Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Age is a Wonderful Thing But Not The Solution To All Your Dog Training Problems

A few weekends ago Iggy and I competed at the AAC (Agility Association of Canada) Ontario Regionals.  We had an incredible weekend and took first place in our height class.  Iggy ran his heart out for me and I was very proud of my boy.  The agility was great but I was also very aware of how well behaved he was while walking to the rings, waiting our turn and even sitting in his crate back at the tent.  He will be 6 years old in November and we have hit that great age in a dog when the brain is all there and they are young enough to enjoy it.

One of these four will be mine :)
When I work with people and there dogs I hear a lot of "Oh he jumps but that's just a puppy thing" or "He gets a little excited but I am sure he will outgrow that".   In my experience if you allow your puppy to practice a behaviour on a regular basis HE WILL NOT OUTGROW THAT.  I spend a lot of time socializing and training my puppies so that they grow up to have the skills that Iggy displayed, this did not come by age along.  Training will give you this adult dog, time alone will not, I take that back, time will but you will probably have to wait until they are 10+ and sore so they stop jumping and stop getting excited.

How to Introduce Your Dog To New Sights, Sounds and Smells?

You want to start small.  You do not want to overwhelm your dog on the first outing.  I start all of my dogs on the sidewalk in front of the Independant in Kemptville.  They have a long sidewalk and almost nobody walks by the far left.  You get the odd person so you can practice people up close but most of the excitement will happen far enough away so the dog can get used to it.  Depending on the dog, that decides what time will be my first socializing experience.  With my Siberian who was a little crazy and high strung I started at 8am on a Sunday morning, there was almost no one there.  You had cars moving around because of the Five Star and the Tim Hortons and the odd staff person would walk into the store.  I would go and work my post game (keep reading for more info on this pivotal game), just for about 10 minutes, until Max's brain arrived and then we could start working skills.  At first name game and sit working up to walking beside me.  We eventually could sit on the bench beside the doors at 10 on a Saturday morning and Max could sit calmly or perform skills regardless of the people walking by.

Post Game
Goal;  to teach the dog to maintain a loose leash regardless of the environment


  1. pick a leash length you will give your dog, appropriate to the environment
  2. put the hand holding the leash against your body and leave it there
  3. what is the dog doing?  Let the dog's behaviour dictate the next step
    • if he is pulling - take a step back in the opposite direction then go back to step 3
    • if the dog is looking at you - smile at the dog, you can ask for a behaviour e.g. come, do not fee the dog for just looking at you
    • if the dog is looking at the environment and the leash is loose - reward the dog 
Stay tuned to the blog my new puppy was born on June 2 and will come home in late July.  Looks like I will be getting another black and white Border Collie boy :). The blog will follow the training of the puppy.  What I will work on to get that great adult dog that Iggy is now showing me.

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to Deal with an Aggressive Dog

It happens without you noticing. Slowly, the whole family, possibly even your company, accommodates your dog's aggression. We all grew up being told not to bother a dog when it was sleeping or eating because they could be aggressive. Now, you shouldn't purposely bother a dog who is sleeping or eating. However, you should be very realistic about your dog's ability to deal with situations and train or manage appropriately.

When you have a puppy or a new dog in the house, do some exercises with them regularly to ensure that they don't become worried or reactive in certain situations. Doing these exercises also gives you a chance to observe the dog to see if there is any concerns that need to be further dealt with.

A Simple Exercise for Preventing or Changing Food Bowl Aggression

  1. While your dog is eating, walk by and throw a piece of high value treat. (I use breakfast sausage; it throws well and the dogs love it.)
  2. Observe your dog as you approach. Does he stiffen, eat quicker, or put his body further over the bowl?  These are all signs of guarding and will escalate in the wrong situation. Stay outside of the guarding radius when doing this exercise.
  3. Keep performing this exercise until he stops eating and waits for the sausage as you approach.
Always observe your dog in different situations, like when you have company in your house. Keep your dog safe if there is a situation he is not comfortable with. After something bad has happened is too late.

