time. The crate goes beside my bed and if there is the smallest peep of concern from the puppy; I place my hand in through the bars of the crate. The puppy sniffs my fingers and is reassured that they are not alone.

Once they get use to their crate and no longer need my physical reassurance; I put the crate in the corner of my room, out of the way. As each puppy is an individual, it really depends on the puppy as far as when they will be ready to be out of their crate for good. Elsa was our youngest at 5.5 months of age. But of course she is an extremely amazing girl. Not that I’m bragging or anything…LOL

As far as the expen goes, that should be set up somewhere in the main living area. Mine is in the kitchen and folded down to about 3x5 and 48” high in dimension. Each time my puppy goes into the the pen I say “pen” and toss in some kibbles. There are special toes in the pen that stay in there; making it a special place to be.

Neither the crate or expen are EVER used as a punishment area. Although if I need a break they are gently put in there for a short time. It is also used for quality nap time as most puppies will continue to follow you around and not nap long enough.

So yes, I’m a huge containment fan. Crates and expens can save a puppies life and most definitely your home. Wouldn’t it be nice to come home to a safe and happy puppy instead of wondering what they’ve destroyed?

Dogs, inside/out

Looks inside, that’s where the important stuff is.

Looks inside, that’s where the important stuff is.

Dog - a domesticated canid, Canis familiaris, bred in many varieties.

Okay, so a dog is a dog is a dog, right? Wrong; each dog is very individual. This fact is very obvious, no more so than when I perform a temperament test. As most of you know, temperament testing is a service that I offer. This is when I get to see who is who in a litter; and it has nothing to do with the way they look. Not surprisingly though, is that most people choose their dog by the color or exterior image; caring little to what’s inside that little bundle of joy.

I am a huge believer of matching dog to their most appropriate family. That does not just mean color, breed or mix of breeds. I believe that when looking for a puppy you should ask yourself a lot of questions before bringing one home.

  • What is your life like?

  • What does your day to day look like?

  • Do you want to have a huge horse like dog in your house or would you prefer a tiny little guy running around?

  • Do you want a high energy dog who wants to run marathons?

  • Or would you prefer that they simply lay on the couch all day?

  • Are you interested in training a lot or would you rather not?

  • Are there small children in your life?

This is a very small list, I could go on and on with more questions. And these are all before even considering an individual puppy. First you need to figure out what you want to live with and the only thing with regards to living and canine exterior is fur.

  • Do you care if there are tumble weeds rolling around your house?

  • What about little needle hairs that weave their way into everything?

  • Or would you prefer no hair around?

These three questions are the only things that matter as far as exterior. Of course if you live in frigid or very hot temperatures; that should factor in somewhat, although it doesn’t seem to for most folks.

It is a very human trait that we want what we find beautiful. But choosing a dog for it’s exterior can go very wrong and sadly it often does. “I want the one with the patch over his left eye, he’s so cute.” What if that puppy is a fearful, lazy little guy and you plan on a very social and active lifestyle with him? Life may end up a struggle for the both of you.

“I have to have the little white one, she’s adorable.” That white demur looking little girl could be a nightmare on four paws. She may have more energy than you know what to do with. She may be a one person dog and you have a family of seven who all want her to be their new best friend.

I have chosen to live with Standard Poodles. I love their intelligence level, the fact that they do not shed, their athletic ability and their ability to do just about anything. That said “do anything” is a blanket statement; not all are going to do the things that I want to do. My one and only stipulation as far as exterior color is no black; and that is simply because we live in Southern California and are so active outdoors, they get too hot. What I look for in a dog is all on the inside, the heart and soul of a dog.

Wouldn’t it be nice if humans could look inside of other humans and see who they were instead of focusing on the exterior? Same goes for dogs, it is what’s inside that is important. So often a dog goes unmatched with a perfect guardian because of exterior. “I want pure black, not the one with a white paw” I’ve heard; even after knowing that the white paw dog is what these folks are looking for.

Everyone has choices in life and that goes with choosing dogs as well. I ADORE DOGS!!!!! I think you all know that. But what I love is what’s inside. Of course I can and do appreciate beauty; but more than exterior beauty, I love a beautiful heart and soul. And that my friends is what is so great about dogs. No matter what a canine looks like, most are amazing and beautiful on the inside.

Your new best friend could be that one brown puppy in the sea of whites that you came to pick from. Look inside, you will find amazing beauty.

Dog warmth and safety - Ruffwear review


The sun is not up yet on this Monday morning and I have a very tired girl snuggled up beside me. In fact she is snuggled so tightly that I’m having a difficult time typing, typical. Elsa is spent this morning because we enjoyed the weekend in the mountains. Just over an hour from our home in Southern California and we were enjoying the cold and snow.


