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Check out this blog for recent dog training tips, behavior articles, dog training videos, and photos!  We'll show you real training that we're doing in and around DC.  Plus, our tips on working with you dog in an urban environment.  

Have a question that you want answered by Michelle?  Email your question to [email protected] and your answer may appear here!

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Healthy Play with a Size Difference

Posted by gooddogdc on May 31, 2014 at 8:15 AM Comments comments ()

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Remember that article in the Post from last week?  It got me thinking about healthy play and how few videos are there promoting healthy play in the dog training world.  My two dogs don't play a lot, but they do occassionally they do.  Last night, I was lucky enough to have my iPhone close by to catch the end of it!  Their play is, what I would consider, healthy play. 

The reason that this is healthy play is that both dogs participating equally.  Neither one is being overwhelmed or bullied.  The GSD is self-handicapping by staying in a down position.  They do a lot of mirroring of each other.  I love when at the end, he paws her and she paws him right back!

Even though, this is healthy play that they both really enjoy, their play didn't start out this way at all.  My little dog has a strong history of dog aggression, so her tolerance for other dogs is low to begin with.  My GSD has very strong chase/hunt/herd instincts.  My little dog also looks just like a bunny when she runs (she kicks her two back legs up behind her at the same time and sort of bounces).  This combination was a management nightmare for awhile.  They had to be constantly supervised so that my GSD didn't get to practice any bad habits.  Once he stopped wanting to chase her as much, she started to trust him a bit more and attempted to play with him a few times.  However, my GSD goes 0 to 60 in 1 second and that didn't go well either. 

We actually started setting up "safe" play sessions between the two of them with him on leash.  I would make him stay in a down and encouraged my little one to come over.  Initially, this only worked for a couple seconds before he would get too excited and we'd have to end it.  However, now they can go a couple of minutes without him going over the top.

As painful as it is to do, I actually intervene in their play.  I end it on a good note.  I ended this video just as my little one sat up.  That is usually a sign that she is getting too excited!  After that happens, she will sprint off with her bunny hop to grab a toy and he inevitably will chase - not good.  So, I painfully end the cutest play ever because I know that in the long run I am building a stronger relationship for the two of them and that's what really matters.     

Long Recall Practice

Posted by gooddogdc on May 26, 2014 at 5:30 PM Comments comments ()

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This is one of my favorite exercises to practice.  Have a friend hold your dog as you run away.  When you get a good distance away, call your dog.  Your dog will likely fly to find you since he will be frustrated at not being able to go with you when you were initially running away.  You can then reward your dog for his super fast recall! (I love that my little one is always the first one there :))

Here is another video that I posted awhile ago of the same exercise.  Only in this video, my friend actually walked him away, same concept though.  By making him move away from me, we were building a ton of drive to get him to want to turn and hurry right back to me!

A dog training secret is that after the recall, if possible, always release right back into the environment!  This keeps the recall nice and strong.  My dogs don't mind coming to me because they know they are going to get something awesome (treat, toy, playtime), and then they are going to get to go right back to what they were doing.

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Happy recalling!

Come When Called... Every Time.

Posted by gooddogdc on May 23, 2014 at 6:05 PM Comments comments ()

I just got back from a 3 mile hike with my dogs. I'm a professional dog trainer and I train my dogs regularly. They are both very reliable. My 1-year old dog still has a way to go, but my 9-year old dog has one of the best recalls I've seen.


Even though many would call my dogs "trained" a dog trainer knows training is never over. For that reason, I continue to bring treats on our hikes to reward their recalls. Every time they recall, I provide a treat, a toy, or, their favorite, a game of "catch me if you can"!


Because recalls are so fun, they keep recalling. I'll never be able to convince them that squirrels, other dogs, and deer are no fun, and I don't even want to, that would make them not dogs. But, what I can teach them is that I am usually more fun than squirrels, other dogs, and deer.  That I am just as unpredictable.  I want my dogs to think "Hey, I can chase squirrels any time, but OH MY GOODNESS, SHE CALLED ME TO COME!!!!  See you in a minute squirrel, I have to go!!!". 

What strategies have you used to reward recalls?


ONE command to fix everything?

Posted by gooddogdc on May 1, 2014 at 1:15 PM Comments comments ()

Is there one special command that would “fix” everything?


All of us are limited on how much time that we have to train our dogs.  If you only had time to train your dog to do one thing with your dog, what should it be?


This is a tough question!