If you are having aggression issues that concern you, contact a professional. Going about this the wrong way could make your dog more aggressive.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to Rekindle Your Dog's Recall Abilities

With the beautiful weather and the snow gone, we all renew our commitment to get out and walk the dog. The fields and the forests call to us: finding new trails, going off trail, getting lost. (Thank goodness for that trusty GPS to find our way home!) And with all this rediscovered freedom, our dogs' once decent recall disappears the way of the dodo bird.

Get Back to Basics: Build Value for Desired Responses

It's hard to build value while on the walk, especially when the bunny poop calls. Start at home.

  1. Take your dog's breakfast and walk around the yard. Call him and reward him when he comes.
  2. When he won't leave your side grab his collar and give him a reward.
  3. Take the exercise on a walk.

Remember to always reward by placing the reward close to your body so the dog has to move towards you to get it. Playing hide and seek on your walks also builds lots of fun into finding you and keeps a part of your dogs brain thinking about where you are.

Tips for Maintaining Recall

  1. Avoid calling every time your dog goes too far. Your dog will think "if I go far, I'll get called and get a reward".
  2. Call him once, twice maximum. Calling him over and over again without his coming to you reinforces that your call is optional.
  3. Vary your route. Your dog is more likely to pay attention in new surroundings. (Especially with young dogs who are still establishing their comfort range. Regular trail changes keep them close.)

Have a wonderful time out there walking your dogs and appreciate this amazing weather. It won't be long until we start complaining about bugs


Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Is Here, Honest It Is

With spring in the air we are lucky enough to have Kathryn Pentland-Bruck as our guest blogger this month.  She has some great information to get through mud season.  Thank you Kathryn for sharing your knowledge with us.

At last - Spring is finally here and along with it comes the beginning of one of the busiest times of the year for the pet grooming industry.


Just as we humans are excited about being able to shed our winter coats, boots, hats, mitts, scarves and heavy clothing so are our pets. And so begins the race to get Fluffy, Max, Riley, Mr./Mrs. Whiskers -whatever your beloved feline/canine family member’s name may be - in for a good groom including a short Spring trim. And for those with double-coated pets a good brush out to get rid of all that loose undercoat which suddenly seems to be clinging to everything and moving like little tumble weeds through your home. Where the heck did THAT come from?

Just as we feel better after a long period of time without a bath/haircut so do our pets. Can you think of a time where you got really dirty or maybe simply weren’t able to bathe/shower as often as usual (say after a weekend of camping) where you longed for a good clean up and felt like a million bucks afterwards? I truly believe the same goes for our pets. I’ve seen many pets come into my salon and after a good groom suddenly seem more happy, playful and energetic.

So what can you, the pet owner, do yourself either as part of your home grooming routine or while you’re waiting to get into the groomer because when you called they said, “We’re booked solid for the next 2 weeks now that the warmer weather’s arrived”?   There are 3 main things.  Note - the following tips should also be followed year round and may even help to keep your grooming costs down.

Brush your pet – regardless if it’s a dog, cat, rabbit,…if it has fur - just like people who have hair - it needs to be brushed on a regular basis. There are so many benefits to this. 1) It will help to keep your pet’s hair from becoming a matted/tangled mess. Typically matts and tangles = total shave down/buzz cut as in most cases it’s the most humane thing to do. Note - while matts and tangles may be brushed out it’s slow going, painful (for both the pet and the groomer) and expensive (for the pet owner). We groomers don’t have a magic wand which we can waive to suddenly transform this into this,..although it would be nice if we didJ
 2) It helps to remove loose undercoat for those double coated pets – think Huskys, Shelties, Malamutes,.. 3) It helps to keep the skin healthy – helps to keep things like hot spots, dandruff, infections,…at bay, and 4) It’s a great way to bond with your pet. Think of how nice it feels when someone else washes your hair and gives your head a lovely massage,….mmmmnnnnn. Tip – when brushing your pet it’s very important to get right down to the skin. I’ve had many a customer come into the salon and look at me in complete bewilderment when I say I need to shave their dog due to matting regardless of the fact that, “they get brushed on a regular basis”. Imagine if you will that your hair is 10 inches long. You can brush your hair as often as you want; however if the brush doesn’t come into contact with your scalp 9 ¾ inches of your hair may be glorious; however that remaining ¼ inch of hair attached to your scalp will likely be ¼ inch of hot matted mess – also known as a pelt. Now imagine how it would feel to try to brush that out? It would be like trying to brush several packs of chewed sticky bubble gum out of your hair.    
If you bathe your pet at home it is very important that you brush their hair/fur really well prior to doing so! 