Elsa has her own travel bag which was filled with Ruffwear gear. She’s already worn her travel harness around town but the trip to the mountain would be the big test for her new Load Up harness. I packed up her Hi & Light and Front Range harnesses as well. The Hi & Light would be used under her new Vert coat and when the temperatures went up she wore her Front Range harness alone. We are a Ruffwear family.


Load Up harness

This harness has substance. Simply putting it on Elsa made me feel like she was safe. One of the things that I love about all of the Ruffwear harnesses is the similarity in them. Elsa wears a medium in harnesses and coats.


The difference with the Load Up harness is that the hook up clasps are safety tested hardware. I have hooked her up directly to the seat belt and with a safety carabiner (20 kN (4,496 lbf) rating). Not the kind of 2.99 carabiner you can buy at the cash for your keys.

For the trip up to the mountains, Elsa was strapped in the back. There is a seat belt that hangs in the back of my husbands vehicle, like mine. If the seat belts lock up during braking; so does the back seat belt, making it a great safe place to hook up. It also enabled Elsa to move about in the back.


When hooking to the back seat; you simply put the seat belt through the loop on the harness. This helps to keep the dog in place, nice and secure. It would be a great piece of equipment for those dogs who like to bound around in the car as well as safety.

The harness is easy to put on and hook up. We went from her traveling harness to walking harness in a matter of minutes. When Elsa was jumping out for a quick pee, it was easy to loop her leash through Load Up harness attachment.

Vert Coat

Out of 13 different types of canine coats available from Ruffwear, I chose the Vert. Living in Southern California we don’t have a big need for warmth. That is until we head up to the mountains. What we deal with mostly is rain so the Vert was the choice for us. The Vert coat is waterproof and windproof while still breathable. Elsa has a nice thick 1” of fur in the fall and winter which is a wonderful insulation underneath the Vert coat.


The coat is put on over the head and then attached on each side. It’s really easy to put on and take off; just like the harnesses.

The coat has a waterproof exterior with a thin fleece lining inside. I was blown away at the quality when I first unwrapped and fit it for Elsa. I love that I can still use her Hi & Light harness underneath as it has an opening portal where the hook up is. The two hooks on the side are hidden between layers so that the waterproofing goes way down the sides of her body.


The jacket seemed to be made for Elsa; you couldn’t get a better fit . The Vert coat goes right to the base of her tail so she was covered completely. It also has elastic leg loops to keep the coat secure in high wind. But even when they were not used the coat stayed in place for us.

For our trip we used the Hi & Light harness under her coat for walking. The Front Range harness when we went into Bass Pro shop. I like that I can hook it up front in a crowd; and it was so crowded just a few weeks before the holidays. We used the Load Up Harness when traveling and the Vert coat to keep Miss Elsa warm. A big 4 paws up for all of our Ruffwear gear, plus a tail. I love it and highly recommend.


Give the gift of warmth and safety to the canine/s in your life.

Christmas gift for dogs

Elsa’s pre-Christmas gift which is her absolute favorite and biggest stuffed toy so far.

Elsa’s pre-Christmas gift which is her absolute favorite and biggest stuffed toy so far.

Are you shopping for your canine? A family member’s or friend’s canine? I’m done my canine Christmas shopping for the season. In fact the dogs were all done before one single human gift was purchased. Every canine member of our family is getting a new stuffed toy. Each toy is selected specifically for the individual dog. Size and texture are factored in when selection is done. It’s very scientific (just kidding).

But what past the toy is there to buy the canines in your life? I like things that are useful. A life jacket for that paddle boarding dog. A safety car harness for the dog/s in your life. How about a new walking harness and/or leash? A new dog bed is a great idea for those who use them and are out of the destructo age. ;)

If you live in a climate where it gets chilly or downright cold; how about a nice warm or weather resistant coat? Elsa has a couple of warm coats but she is in need of a waterproof one. We deal mostly with rain although it does get pretty darned cold here in the morning. If I’m putting on gloves to keep my hands warm I think she might need a coat. She lets me know if she is feeling the cold by the amount of shaking she does. Not the trembling kind of shaking but the fluffing her coat up shaking. When our dogs shake their fill their fur with air which helps to keep them warm.

How about some dog training? I have actually been given as a Christmas gift. That is my dog training package, my me personally. LOL ;) Imagine a frustrated guardian opening an envelope that says “help is on the way?” A gift for both the human and the dog which will help to grow their relationship through understanding…priceless.

Another great gift idea for the dogs in your life are homemade cookies. Of course the healthier the better. How about a whole cookie club? You can give the gift of the cookie club to the canine guardian in your life which results in a lot of gifts for their dog.

Healthy treats are a wonderful idea but make sure that the dog receiving the is use to getting different types of treats. We don’t want any upset tummies around the Holidays.

Whatever you plan to gift the dogs in your life, think about the dog itself. Some gift ideas are geared solely around the guardian which I’m not a fan of. Something that both a dog and human can enjoy is the best. Of course when we give our dogs something that they enjoy, it brings us much joy; a win, win scenario.