What about your dog’s name? That way if your dog started to do something you didn’t want, you could easily get his attention.  Once you have your dog’s attention, getting him to sit, down, or come are much easier!  However, if your dog didn’t know the other commands well, he may or may not have enough experience to complete your request successfully.


What about come?  If you could recall your dog out of any scenario, would that work?  You could recall your dog away from jumping on a visitor, away from chasing a squirrel, or away from lunging at a dog on the sidewalk.  But, what if your dog was on the other side of a street?  A recall probably wouldn’t be the best choice there.


Okay, what about a down? You could ask your dog to down when guests arrived, down when you wanted to say hello to a person, down when he started to get excited about another dog.  But, what if your dog was so invested in the other thing that he “couldn’t” hear you?  Such as when your dog was chasing a squirrel?  I’ve heard trainers claim that down actually works better than come, since down in place allows the dog to still face the squirrel and he doesn’t have to leave it and come all the way back to you.  I have a squirrel-crazy dog, and I have my doubts about that theory. Even though she is really well trained and always comes back, sometimes she just needs to chase a squirrel!


In reality, I don’t think there is one specific command that surpasses all others.  It would be nice if that were the case and if we could create robot dogs who were 100% reliable on a specific command.  In reality, I think it is the combination of several different skills (leave it, attention, name recognition, recall, stay, loose leash walking) that make your dog reasonably reliable and well-behaved overall. 


Supporting all of that training though is the foundation of your relationship.  The better your relationship, the stronger that foundation, and the more reliable your dog is, the more biddable, the more willing to work for you. 


Like any good relationship, such as that of a relationship with a spouse or with your children, it is not something that you can acquire quickly or without effort.  Relationships take time.  You'll have good days and not so good days.  It is the day in and day out with your dog over the course of months and years where the dog learns that you are trustworthy, you are fair, and you will provide what he needs.  It is walking your dog everyday, even when you are tired.  It is taking your dog to training class, even when you would rather be going to Yoga.  It is taking moment to breathe and think rationally before you let your frustration out on your dog when you are stressed out or upset because of his behavior.  It is following through and making sure your dog sits if you have asked him to, even though you are tired and don't want to get up to remind him. 


This relationship that you form with your dog is the reason that your dog comes to you when you call him.  It is the reason that your dog chooses to stay even though there is another dog or a squirrel nearby.  It is the reason he looks to you when you call his name.  And, it is the reason that he tries so hard to figure out what you want him to do.  


On top of all of this, once you get your relationship, you still need to invest the time to teach your dog skills to function successfully in a busy metropolitan area.  This requires training.


Is all of this a ton of work?  Of course it is.  Forming a relationship with anyone, yet alone another species, requires a huge investment of time and resources.  Training a dog requires lots of patience, time, and effort.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling you the full truth. 


Is it 100%, absolutely worth it?  You bet. Would I trade in all of the hours I’ve spent with my dogs for a life with more time, money, and no dogs?  Not in a million years.


For those of you who have been blessed enough to share your life with a dog with whom you have had what I described above – a dog who comes when you call, is appropriate and reliable around people and other dogs, and a dog who responds when you ask him do something – you know what I’m talking about.  It is without question worth it.  It is one of the coolest experiences out there, I think, to share your life with a dog like this.  A dog with who you are “in sync" because of your relationship and ability to communicate effortlessly. 


For those of you working to get there, great job!  Keep up the hard work.  You will get there.  It is worth it!

Happy training!!!


Reliable Off-Leash Dog, Part 2

Posted by gooddogdc on April 22, 2014 at 2:45 PM Comments comments ()

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Some of you may have seen this when I posted it on Facebook over the weekend.  This is one of my clients working her dog Ruck on off-leash reliability.  This is just a small clip of our one hour session; however, Ruck was pretty much at the same level of focus for the entire hour.  The main thing that makes this situation so perfect and the dog so reliable is his 100% attention to his owner.  Through play, she is keeping him fully focused on her.  When your dog looks like this, there is no worry that they are going to leave you and run out into the street, chase a squirrel, or follow another dog walking by.  This dog is absolutely committed to his owner because he loves her and he thinks she is FUN!  

Even though building up a dog's reliability in this way takes time.  It takes lots of reptitions of reinforced recalls, place training, and attention.  It takes lots of building up of play drive.  This method with get you a much more reliable dog in the long term, since your dog will just continue to get better and better over time.  You become better than any other person, dog, or squirrel.  

I hope this video inspires you to get out and work with your dog!  Happy training!

