Happy Tails Speaks DOG
Blog-Let's Talk

Happy Tails Speaks DOG

Why Should you go to Puppy Classes

by Michelle St Germain on 10/28/14

     I have been teaching people and their dogs for 14.5 years.  It all started for me as a necessity, turned rapidly into an obsession and hobby and now it is how I make a part time living.    It all started with enrolling in a Puppy Class.

     What is the importance of puppy kindergarten?  Why should you spend your money at Happy Tails in this very under rated program.  I will sell you on it right now.  
     You need to start your puppy early (anytime after 8 weeks of age and his first vaccinations).   Six months can be too late in the sense that many issues are already in full force by then, couple that with the puppy turing into a teenager and is by that age already 2/3 his adult size with a mouth full of adult teeth.  
     Twenty plus years ago I obtained an 8 week old Siberian Husky puppy from the OHS.  He had already been in a home for 2 weeks prior to be dropped off a the humane society.  His crime...BITING!!!  Didn't the previous owner realize puppies are renowned for being little sharks?  What could he have done to end up in the shelter already?
     Within 2 hours of owning him I realized his issue, he bit alright and he bit HARD!  Left a scar on my right hand when I went to take something away from him.  NOW WHAT do I do with this dog?  I didn't want a vicious dog.
      Vets recommended Carolark in Kanata.  My experience at the facility is how I got the ambition and knowledge to do what I do today.  I honestly believe that Puppy School saved my puppy's life.  The classes alone did not solve all my issues, a lot of time and dedication was also required to make him the dog he was right up till he passed at 16 years old.  I obtained the tools I need to be sure he was never put in the situation again to feel the need to defend himself.  It taught him some valuable social skills he so desperately needed to interact with other dogs and people.  
      I learned how to properly introduce him to new people and new dog friends and I also learned how to read his body signals so I would know when he was uncomfortable in certain situations.  I learned how to properly discipline him without intimidation or pain. Housetraining, bite inhibition and basic manners are all taught  I learned the proper techniques on dealing with ever changing behaviour.  I could now recognize problems earlier and had the tools to prevent, change and manage problem that did or could arise in the future.  
     My dog was no where near perfect, and no living creature can be, but having the tools to feel confident for the lifetime of owning a  beloved dog starts as a young puppy.
     I guarantee that you will be given all the necessary information needed to raise a safe and happy puppy.  Nothing is sugar coated and no one will leave after a 6 week session feeling like they were not given all the tools to progress forward into adolescence.  
     Why is Puppy Kindergarten so important?  It is an affordable, fun investment for the lifetime behaviour of your new family member.   Contact me with any questions, a valuable FREE EBOOK, and to register for a class.

Nothing in Life is Free @ Least Not in the Real World!

by Michelle St Germain on 02/12/14

     There are few things in life that are free for the taking.  There are not too many opportunities for advancement without good honest hard work.  We teach our kids to say please for things that they want.  We teach our kids not to grab things from our hands.  Finally we teach children our children how to earn things of value.  My question I ask you is, when we get a dog why on earth do we seldom apply any rules of the manor?  We let them race all over like lunatics, biting anything in their path.  We allow them the freedom to use our home like a toilet as they take a break from eating our furniture.  We say don't bother him while he is lying on the couch as he shows his teeth when we sit down next to him.  we allow them to bully our small children, knocking them to the ground only to steal their mittens and take off like a bat out of hell. 

      I say WHY?  Why do we apply all kinds of rules and limitations on little human beings, but not to a dog.  A dog by far can create just as much havoc as a child can, possibly more.  It only makes sense to put boundaries on a little puppy as soon as he comes to live in a human world with human expectations.  Why on earth would we wait till he is terrorizing the neighborhood to realize, uh oh, now we have a problem.   I don't want to start the day after the by-law officer issues me a barking dog ticket to get started on the problem.  Let's start the prevention practices on Day 1, ok by at least Day 2. I will let you ooooh and awww over the precious little bundle for one day before you go all ruler of the roost on them.

