Archive for Training

Training Equipment for Loose Leash Walking

Many professional dog training instructors choose to use management tools in training loose leash walking. A loose leash walking training plan begins by managing the undesirable, leash pulling behavior. Below are a series of steps involved in using a management tool.

1. Choose the best tool for your client, the client dog, and the loose leash walking method that you and your client agree upon. There are a number of options including restrictive harnesses like the Freedom Harness or Easy Walk Harness, head halters like the Gentle Leader, or even something as simple as a long line.

2. Fit the tool properly on the dog. Ensure that the client understands how the equipment should be properly fitted so that they can check fit periodically.

3. Explain the proper use of the equipment to the client. Management doesn’t replace training, so this is a conversation that will include a discussion of your loose leash walking training plan. The tool allows the client to walk without having the dog practice the undesirable behavior (tension in leash, unbalanced body weight), but most dogs can learn to pull in any tool making the tool ineffective. Management should happen in conjunction with training so that the tool doesn’t lose its effectiveness and training goals can be met.

4. Discuss with the client how they can misuse the equipment. No pointing of fingers needed here! This is simply to point out the hazards of unintentional errors. One example of this is for the client to use the equipment without pursuing any training. The equipment doesn’t train the dog, so using it without training can eventually lead to the equipment becoming ineffective. Basically, the dog can learn to compensate for the training equipment and continue to pull.

The bulk of your discussion with your client will focus on the training plan you and your client develop together. The equipment you choose and its proper use are just 2 small pieces of that plan, but they’re important ones not to skip.

Creating a Safe Space, a Crating Alternative

How often have you recommended crate-training to your clients as a part of a comprehensive training plan? Crating is one of the safest ways to manage a dog’s space, and most dogs can be acclimated to tolerate, if not outright enjoy, being crated. But there are human clients that prefer not to crate and canine clients who are better served by other options than crating. How do you help these clients?

1.       Explore crate training. Some clients simply don’t like the idea, and a clear presentation of the advantages of crate training by a respected canine professional is enough to change their mind. It is the safest option available for most dogs, so you shouldn’t immediately exclude it.

2.       Determine the needs of your specific client, both human and canine. An elderly dog may need a bigger, well-padded space but may not have the same jumping/escaping concerns. A very energetic dog will need more secure containment, for example a dog-proofed room with a tall dog gate. Note that dogs with anxiety have special needs that exceed the scope of this blog post. Signs can range from the dog not settling, whining, and constantly soliciting attention, to destructive behavior.

3.       Make the space comfortable. This might mean providing something as simple as a comfortable dog bed and a bowl of water. White noise and covered windows can make a space more comfortable for environmentally sensitive (sound and sight reactive) dogs. Also, provide a cubby-like space that the dog can choose to lie in within this larger safe space to allow the feeling of a den.

4.       Attach value to the space by feeding all meals there. Leave Kongs and chews for the dog when he’s confined within the space. Allow free access to the space at all times when the dog is not being actively contained.

The moral of this story? Professional dog training is about being flexible, providing solutions, and accommodating the special needs of your human and canine clients.

Puppy Prevention Saves Dog Aggression

Choosing what services you offer is one of the first decisions you’ll make when you start a dog training business. Preventative puppy training is extremely important for a number of reasons:

1.       Puppy class is the earliest training opportunity you have with prospective clients. If they’re not pursuing puppy training with you, you may miss out altogether on the opportunity to provide services to them, as they will find another trainer.

2.       For a well-rounded product selection, puppy class is a must. If you want to be one-stop shopping for your clients, then including puppy class is necessary. You may determine that you’d like to specialize for a number of reasons, but that’s another blog post!

3.       If you’re marketing through veterinary clinics, the 2 highest volume referrals are for puppy training and for problem behaviors (pet manners and behavior work.) If you fail to offer puppy classes, you’re missing a good number of vet referrals.