Keep your pet’s nails short – I have lots of clients that bring their pets, in my case dogs, in to have their nails trimmed and/or grinded for a variety of different reasons: 1) They’re nervous about doing it themselves – especially with dark coloured nails, 2) They don’t know how/aren’t comfortable doing it, 3) They can’t do it themselves, or 4) They don’t have the time or desire to. Whatever the reason is fine. I’m happy to do it. Regardless who attends to your pet’s nails there are things you can do to help keep them shorter. 1) Ensuring your pet gets lots of exercise. There are many reasons why this should be done. Nails is just one of them. 2) Ensuring your pet comes into contact with rougher surfaces – i.e., walks on the asphalt, concrete or sidewalk for example – please don’t do this in the middle of the day on hot/sunny days, 3) Playing with your pet’s feet. Even if you don’t trim their nails. Having your pet comfortable with having their feet/paws handles will make the process much easier for whomever does trim their nails, and 4) Regular inspections of their feet/paws, pads and nails. So you know if there are changes and when the nails are too long.
Which may leave you wondering how do you know how often your pet’s nails should be trimmed? Well the most obvious signal is when you can hear them making the “tick tick tick” sound when your pet moves about. Can you hear your pet before they enter the room? If so, as Jeff Foxworthy would say, “There’s your sign!” Are your pet’s nails circling around and starting to grow back into your pet’s feet/paws? If so it’s definitely time to have them attended to! As a general rule think of how often you trim your own nails? I suggest that pet owners bring their pets in monthly for nail trimming if, for whatever reason, this isn’t part of their home grooming routine. It’s a short appointment, isn’t very expensive and ensures your pet isn’t in pain. Long nails on people aren’t the same thing as long nails on pets.     

Keep your pet dry This doesn't mean your pet can’t get wet; but there are a few things to think about. Each time your pet gets wet if they have existing matts/tangles those matts/tangles can be worse. It’s like putting a wool sweater in the dryer. If you have a double coated pet it’s very important that they get thoroughly dry after being wet or you could find your pet is suddenly very smelly and has oozy patches on their skin – hot spots. When drying your pet be sure to get all the coat dry not just the top coat. Like brushing you need to ensure ALL the hair/fur gets thoroughly dried – right down to the skin.   

Well dear readers I hope you’ve found this information to be both helpful and interesting and that it provides you with the ability to enjoy the onset of the nicer weather with your beloved family member to the fullest! If you’re in the Kemptville/North Grenville area, or surrounding areas, and are in search of a dog groomer please visit or contact me at either or 613-258-1010. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How To Survive Cabin Fever with the Dog - Part 3

How to Survive Cabin Fever with a Dog - Part 3

Indoor activities can be just as challenging and tiring for your dog. In the final part of our "How to Survive Cabin Fever with a Dog" series, we will explore how to teach your dog to do tricks. The methods prescribed here are the same methods that are used with zoo and marine animals.

As we reward our dogs for responding to our commands, we're essentially shaping his behaviour. But let's not kid ourselves; shaping is a two-way street. Just as we shape our dog's behaviour, they shape ours. Our dogs figure out patterns that get our attention when they want it.

But this blog isn't about who shapes whom. It's about how to train your dog to do tricks. 

