Monday, December 31, 2012

National Train Your Dog Month!

January has been declared National Train Your Dog Month by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.  This is a great opportunity to get some very valuable training tips and information about your dog through the offerings on their web site. 

 Check out their web site and schedule of events!

About National Train Your Dog Month - taken from the APDT web site
"In 2010 the Association of Pet Dog Trainers began the National Train Your Dog Month campaign. The APDT thought it was long overdue to dedicate a month to bringing awareness to the importance of socialization and training, and most of all, to inform the public that training your dog can be easy and fun! We selected January as the perfect month because so many dogs and puppies are adopted or purchased from breeders and brought home during the winter holidays. Our desire is to help these new pet parents start off the new year right with their newest family member.

The event is designed to promote the importance and benefits of training dogs to become happy and healthy companions. Too many dogs are turned into animal shelters each year for behavior and training issues that could be easily solved with proper socialization and positive, gentle, science-based methods of training. Moreover, we want the public to know that training your dog is not just beneficial, it's FUN!

We hope that trainers, shelters, dog sports enthusiasts, veterinarians, groomers and most of all, dog owners, will help us celebrate the joy of training and enjoying a healthy relationship with your companion dog not only during January's National Train Your Dog Month, but throughout the rest of the year as well! We have a variety of training resources, events, and other suggestions on this site with ideas on how to promote training to your friends, family, and training clients - basically anyone who lives with and loves dogs!

APDT members around the U.S. are planning events on their communities to promote National Train Your Dog Month in January, as well as to promote the benefits of training throughout the rest of the year. You can find local APDT members by visiting the APDT web site at

About The Association of Pet Dog Trainers

The APDT is a professional educational organization of trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through using positive, dog friendly methods based on sound scientific principles. With over 6,000 members worldwide, the APDT provides professional dog trainers with a respected and concerted voice. The APDT promotes caring relationships between dogs and people and works to increase public awareness of dog-friendly training techniques. For more information, visit the Web site at"

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More from Puppy Play Time!

Here are a few shots from the puppy play time today.  Notice we only had white dogs today!  Sorry, Micah, my camera ran out of batteries before you showed up!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Amazing Pet Portraits

Just wanted to share with everyone an amazing pet portrait artist in RI. Check out her web site!

Here's what she did for me!



Friday, August 24, 2012

Puppy Play Date

Gus and Bruin
We had a great play date yesterday, Gus (14 wks), Bruin (12 weeks), Tessie and Scout (9 weeks) all had a great time!

Scout and Tessie

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Puppies are Social Butterflies - let them fly!

Wow, there's a whole new batch of puppies out there and time again for a couple of reminders.  It may sound a bit repetitive but the first several weeks of your puppies time with your are during a critical developmental period that you can never get back.  Now is the time to SOCIALIZE, SOCIALIZE, SOCIALIZE!

Perhaps your breeder (and maybe even your vet) said, "Don't bring the puppy to dog parks, or don't let the puppy play with other dogs until they've had all their shots!"  and they are right to be concerned about disease transmission.  I agree, bringing the puppy to the dog park is not a great idea BUT socializing your dog with a small group of other puppies of similar age who are up to date with their shots is critical for development of proper bite inhibition as well as developing doggy social skills.   Without the proper socialization dogs can and often do become dog/dog reactive, you know the ones that you walk past with your dog on leash and they lunge and bark and you think, 'my that dog is aggressive, I can't imagine why they'd have that dog out in public'.  The sad reality is that dog is probably a wonderful dog who just never got properly socialized as a puppy.  This is especially true for small breed dogs, because they are so small as little puppies people tend to be over protective of them particularly around larger breed dogs.  Rather than protecting their dogs they end up creating a dog that worries about being around all other dogs!

Don't take my word for it though, check out the ASVAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior) position papers on socialization  This is a group of Veterinarians who have specialized in animal behavior.  You can also read a great article from the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers)

Socialization should not stop with puppy play dates!  It means getting your dog out and about to see and interact with all the different people, places and things that they will see in their lifetime while they are open to it!  So take your puppy with you when you go pick the kids up at camp, let them meet all the kids and their parents.  Take them to the soccer field, the playground, the swimming hole, down town area, any where they are likely to go as adult dogs.  These trips SHOULD NOT be Bataan Death Marches, but short enjoyable outings to see new things and experience new people and places. If your puppy is on the shy side, respect that, don't force the dog closer than they are comfortable to any new stimuli, and of course ALWAYS bring yummy treats with you and REWARD your dog for being brave!  Even a brave puppy can get startled by a fire engine siren, so back away and reward the puppy for bravely enduring the noise!  If your puppy will not take a food treat, it may be too scared, so move further away from the stimulus and try rewarding him again!