4.       Providing timely puppy training that focuses on topics like proper socialization, preventative measures for resource guarding, and appropriate dog-dog interactions can help your clients avoid any number of problem behaviors later in their dogs’ lives.

5.       And, last but not least, puppy class is fun!

The first three points listed above are about good business, but the fourth is about good dog training. By reaching clients earlier, before serious behavioral problems develop, you have an opportunity to help those puppies grow into well-adjusted, sociable adult dogs. This improves the quality of the both the dog’s and the owner’s lives. 

Some dogs, even with the very best of starts, can develop aggression or anxiety. If you have provided a positive dog training experience for your clients, then they are much more likely to turn to you for help and advice in resolving those developing behavior problems. And even better, they may seek your help more quickly if they already have an established relationship with you.

Victoria Stillwell Book Review: Train Your Dog Positively

Linda Michaels reviews Victoria Stillwell’s new book “Train Your Dog Positively” (TYDP) and has the following to say:

“If you’re a positive reinforcement trainer looking for succinct supporting arguments to enhance your practice, it’s all here– challenging and dispelling the myth of dominance and pack theory.” For additional information and tactics for dispelling dominance misconceptions, see the Raising Canine telecourse by Jean Donaldson “Dominance: Anatomy of a Mind Virus.”

Michaels also points out some additional applications of the book. “TYDP contains practical applications in each major area of problem-solving, from frustrating, persistent nuisance issues such as housetraining to frightening multi-dog household aggression.”

Michaels is an expert in force-free, science based methods for addressing dog behavior problems in the San Diego area and a FAR licensed trainer. Find her full review at:  

Training The Trainer: Vary the Reinforcers!

Dog trainers are people, too. That means certified professional dog trainers get stuck in ruts, just like normal folk.  Habits develop over time for a variety of reasons. One great reason for trainers to get stuck is that they’ve found something that works for their clients, so they continue to use it. But it is important to constantly reevaluate and determine if the methods you’re using are the best. One area where many professional dog trainers get stuck is with their use of reinforcers. Frequently, the go-to choice for a reinforcer is food. There are a number of reasons for this. To read about a few, check out this blog post: “Why Train With Food?

But there are a number of reinforcers to use in training besides food, and it’s important they not be forgotten amidst the convenience and ease of using food. Look around and find what the dog likes – instant reinforcer! For a few helpful tips on incorporating toys, just one other option for a reinforcer, read here: “How Do I Train With Toys?

So shake up your routine, think creatively, and start varying your reinforcers. Training sessions will be more fun, and you’ll see an increase in reliability as your reinforcer begins to more appropriately fit the training exercise.

Greetings: Mom! You’re Home!

One of the more common problems that clients report is with greetings: dog-dog greetings, dog-friendly stranger greetings, greeting family when they come home. Be ready to get your certified professional trainer hat on and have some answers ready! This blog post focuses on coming-home greetings. Read “Greetings: Meeting The Friendly Stranger.” for more information on other types of greetings.

That moment when a dog’s favorite person walks in the door after 10 minutes or 4 hours away, the excitement overwhelms and the dog is jumping, maybe mouthing and pawing as well. The following are positive dog training tips that will help your clients tame their wildly greeting pooches when they return home.

1. Train an Incompatible Behavior

Sit is a natural choice. If the client’s dog is sitting, he can’t be jumping. Most client dogs will have a sit, but it may not be reliable in times of high arousal…like when Mom and Dad come home from work. So help your clients improve reliability outside the context of door greetings.

2. Add the Incompatible Behavior to the Door Greeting

Make sure your clients have treats ready when they walk in the door. Initially, encourage luring the “sit” behavior so you’re setting the dog up for success. The lure should be low and close to the nose to discourage jumping up. They can even scatter treats on the ground after the sit with a “get it” cue. The important point is for the treats to be kept and delivered low. It may be necessary to use very high value treats or substitute a favorite toy – whichever is higher value!