What you'll need:
  • a box (you will be asking your dog to push it with his nose, pick a size that will work for your dog's size
  • a ball any size will do (for advanced tricks)
  • a hungry dog (just before feeding time is a great time to shape)
  • small treats

Phase 1: Getting Your Dog to Offer Behaviours

  1. Prepare yourself ... don't put the box down until you're ready to reward any interaction.  Have rewards ready in your hand.
  2. Set yourself up for success by doing this in a quiet area without a lot of distractions.
  3. Sit on the ground and put the box down in front of you.
  4. Reward your dog for any interaction with the box. If he smells the box, reward. If he hits the box with his paw, reward. As long as he is working, thinking or moving in relation to the box, reward.
  5. After about 10 treats, pick up the box and put it away.
  6. You can return to this activity as often as you like; don't exceed 10 treats at a time. Give your dog some rest in between shaping sessions. After you get your dog to consistently interact with the box, you're ready to move onto phase 2. 

Phase 2: Working Towards Something

  1. Decide on a trick. Start simple. For illustration purposes, we'll be asking the dog to push a box with his nose.
  2. Close the box so your dog is more likely to concentrate on the outside of the box.
  3. Because of his experience with the previous phase, he will expect to be reward for any interaction with the box. However, since your goal is to get him to push the box with his nose, only reward him if he interacts with the box with his nose.
  4. After a few rewards for any nose interaction, only reward nose interaction on the side of the box.  To make this more likely to happen when you present the reward put it on the side of the box you would like your dog to touch.
  5. When the nose interaction moves box, give him a handful of treats. Once you reach this point, the only time you reward  is for a moving box.

Phase 3 : Increasing Difficulty

  1. Repeat phases 1 and 2 with a ball instead of a box.
  2. Decide where you want your dog to push the ball (for example, through a doorway).
  3. Only reward when your dog moves the ball in the direction of the goal.

That's it! Teach him to take the ball to different spots. Try giving him a cue. You can even wait longer before  you reward him for moving the ball. Eventually your dog will push the ball around without expecting a treat from you because the ball game has become self rewarding.  Check out a video of Oakley learning how to move a box around.

Hope this series has given you some great ideas to keep your dog fit and exercised through the winter. If you missed the first two parts, here they are:

What kind of tricks are you going to get your dog to do? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy shaping!

Monday, January 26, 2015

How to Survive Cabin Fever with the Dog - Part 2

How to Survive Cabin Fever with the Dog - Part 2

There are many activities you can do with the dog indoors during the winter months. Indoor winter activities offer you a chance to get back to basics.  To reinforce good behaviour, so you're ready for outdoor activities when the weather is more favourable. No matter how well-behaved and responsive your dog is to your commands, here are a few activities that will help ensure that he continues to respond favourably to your commands.

The activities in this blog are presented in increasing level of difficulty. Be sure to master the first two exercises before attempting the third. Once you've mastered the third, you're ready to take the activity outside on a warmer day! 

Call / Recall

Purpose: To build strong recall in your dog

What you need:
  • Treat

How to play:
  1. Stand approximately 2-feet away from your dog with a treat behind your back
  2. Give the recall cue (for example, your dog's name or "come")
  3. Take a step back and offer the treat

Increase the difficulty by:
  • increasing the distance between you and the dog before providing the recall command
  • taking multiple steps back prior to offering the reward
  • whispering the recall cue from a distance

Collar Grab

Purpose: To ensure your dog moves towards you when his collar is grabbed

What you need:
  • Treat
  • Non-retractable leash

How to play:
  1. Put the leash on your dog
    Step 2 of Collar Grab
  2. Hold a treat and leash in one hand
  3. Slide the other hand down the leash
  4. Grab your dog's collar with the sliding hand and provide the reward with the treat hand - watch the video

If your dog is not used to having his collar grabbed, he may back away from you at first. Don't despair. Practice the exercise until he moves towards you when you grab his collar.