Above all make these socialization trips fun, fun, fun.  Play games with your puppy where ever you go.  Let him investigate things at his own pace and reward him for every good thing he does (like sitting politely while being pet by a stranger!). 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thank You for a Great Season!

This one is for all my Adventure Class participants!  We had one final class today, took a 2 hour tour of Wrights Woods and I thought I would share some of the great videos and photos from today.

One Very Happy, Very Dirty Dog!
A Fun Group of Dogs and People!

More videos on You Tube here 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Skidboot What a great story!

I just have to share this story with you.  Talk about a relationship between a guy and his dog, not to mention some amazing training.  The video is a bit long but it's worth watching the whole thing!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Time for Spring Cleaning!

OK, I know there is a snow storm coming, but spring is also coming!  As an active walker in the town's conservation areas I encourage every one to participate in the upcoming Concord Cleanup!  While it may not be on the list explicitly, let's make sure we include all those dog piles we didn't pick up this winter!  Bring your doggy bags with you and pick up ANY piles you run across, even if they aren't yours.  Remember we have a responsibility as dog owners to be sure we are not soiling the conservation areas we share with non dog owners.  So take an extra minute and pick up an extra pile or two while your out enjoying you walk!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Alpha Schmalpha - as published in the Whole Dog Journal Dec 2011


De-Bunking the "Alpha Dog" Theory

Why every mention of “alpha dogs” or “dominant” dogs is dangerous to all dogs.

The alpha myth is everywhere. Google “alpha dog” on the Internet and you get more than 85 million hits. Really. While not all the sites are about dominating your dog, there are literally millions of resources out there – websites, books, blogs, television shows, veterinarians, trainers and behavior professionals – instructing you to use force and intimidation to overpower your dog into submission. They say that you, the human, must be the alpha. They’re all wrong. Every single one of them.
Is this powerful dog dominant? Acting like an “alpha dog”? No; he’s simply untrained. Pulling hard has enabled him to reach what he wanted to reach in the past, so he’s trying it again.
The erroneous approach to canine social behavior known as dominance theory (two million-plus Google hits) is based on a study of captive zoo wolves conducted in the 1930s and 1940s by Swiss animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel, in which the scientist concluded that wolves in a pack fight to gain dominance, and the winner is the alpha wolf.

Bad Extrapolation

Schenkel’s observations of captive wolf behavior were erroneously extrapolated to wild wolf behavior, and then to domestic dogs. It was postulated that wolves were in constant competition for higher rank in the hierarchy, and only the aggressive actions of the alpha male and female held the contenders in check. Other behaviorists following Schenkel’s lead also studied captive wolves and confirmed his findings: groups of unrelated wolves brought together in artificial captive environments do, indeed, engage in often-violent and bloody social struggles.

The problem is, that’s not normal wolf behavior. As David Mech stated in the introduction to his study of wild wolves (Mech, 2000), “Attempting to apply information about the behavior of assemblages of unrelated captive wolves to the familial structure of natural packs has resulted in considerable confusion. Such an approach is analogous to trying to draw inferences about human family dynamics by studying humans in refugee camps. The concept of the alpha wolf as a ‘top dog’ ruling a group of similar-aged compatriots (Schenkel 1947; Rabb et al. 1967; Fox 1971a; Zimen 1975, 1982; Lockwood 1979; van Hooff et al. 1987) is particularly misleading.”

What we know now, thanks to Mech and others, is that in the wild, a wolf pack is a family, consisting of a mated pair and their offspring of the past one to three years. Occasionally two or three families may group together. As the offspring mature they disperse from the pack; the only long-term members of the group are the breeding pair. By contrast, in captivity unrelated wolves are forced to live together for many years, creating tension between mature adults that doesn’t happen in a natural, wild pack.

Enough About Wolves

But that’s all about wolves anyway, not dogs. How did it happen that dog owners and trainers started thinking all that information (and misinformation) about wolf behavior had anything to do with dogs and dog behavior? The logic went something like, “Dogs are descended from wolves. Wolves live in hierarchical packs in which the aggressive alpha male rules over everyone else. Therefore, humans need to dominate their pet dogs to get them to behave.”