     I propose a Nothing in Life is Free program from an early age.  Simply put, your dog/pup needs to learn to ask for things he wants with a simple behavior.  It really doesn't matter what the behavior is, it can be a simple SIT for his dinner, a DOWN for a pat on the head or a tummy rub.  The bottom line is stop doling out the finer things in life for nothing in return.  This is how we create spoiled children, but it also how we create unruly adolescent dogs.  By 6 months of age, house training should be completed, if its not, you could be in it for the long haul.  By 6 months of age, you would like to have a handle on the circus type jumping teach your dog to sit for affection or any attention.  Want to let your dog on the couch, teach him to ask for an invitation.  Don't let them take things of yours without permission to do so.  If they do so, take it away or block off areas of the home.  Supervision and following through is the key to faster success. 

     A dog needs to be raised with the understanding that you control everything.  Nothing in Life is Free, it never will be in the human world and it shouldn't be for a dog living in a human world.  In order to successfully cohabitate with these furry little demons we need to set clear limitations right from the start.  Don't keep the rules a secret from your dog or take for granted that he has learned them in a short period of time.  Consistency is  the secret to any successful relationship.  It is give and take!   For a copy of the Nothing in Life is Free handout, send me an email and I will gladly forward one to you. 

To Growl or Not to Growl....a very important question????

by Michelle St Germain on 01/23/14

     We have all been taught that a growling dog is a dangerous dog.  The truth is, that is not necessarily accurate.  My perspective is that a growling dog has the potential to be a dangerous dog if it is not treated carefully & respectfully.  There are many different reasons why a dog will growl.  The first and the most important is that a growl is a warning sign that something is not right in the eyes of the dog.  Not the eyes of the human, in the eyes of the dog.  What a dog may perceive as a threat, may not necessary be the same as a human's perception.  That being said..it is so very vital never to try to reprimand the growling.  Far more important is to find out the reasons that make your dog growl.  There is at least one if not many triggers that will cause the dog to growl at a stimulus. 

     The stimulus can be anything no matter how strange it may seem.  It can be any type of person , animal, place, or thing....  It can be a garbage can tipped over, a flag waving in the air, a man with a cane, a small child, a car rushing by....the list goes on. 

 The trick is to identify what these triggers are.  Once they are isolated, it is time to start the desensitizing the dog to what makes him uncomfortable.  Once we can start to figure out what is upsetting the dog in the first place we can then start to change the behavior that makes the dog a potential threat.

     It is very irresponsible for people to think or teach for that matter, that your dog will never bite someone.  That philosophy will actually make your dog more a threat than ever.  All dogs can bite, there is no one breed, sex, age that is more prone to this behavior.  Biting is a defense mechanism used by animals when being pressured by an external threat.  A dog is an animal and first and foremost will always act like an animal if pushed to do so.  So what can we do to ensure we have a safe dog. 

  • when your dog growls and or barks at someone or something, never slough it off.  It will almost always occur again.
  • use a muzzle if necessary (at the vets, when children come to your house)
  • seek help as soon as you realize there is a problem.
  • don't let people approach your dog if he steps away from them.  If he steps away, he is NOT interested in the interaction.
  • don't let unfamiliar dogs approach your dog if he doesn't seem happy to have this happen.  (freezing up, barking, growling, lunging...)
  • don't believe your dog isn't capable of biting someone.  She is and she will if she feels she needs to in order to control the situation.
  • try not to scold your dog for growling....he is trying to tell you something.  You don't want him to be afraid to express himself....Guess what comes after a growl....!!!!  If there is no growl, we are left with a bite reaction.  Thus it appears that the dog gave no warning.  He had several times before that, you chose to ignore them.  :(
  • respect your dog's boundaries and work with him at the distance he feels comfortable.  Comfort zones!!
  • let other people know of your dog's confidence issue and help him feel safe.  Don't be afraid to let people know your dog doesn't like other dogs in his face while he is on leash or doesn't like men, etc.