Get a Reliable Off Leash Dog

Posted by gooddogdc on March 17, 2014 at 11:10 AM Comments comments ()

With the warmer weather right around the corner, I am working with many of my clients on increasing their dog's off leash reliability.  Of course, your dog has to have all of the basics first - sit, down, stay, leave it, and a basic level recall.  I also think it's really important that you are walking your dog daily, and that when you walk, you're dog's leash is loose 99% of the time.  This tells me that your dog understands the concept of walking with you and moving with you - turning when you turn, stopping when you stop, not yanking your arm off just because your dog sees another dog or a squirrel.

If you have all of those things, then my next major step for you would be to get your dog playing with you.  I mean really playing.  Obsessed with playing with you.  This is very important.  I find that the majority of dogs, especially young dogs, are not as motivated by food as they are by play. If you can get your dog facinated about playing with you, then you will become the ultimate squirrel or the ultimate other dog.  Your dog will be facinated by you because you are FUN!   You will have instant recalls because your dog will be so happy for the opportunity to work with you.

I think the easiest ways to get your dog very interested in playing with you are tug and fetch.  Build up these games gradually to get your dog obsessed with them.  I've found that almost any dog can learn to play these two really fun games.  Many dogs start with low to mild interest.  The more you play, the more this will build until you have a dog who is fully committed.

If you are wondering how to teach your dog to fetch, here is a quick video I put together with my dog to help you get started.  I am throwing the ball pretty far in this video.  If you are starting with a dog who doesn't know this game, begin by throwing the ball just a few feet.  

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Playing in the Snow!

Posted by gooddogdc on February 13, 2014 at 2:20 PM Comments comments ()

Well, I have to admit, I didn't realize what a WORKOUT it is to play in the snow with your dog!  I think he felt it too because he fast asleep as I type this.  Those of you who follow my posts know how much I love going to the park when no one else is there.  So, we seized the opportunity and headed out this morning hoping to have a quiet day at the park.  There were a few kids out on sleds, but you can see, much of the snow was unbroken when we got there.  We had a great chance to practice fetch and a few recalls. 

The snow was deep!  Even Max didn't have his normal speed.  I was also surprised at how hard it was for him to find his ball, especially at the beginning.  He is normally terrific at scenting it out, but the snow definitely fooled him a couple of times!  It took him awhile to figure out that it might get buried if I threw it, and he would have to dig it out!

We had a lot of fun though, and I am looking forward to going out again this evening!

Walking on ice!

Posted by gooddogdc on January 30, 2014 at 10:20 AM Comments comments ()

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My Max trying to gather his courage to walk across the big bad ice!  

What kind of treats do I use in training?

Posted by gooddogdc on January 27, 2014 at 10:55 AM Comments comments ()

I believe that what you practice ends up being the response you get in real life.  If when you are practicing “sit” you are rewarding with kibble and your dog gives you a slow, sloppy sit with minimal attention, then that is often the sit you’ll end up with in real life.  On the other hand, if I practice “sit” with a pieces of chicken as a reward and my dog gives me fast sits with 100% attention, then that is the kind of sit I am more likely to get in real life.


For highly distracting environments, I have to bring a treat to match.  When working outdoors, I always use something high value such as cheese or steak.  That way, when my dog recalls away from playing with another dog or chasing a squirrel, I can pay him big time with a fantastic reward!


The opposite works for calm behaviors.  I like using kibble or something less exciting for duration down stays in order to keep the dog calm, nothing too exciting.


Happy training!


Clicker Training!

Posted by gooddogdc on January 24, 2014 at 1:40 PM Comments comments ()

Want to get started clicker training?  Clicker training is a simple, effective, fun way to train your dog!

Just click then give your dog a treat. Repeat this 5 to 10 times or until your dog perks up at the sound of the click. Once you've done the above and "charged" your clicker, you are ready to start using it!


Use the click to "mark" any behavior your like that your dog is doing. You want to click the exact instant your dog is doing the behavior. Follow each click with a tasty treat.


By catching your dog in the act of doing good things, your dog will start to do those good things more and more. For example, click and treat your dog for four on the floor when you come home to prevent jumping. Click and treat your dog for looking at you to teach attention. Click and treat your dog for setting on the floor by the couch to teach your dog not to beg when you eat on the couch.  Repetition is key here, so be sure to click and treat the behavior you like for several days to give your dog a chance to learn what you want!


Using the above capturing technique might surprise you! Through capturing, I've taught my dogs to "speak", "back up", "growl", and "spin" in addition to lots of everyday "good dog" skills.

There are lots of other ways to use the clicker, this is just one of them.  I hope some of you get to try it!  Happy training!