Call / Recall

Purpose: To make your dog come faster

What you need:
  • A partner
  • Treat (both people should be armed with treats)

How to play:
  1. Person-1 holds the dog by the collar
  2. Person-2 moves about 10-feet away and says the recall command
  3. Person-1 lets the dog go and Person-2 moves away from the dog (the dog will pursue Person-2)
  4. When the dog catches up to Person-2, Person-2 provides a reward at knee level

Repeat the exercise with Person-2 holding on the collar and Person-1 providing the recall command.

Increase difficulty by:
  • increasing the distance between people before providing the recall command
  • increasing the speed at which Person-2 (the "treater") moves away from the dog

Once your dog has mastered this activity, hide before you give the recall command. Start with easy places like hiding behind a big piece of furniture within the same room or on the other side of the kitchen island. Increase the difficulty by hiding in a closet or a bathtub. Reward the dog when he finds you with treats, a big cuddle, or even running around the house screaming. They love that excitement.

If you need some help with these games, your recall in general or any other doggie issues, we have a winter special on.  Two one hour private sessions at your home for $104.00, that's a 20% discount.  This offer will be valid on first appointments booked before April 1, 2015.  There will be a charge for locations outside of the Kemptville/Winchester corridor.

Did you find some great places to hide? Share your favourite hiding spot in the comments below!

In part 3 of our "How to Survive Cabin Fever with the Dog" series, we will look at shaping. It will give you the tools to teach your dog all sorts of tricks. It's the same method for training dolphins at Sea World

Sunday, January 11, 2015

How to Survive Cabin Fever with the Dog - Part 1

Bored and waiting for me to amuse them
The holidays are over but winter is here for another couple of months. While there is nothing prettier than a sunny winter day, it can be downright cold. Most of us prefer to stay indoors and hibernate. The same can be said for some dogs, especially the small or short coated ones. But being cooped up inside staring at each other isn't an option. This is the first of a three-part series that explores activities to do with your dog during the coldest months of the year.

Fitness is an integral part to a balanced lifestyle for dogs. Much like our own fitness goals, we are looking to give our dogs:
            * a strong core,
            * agility, and
            * confidence in how they use their body.

Strength and stretching training can help prevent injury from sudden movements like when a squirrel crosses your path and keep your dog acting young well into old age. Give these simple exercises a try.

Balancing Act

Purpose: To build core strength and body awareness to handle changing and unstable environments.

What you need:

* Board
* Foreign objects to stick under the board

How to play:

(1) Begin by teaching your dog to get on a board.
(2) Once your dog has mastered getting on the board, put a small stick or towel under the board to make the board wobbly. Get your dog to get on the board.
(3) Have the dog move around on the board.  Every time you reward, reward on a different corner the dog will move to get the reward.
(3) Increase the challenge by sticking other foreign objects under the board to make it more unstable.

Check out our video on YouTube to help you better understand the steps.
Step 1

Core Strength

Purpose: To build core strength.  A strong core supports the spine and vital organs.   Best of all it’s a really cute trick.

Step 2
Goal: To have the dog stand on his bum (beg or sit pretty)

How to play:

(1) Begin by sitting in a chair with your dog sitting between your legs looking away from you
(2) Put a piece of food just above his nose and closer to his forehead
Step 3
(3) Reward any front paw movement, your are tying to get your dog’s front paws off the floor
(4) As the front paws come up off the ground, you can support your dog with your legs.  Slightly squeeze your legs helping the dog support his body.  As your dog gets stronger you can diminish the support until he can do this independently.
Step 4

Learn More

Shake-a-Paw will be holding a Canine Conditioning:  Intro To Fitpaws® course starting Sunday, February 1 at 11:30am. Join us and get your dog fitter and healthier than ever before!

Final Product
What do you do with your dog to remain active in the winter months? Comment below!

In part 2 of our "How to Survive Cabin Fever with the Dog" series, we will look at an indoor game to make your recall stronger and faster.