     How many times have you lost your temper on someone?  think of the reasons why you did so.  You don't frequently loose your cool, but when you do watch out, you may lose your ability to control what happens next, especially if you feel the opposing person is not listening to you.  Now think about it from a dog's perspective....first he cannot rationalize his feelings about a situation.  Second, he cannot de-escalate the situation with words and lastly he is often on a leash when these things occur and feels he cannot flee the threat.  A dog is a dog and that is the ONLY thing he knows how to be!  We can teach dogs many skills on how to handle these situations with early socialization, early intervention at the first sign of a problem, kindness and understanding, and of course respect. 

     The mindset should not be how do I get my dog to stop growling it should be why is he growling in the first place.  There is always a reason, it is your job to figure it out before it escalates into a dangerous situation.  Dogs were not created to be dangerous just as people are not.  Poor socialization, isolation, lack of training, trauma and cruelty towards them are often the reasons behind it.  In a perfect world there would be no growling but we are far from living in a perfect world.

What's in a Name?

by Michelle St Germain on 04/04/13




      The age old saying what’s in name, is something that is very relevant when dealing with dogs.    The name should mean good things are going to your dog when he hears you call it.  It shouldn’t mean Get out of the garbage or stop peeing on the floor.  It is human nature to want to scream your dog’s name at him each and every time he makes a dreadful mistake.   The more and more we continue to use his name as a reprimand, he will start to associate a negative vibe with it, and then guess what?  He stops paying attention to you when you say it.   How frustrating is that?  I think when my dog chooses to ignore me it makes me more upset then when she is making the mistake.

     So, how do we train ourselves to stop tainting Fifi’s precious name.  Well, first we can come up with another name for the dog if you wish (it can be as clean or as dirty as you wish, we do not judge here J) You can use this new name to reprimand the dog verbally when you catch him in the act of a crime #@%&* head, get out of the garden.  Do you get the drift!  What I use is very simple HEY in a tone that is relative to the crime that is being committed.   When my dog hears this, she knows to stop instantly what she is in the middle of at that moment.  She is then redirected to something else I would rather she do like come up onto the deck and lie down.

     You want to save your dog’s name for getting and keeping her attention.  Abby, CHAOS, or TOBY means please turn around and look at me.  Once I can get the initial eye contact, I have instantly increased my chances of getting her to follow another command.  A command like COME or STAY can be followed after the name is called.  If I can’t my dog to even acknowledge me after I call her name, then I have a terrible problem on my hands.  Each and every time your dog is allowed to ignore his name, is a step towards repeating that behavior over and over again.  Not a very fun way to live 12 years with a dog that ignores you.  So what is the solution to this ever common problem?  It is very simple.  Start reinforcing the dog immediately with high valued rewards for turning around to look at you at the very sound of his name.  Make him love his name.

     The NAME GAME is a fun, interactive way to do this.  If played on a daily basis several times a day for  week, you will see the results.  First you need a handful of tasty treats, a non-distractive area like the living room and a dog who has previously ignored his name.  A very cheap family night in.  Here are the rules.

·         You get to say your dog’s name ONCE and ONCE only.

·         If your dog turns around and looks at you, you will say YES and instantly REWARD with a treat.

·         If your dog does not turn around in 2 seconds your will do something other than call the dog’s name again (click your tongue, kissy noises, touch the dog…etc) 

·         Once he looks at you even with the extra help, you say YES and REWARD the dog.

·         Play the game 5 times in a row and then take a break.  You will find that your dog starts to have a new found fondness for his name now that it means a morsel of roast beef.  Your dog will start to turn around faster and faster to respond to his name.