Perhaps the most popular advocate of this inaccurate concept, Cesar Millan, is only the latest in a long line of dominance-based trainers who advocate forceful techniques such as the alpha roll. Much of this style of training has roots in the military – which explains the emphasis on punishment.

As far back as 1906, Colonel Konrad Most was using heavy-handed techniques to train dogs in the German army, then police and service dogs. He was joined by William Koehler after the end of World War II.
Koehler also initially trained dogs for the military prior to his civilian dog-training career, and his writings advocated techniques that included hanging and helicoptering a dog into submission (into unconsciousness, if necessary). For example, to stop a dog from digging, Koehler suggested filling the hole with water and submerging the dog’s head in the water-filed hole until he was nearly drowned.
Fast-forward several years to 1978 and the emergence of the Monks of New Skete as the new model for dog training, asserting a philosophy that “understanding is the key to communication, compassion, and communion” with your dog. Sounds great, yes? The Monks were considered cutting edge at the time – but contrary to their benevolent image, they were in fact responsible for the widespread popularization of the “Alpha-Wolf Roll-Over” (now shortened to the alpha roll). Reviewing the early observations of captive wolves, the Monks concluded that the alpha roll is a useful tool for demonstrating one’s authority over a dog. Unfortunately, this is a complete and utter misinterpretation of the submissive roll-over that is voluntarily offered by less assertive dogs, not forcibly commanded by stronger ones.
The Monks also advocated the frequent use of other physical punishments such as the scruff shake (grab both sides of the dog’s face and shake, lifting the dog off the ground) and cuffing under the dog’s chin with an open hand several times, hard enough to cause the dog to yelp.
While professing that “training dogs is about building a relationship that is based on respect and love and understanding,” even their most recent book, Divine Canine: The Monks’ Way to a Happy, Obedient Dog (2007), is still heavy on outdated, erroneous dominance theory. Immediately following their suggestion that “a kindly, gentle look tells the dog she is loved and accepted,” they say “But it is just as vital to communicate a stern reaction to bad behavior. A piercing, sustained stare into a dog’s eyes tells her who’s in charge; it establishes the proper hierarchy of dominance between person and pet.” (It’s also a great way to unwittingly elicit a strong aggressive response if you choose the wrong dog as the subject for your piercing, sustained stare.)
Despite the strong emergence of positive reinforcement-based training in the last 20 years, the Monks don’t seem to have grasped that the “respect” part needs to go both ways for a truly compassionate communion with your dog. Perhaps one of these days . . .
Birth of Modern Training Era

Just when it seemed that dog training had completely stagnated in turn-of-the-century military-style dominance-theory training, marine mammal trainer Karen Pryor wrote her seminal book, Don’t Shoot the Dog. Published in 1985, this small, unassuming volume was intended as a self-help book for human behavior. The author never dreamed that her modest book, paired with a small plastic box that made a clicking sound, would launch a massive paradigm shift in the world of dog training and behavior. But it did.
Is this dog dominant or acting like an “alpha dog”? No; he’s been trained to jump up and bite on cue.
Forward progress was slow until 1993, when veterinary behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar founded the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Dunbar’s vision of a forum for trainer education and networking has developed into an organization that now boasts nearly 6,000 members worldwide. While membership in the APDT is not restricted to positive reinforcement-based trainers, included in its guiding principles is this statement
“We promote the use of reward-based training methods, thereby minimizing the use of aversive techniques.”
The establishment of this forum facilitated the rapid spread of information in the dog training world, enhanced by the creation of an online discussion list where members could compare notes and offer support for a scientific and dog-friendly approach to training.
Things were starting to look quite rosy for our dogs. The positive market literally mushroomed with books and videos from dozens of quality training and behavior professionals, including Jean Donaldson, Dr. Patricia McConnell, Dr. Karen Overall, Suzanne Hetts, and others. With advances in positive training and an increasingly educated dog training profession embracing the science of behavior and learning and passing good information on to their clients, pain-causing, abusive methods such as the alpha roll, scruff shake, hanging, drowning, and cuffing appeared to be headed the way of the passenger pigeon.
A Step Backward

Then, in the fall of 2004, the National Geographic Channel launched its soon-to-be wildly popular show, The Dog Whisperer. Dominance theory was back in vogue, with a vengeance. Today, everything from housetraining mistakes to jumping up to counter surfing to all forms of aggression is likely to be attributed to “dominance” by followers of the alpha-resurgence.
“But,” some will argue, “look at all the dogs who have been successfully trained throughout the past century using the dominance model. Those trainers can’t be all wrong.”