3. Consequences for Failure

If the “sit” has been refreshed, great cookies or a favored toy are available and being used, and yet, still, the client’s dog is jumping, then it’s time to implement a consequence. Jumping is a demand behavior, demanding interaction with the owner. So the consequence is for the owner to withdraw from the dog. Walking back out the door, waiting for 30 seconds, coming back in, and repeating as often as necessary should result in the dog being less excited, at which time you can lure the “sit.” Once the dog gets the idea that Mom or Dad will only be coming in if he’s calm, he’ll start being calm! The first time he’s calm without help should be time for a quiet celebration. (Quiet because he’s really still aroused and it won’t take much to get him to jump.)

You should most certainly have some advice to hand for your clients when they ask about greetings. Brainstorm your own positive dog training tips for door greetings or use these, but have some options ready!


Practical Skills: Trimming Nails

But I’m a professional dog trainer, not a groomer, you may say. Experience says that clients will ask for help with nail trimming. While it may not be within the scope of your job to trim nails, it is important to have positive dog training tips on nail trimming for your clients.

1. Properly condition dogs to having their feet handled and coach clients through the process.

Pairing handling with food is a great start for most dogs. I also encourage clients to be sensitive about handling ears, feet and other areas dogs frequently don’t like handled by starting at a less sensitive area. For example, when handling feet, start higher up the leg and then work down to the foot.

2. Determine the best handling position for this dog, and explain why to the client.

An important component to nail trimming that many owners overlook is the position the dog is in when his nails are trimmed. It is very important that the owner be able to clearly see the nail, including hook and quick. It’s equally important that the dog feel safe and physically comfortable while providing this clear view. Two positions that work well, depending on the dog, are a stand (folding the joint above the paw so the pads are facing the ceiling) and a down (preferably with the dog rolled on his back).

3. Recommend the appropriate equipment and supplies.

Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Be sure to always have Quick Stop and cookies available.

4. Recognize the location of the quick and hook of the nail, know how to trim the hook, and coach clients through the process.

With a clear view of the nail, a steady and relatively motionless dog, and a good understanding of where the hook and quick are located, clipping is pretty easy. Show your clients on their own dog where the quick and hook are located. Have them bring their own clippers for a demonstration on how to properly clip their pup’s nails.

5. Target dogs that have underlying anxiety and recommend a canine behavior specialist.

If a dog has a strong negative reaction to having feet handled, consider pursuing an in depth behavior modification plan or a referral to a canine behavior specialist. A strong reaction may include a refusal to eat offered treats, excessive panting, and/or any aggressive display including freezing, growling, snapping or biting. For an educational course on improving nail trims, check out Raising Canine’s Big 6: Behavior Mod Plans and Business Strategies for Serious Behavioral Problems – Handling.

Practical Skills: Loose Leash Walking

Whether you’re teaching this skill within the context of a basic manners class, in a topic specific seminar, or in private training sessions, it is doubtless one of the higher priorities of many professional dog training clients. The following are a few helpful training and client coaching tips.

1. Ensure your clients are managing the leash pulling behavior.

This can be something as simple as utilizing a management tool for walks. Restrictive harnesses, like the Freedom or EZ Walk, can be good choices for many clients because they’re simple to use and tolerated well by most dogs. Head halters are wonderful for smaller or frailer clients with large and powerful dogs, but it’s important to acclimate the dog appropriately to the halter.

2. Recap with your clients what constitutes a reward for his dog.

For many dogs, forward motion is rewarding. There are a number of loose leash walking methods, many of which are effective and humane. Which method you choose to teach to your clients will determine when a reward is administered. Regardless of the specific method used, make sure that your clients are choosing to reward with something that is valuable to the dog. High quality food, the ability to move forward or faster, toys – whatever the dog enjoys and encourages the continuation of the behavior you’re rewarding.