·         Once your dog can respond well in the living room, you need to start moving to different areas of the home, once that test is passed play in the yard with no distractions, add small distractions in the house, play on the walk, at the park.

·         Gradually challenge your dog in harder situations, until his name is reinvented!

    You have the power to make the difference in how your dog responds to you.  Teach him to love that name you gave him.  I recommend that you play the name game as often as possible and in every possible situation that you would like your dog to listen to you.  This is the first step in the success of your training.








Dominance is not COOL: Cool off before you get hurt.

by Michelle St Germain on 01/20/13

In the last few months I have been told that people are still dominating their dogs and puppies.  You have to dominate the dominant dog, it is the only way to make the dog respect you.  This is an outdated way of thinking.  It really needs to stop before more people get themselves bitten.  What a horrible example we are setting for the children that are watching you roll, pin down, him, touch as Cesar Millan does, and the number of other abusive things people are doing to their dogs.  The outcome is usually simple, the dog growls, barks, snaps, nips, bites or attacks their attacker at some point.  If that doesn't happen then the dog just lives in fear of their so called family.

Why can we not stop confronting our dogs using aggressive measures?  Why can't we see that sometimes they are going to act like dogs and not fault them for it.  We have brought them into a human world and then we expect they act human.  We do not need to intimidate and use aggressive measures to treat problems.  We have to start training more with our brains then with our strength.  How on earth do we expect a child to deal with a dog who is growling at them?  That is an accident waiting to happen, a very dangerous accident!  Guess who pays for the accident that is about to happen.  Well the child of course, with a fear of dogs and the dog most likely with its life. 

There are so many new safer ways to deal with guarding and aggression issues.  These solutions are for the peoples safety and also the dogs comfort level.  When a dog feels threatened it has a few choices in its animal mind.  We have all heard of FLIGHT or FIGHT response.  Animals do not make a pro and cons list and then make the decision from that.  They act quickly and they make the choice that makes sense to a dog, not a human.  If the dog has never had the opportunity to learn a different response.  How can be blame our dogs for acting like dogs?

I am a parent as well as a dog owner and lover.  I can see how easy it is to over react to an aggression problem, especially if our child is involved.  Attacking the family dog is not the answer that's for sure.  Making sure the dog and child are not left alone is the answer until a solution can be worked on.

So what are the solutions??  PREVENTION, MANAGEMENT & PRACTICE are some of the solutions,  it is worth checking them out.  It is also worth doing some prevention training before the problems start.  As soon as you get a puppy or dog, assume at some point it will guard something from you or growl and bark at another dog or person.  If it never does great, but if at some point the aggresssion monster rears its ugly vicious head, then you will be glad you had practiced this beforehand.

Most people feel the need to dominate their dogs when they guard something from them or growl or bark at another dog or person.  Needless to say all of these situations can result in a bite.  Caution should be taken when dealing with these issues.  That being said, you also have to look at the whole situation before going postal on your dog and throw him to the ground on his back.  What happened before your dog growled?  Did your dog have something in his possession?  Did your dog have something in his possession and there was another dog around when you attempted to go near your dog?  Is your dog properly socialized to people of all ages? Is your dog comfortable being touched everywhere?  Have you ever practiced taking things away from your dog before?  What cues did your dog give before the actual outburst?  Does your dog normally socialize with other dogs well?

Dogs always tell a complete story before they actually growl or bite.  They also give plenty of warning beforehand?  These things don't just one day happen.  We usually miss all of the preface to the actual conclusion.

Humans dominating a dog will almost always end badly.  Please consider doing things in a more calmer way before acting aggressively.  We are bigger and in most cases stronger than a dog but they do possess a large mouth of teeth that can seriously injure a person and they can inflict these wounds very quickly.  If they don't decide to bite you they may choose to bite someone else who challenges them in some way.  It may be a 3 year old child that goes to hug your dog that gets the result of the many times you dominated your dog.