In fact, harsh force-based methods (in technical parlance, “positive punishment”) are a piece of operant conditioning, and as the decades have proven, those methods can work. They are especially good at shutting down behaviors – convincing a dog that it’s not safe to do anything unless instructed to do something. And yes, that works with some dogs. With others, not so much.
My own personal, unscientific theory is that dog personalities lie on a continuum from very soft to very tough. Harsh, old-fashioned dominance-theory methods can effectively suppress behaviors without obvious fallout (although there is always behavioral fallout) with dogs nearest the center of the personality continuum – those who are resilient enough to withstand the punishment, but not so tough and assertive that they fight back. Under dominance theory, when a dog fights back, you must fight back harder until he submits, in order to assert yourself as the pack leader, or alpha.
Problem is, sometimes they don’t submit, and the level of violence escalates. Or they submit for the moment, but may erupt aggressively again the next time a human does something violent and inappropriate to them. Under dominance-theory training, those dogs are often deemed incorrigible, not suitable for the work they’re being trained for nor safe as a family companion, and sentenced to death. Had they never been treated inappropriately, many might have been perfectly fine.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a very “soft” dog can be easily psychologically damaged by one enthusiastic inappropriate assertion of rank by a heavy-handed dominance trainer. This dog quickly shuts down – fearful and mistrusting of the humans in his world who are unpredictably and unfairly violent.
Most crossover trainers (those who used to train with old-fashioned methods and now are proud to promote positive reinforcement-based training) will tell you they successfully trained lots of dogs the old way. They loved their dogs and their dogs loved them.
I’m a crossover trainer and I know that’s true. I also would dearly love to be able to go back and redo all of that training, to be able to have an even better relationship with those dogs, to give them a less stressful life – one filled with even more joy than the one we shared together.
We’re Not Dogs – And They Know It

Finally, the very presumption that our dogs would even consider we humans to be members of their canine pack is simply ludicrous. They know how impossibly inept we are, for the most part, at reading and understanding the subtleties of canine body language. We are equally inept, if not even more so, at trying to mimic those subtleties. Any attempts on our part to somehow insert ourselves into their social structure and communicate meaningfully with them in this manner are simply doomed to failure. It’s about time we gave up trying to be dogs in a dog pack and accepted that we are humans co-existing with another species – and that we’re most successful doing so when we co-exist peacefully.
The fact is, successful social groups work because of voluntary deference, not because of aggressively enforced dominance. The whole point of social body language rituals is to avoid conflict and confrontation, not to cause it. Watch any group of dogs interacting. Time and time again you’ll see dogs deferring to each other. It’s not even always the same dog deferring:
Dog B: Hey, I’d really like to go first. Dog A: “By all means, be my guest.” Dog B passes down the narrow hallway.
Dog A: “I’d really like to have that bone.” Dog B: “Oh sure – I didn’t feel like chewing right now anyway.” Dog A gets the bone.
Social hierarchies do exist in groups of domesticated dogs and in many other species, including humans, and hierarchy can be fluid. As described above, one dog may be more assertive in one encounter, and more deferent in the next, depending on what’s at stake, and how strongly each dog feels about the outcome. There are a myriad of subtleties about how those hierarchies work, and how the members of a social group communicate – in any species
Today, educated trainers are aware that canine-human interactions are not driven by social rank, but rather by reinforcement. Behaviors that are reinforced repeat and strengthen. If your dog repeats an inappropriate behavior such as counter surfing or getting on the sofa, it’s not because he’s trying to take over the world; it’s just because he’s been reinforced by finding food on the counter, or by being comfortable on the sofa. He’s a scavenger and an opportunist, and the goods are there for the taking. Figure out how to prevent him from being reinforced for the behaviors you don’t want, and reinforce him liberally for the ones you do, and you’re well on your way to having the relationship of mutual love, respect, communication, and communion that we all want to have with our dogs.
Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CDBC, is WDJ’s Training Editor. Author of numerous books on positive dog training, she lives in Fairplay, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center, where she offers dog training classes and courses for trainers.