Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reactive Rover Class with Kim Moeller

Here's a glimpse into one of my Reactive Rover Classes!
You can find out more about the classes at

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reinforce the Owner

I was out with my own dogs at an off leash dog park the other day and I am constantly watching and observing how other owners and trainers train. I always believe in positively rewarding the dogs for good behavior and good interactions with other dogs since my specialty is dog dog aggression issues and I am constantly encouraging my client to reward with treats and praise for good dog interactions instead of using more traditional methods of screaming and correcting the dog. I cringe when I see these punishing types methods being used especially when dealing with dogs that have issues off leash with other dogs. If we use corrective methods which means using force it tends to make the aggression worse because if the dogs feels pain around other dogs then they then start associating dogs as bad.
Then they tend to get more reactive when they see another dog because barking and lunging works because it makes the other dog go away before they feel pain!

Well on this day I observed an owner who had his dog on a gentle leader and he had a doggie back pack (which sometimes help dog associate the doggie back pack with working mode and if they are in working mode they are more focused on the job they are doing with their owner instead of reacting to dogs)! This owner allowed his who was on leash to meet my dog-BUT when his dog went to greet my dog- he kept his leash nice and loose and happy talked a nice greeting and after a second or two he said “leave it” without pulling his dogs leash and when his dog came away from my dog and back to him he rewarded his dog with a treat!

I was so impressed with his training methods because this is exactly what I teach owners to do- keep the leash loose, use a happy voice when greeting then get your dog back to you and when they come back give them a goodie and then move on!

I praised and reinforced the owner by commenting to him that he was using a great training strategy! And he smiled and told me it has taken a lot of work to get to this point but he has made huge progress and he now feels confident to bring his dog around other dogs! He said it will always be work but he is happy to come out to the park with his dog and now has a better relationship!

AHHH a good day at the park! 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"My dog is Friendly"

So many of my clients that have dogs that bark and lunge at other dogs on leash tell me that they do not know what to do or say when an approaching owner and dog say “My dog’s Friendly” or assume that their dog is friendly and allow their dog to come up to their reactive dog.  One piece of advice I have found to give them is to buy a doggie backpack for their dog, put some water bottles, soup cans, etc.  in it and explain to the other owner that their dog cannot meet other dogs or people because it is a service dog and is in training right now! This makes it about their own dog and not the other person’s dog and people are more understanding and respectful!

I want to make t-shirts for people with reactive dogs that say something like "Great that your dog is Friendly, But you don’t have to brag about it!!"  :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

High value food rewards DO work for leash reactivity!

I am proud to be a positive reward based trainer. Every time I go see a client for a private consultation and I tell them they no longer have to use a shock collar or a pinch collar or a choke collar to change their dogs behavior I see a huge sigh of relief from the client. From my experience most people do not want to hurt their dogs but sometimes they just do not know another way to train. Traditional type training methods –those methods that use pain to stop a behavior is really just a band aid that covers up the dogs issues. In other words it only suppresses the dogs behavior.  And stresses the dog out and deteriorates the bond between dog and owner.

When dealing with leash reactivity, you want to get the dog to offer you an alternate behavior to barking and lunging- and for dogs the more you reward the dog with something really yummy the more they will offer you a different behavior.

Teaching your dog to look at you in the presence of another dog is a great alternate behavior to barking and lunging! So many times when I see a client for the first time and I bring super high value food rewards like cheese, chicken, meatballs, hotdogs the dog is much more willing to take my yummy food reward than bark at the other dog. Sometimes all it takes is for owners to understand what a high value treat is and to ONLY use it in the presence of dogs!

Stay tuned for more tips on leash aggression

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Barking at the Door

One of the most common behaviors I help owners with is barking and rushing to the door when people knock or ring the doorbell. It is so common for dogs to rush the dog when someone knocks as a way to alert their owners but also in their minds they want to get to that door and be the first ones to say hello! Dogs are social creatures.

An easy behavior to teach your dog to stop barking and charging the door is a SIT AND STAY while the door is being opened. More than likely if the dog is sitting and staying then they are less likely to bark because they are focused on another behavior. So the sit stay discourages two behaviors at once- the stay and the no barking!

Start with a bag of treats and first work on a stay in the house. Then increase distance. Have the dog 10 feet away from the front door and put them in a sit stay and the tell them to stay while you go to the front door- open it, close it, then reinforce them with a treat IF they stay! If they break their stay say “OOPS” and try it again!

Next step is to tell them to stay and have a friend come over- have them knock and repeat the exercise: The dog must stay until you open the door and the friend comes in! If you practice this every day and you are consistent about making sure the dog sits and stays while people come into the door- you will have a better behaved dog when your friends come around

REMEMBER dogs do what works SO if it pays off BECAUSE THEY ARE GETTING GOODIES when they sit and stay when people come into the house THEN they will continue to repeat that behavior!  Just be there to remind them what to do and then praise and REWARD them when they do it!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reactive Rover

Stay tuned in for helpful dog training advice for behavior problems that I address with owners on a daily basis.