3. What is the criteria?

Many clients either do not have a mental picture of “loose leash walking” or the picture they have is unreasonable, for example a competition style heel. Becoming a professional dog trainer means helping your clients to understand, through a series of questions and answers, what they really want. For example, is it allowable for the dog to cross over to either side of the owner or should the dog stay primarily on one side?

4. Where the reward is delivered is very important.

Once a clear criteria is set and the client has a mental picture, it is much easier for the client to know when to deliver a reward. But where is also very important. Most clients will quickly learn when to reward, but I’ve found it’s a bit more difficult for the client to deliver the treat or toy in a place that reinforces position. For example, if the client wants her dog to walk on the left side, then providing the reward at the client’s left leg is ideal. Frequently, clients will deliver the food or toy to the dog at his location. Help your clients succeed by giving specific instructions as to delivery placement.

An integral part of positive dog training is providing clear and timely information to the dog concerning what he should be doing. Having a good mental picture of the desired behavior, a ready reward, and good placement of the reward go a long way toward clearly communicating the desired behaviors to the dog. Simultaneous to providing information about what the dog should be doing, the owners are also not allowing the dog to practice the undesired behaviors. Combine these two parts, management and training, and you are well on your way to loose leash walking!

Play As A Reinforcement

In our blog post “Pets And Praise As A Reinforcement: Client Pitfalls,” we discuss two alternatives to training with food. Becoming a certified dog trainer means being mindful of your clients’ needs and staying flexible in your ability to fulfill those needs. It’s important that you develop and maintain the ability to use a variety of reinforcements, including play!

Read Michael Baugh’s  blog post, “Training With Play,” for a few helpful tips on incorporating play into your training.

Socialization: Tips For Success

There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the concept of socialization. It is generally accepted by most professional dog trainers’ clients that socialization is good and they should be doing it. But how, where, and when create a good bit of confusion. Most importantly, the human’s responsibility is to provide the opportunity for interaction with new and different things, people, dogs, and smells. These opportunities should be low pressure and pleasant. A little stress goes a long way when dogs are interacting with new and different stimuli.

Here are some helpful hints for your clients.


  • Provide opportunities that present new and different stimuli for your puppy or dog. This includes exposure to friendly dogs, friendly strangers, new objects, and unique smells.
  • Reward bravery. Important to note, the reward happens after the dog has shown interest in something new, which is very different from luring that interest.
  • Allow ease of movement and provide a clear avenue for escape.
  • Use food, toys, praise, and play to reward your puppy or dog for investigating new things.
  • Allow plenty of time for new interactions. Allow your puppy or dog to engage in age appropriate and safe ways. Young puppies may use their mouths, puppies and dogs may sniff quite a bit. 
  • Increase distance when your puppy or dog shows signs of being more than lightly stressed by his new experience. For example, if you see signs like lip licking, yawning and scratching when meeting someone new, walk a little further away from that person and give your puppy or dog a break.
  • Keep sessions short.


  • Push your puppy or dog to be braver than he is ready to be. Even well-intentioned luring can add too much stress in some situations.
  • Hold your puppy or dog’s leash to remove the slack, or propel your puppy forward by means of his leash.
  • Rush your puppy when he’s investigating new things, people and dogs. If you’re on a tight time table, it’s not the best time for socialization.
  • Correct your puppy or dog for inquisitiveness. Sniffing is a natural way for dogs to interact with their environment. If sniffing is excessive or inappropriate, then redirect rather than correcting with punishment.
  • Arrange socialization opportunities when your puppy or dog is over-tired, or allow the sessions to last over-long.

Read our blog post “Socialization Versus Behavior Modification: Making The Correct Recommendation” to read about which dogs may not be good candidates for socialization. Socialization is a topic that you’ll encounter repeatedly as a certified professional dog trainer. If you’re feeling underprepared to discuss socialization with your clients, visit Raising Canine for topic specific continuing education on socialization, including the telecourse “Puppy Professors – Socialisation Science.