  • consider trading the object of value with something else your dog may want from you.  Yes, you can and should use a favorite treat to make it more likely that the dog gives up what he has for what you have to offer him.  If she chooses what you have over what she is guarding, the reaction will no occur and the game of trade become fun not "Survival of the Fittest"
  • prevent dog fights by separating dogs when bones are food are given--if there is a history of guarding.
  • once your dog shows you she is uncomfortable in a situation no matter what the trigger is, use precautions to not put her in those situations until you get help with the problem.  If it happens once it will always happen again. The second time will be worse than the initial time.
  • socialize your dog to other dogs and all humans.
  • teach & maintain bite inhibition with your dog and puppies.
  • exercise your dog regularly. 
  • Always feed your dog in a busy area of the house, to desensitize them to people moving around their food area.
  • consider using a muzzle if you think your dog will act aggressively towards any human or dog.
  • prevention is often the best way to avoid the dog from practicing the behavior.
  • if your dog takes something and hides, always know that the guarding behaviors will be intensified and you are more likely to get bitten.
  • never try to touch or pet a dog who is growling at another dog or person, redirected aggression is often the result and you may bet bitten.  This also goes for the Cesar Millan "touch" used to "snap him out of it".
  • do not stereotype breeds.  You would be surprised at the number of bites that come from so called family dogs.
  • read a dog's  body language before approaching or handling him/her.
  • consult a trainer, veterinarian or behaviorist if you feel the problem is escalating in frequency and or intensity.


INTERRUPTION & REDIRECTION: Solve any Problem using this Formula.

by Michelle St Germain on 12/10/12

     There are so many behavioral problems experienced by dogs and their people now a days.  Usually it is more a problem for the owner then it is the dog.  Since they are too numerous to list, we will focus on the most common problems.  Some pet dogs have either one really big issue where others have many smaller ones.  All breeds experience them at one time or another.  Whether you are a first time dog owner or an experienced trainer, behavior issues do not discriminate.  Some people choose to just live with them while others believe the dog will grow out of it.  These constant problems on a daily basis cause a lot of strain and stress in both the owners and the dogs lives.  Whether  you have an older dog or a younger pup, the life span of our canine pals is increasing, averaging 12 years and sometimes as old as 15 years.  That is a long time to cope with some of these issues.  A lot of them can be fixed with general management and prevention while others require desensitization and retraining the dog.  This will lower the stress levels of both the people and the dogs.  How does that sound?  To many it may be music to their ears, to others it sounds like a lot of work that they don't want to commit time to.  In the end, it is your life, but if you find yourself resenting even disliking the dog in your life then maybe it is time to change something. 

Dogs are aquired in 90% of homes as a family companion.  When problems are left untreated or unmangaged a huge stress is put onto the family unit.  The dog becomes a constant source of fighting and angst.  The dog is ignored and things then become worse until the dog is euthanized or rehomed.  Most problem dogs find themselves in a shelter or a new family by the time they are 2 years old.  The height of adolescence, the teenagers of the canine world.  Unruly, obnoxious and just plain naughty.  They are impossible to live with as they destroy the house, dig up the yard, chase the kids, bark at everything in sight and fight with other dogs.

     Often when these dogs are given up, people are so embarrased with the situation they give the dog away under false pretenses.  The unsuspecting new owners soon learns that there were never any allergies forcing this dog to leave but a colorful array of other things. The problems have now been passed onto someone else.   Let me first start by saying "shame on you".  This should never happen.  Absolute honesty needs to be given when giving away or selling any dog.  Why should someone else suffer for your failure?  This is so frustrating to me, as you may have been able to tell.

     It is not rocket science when it comes to dog training.  Sure, some people make it look as easy as pie, and that is because it is.  The trick is that it takes time and plenty of practice with your dog.  Dogs are very simple minded creatures.  Humans give them more credit then they deserve for rationalization and intellectual complexity.  They can be taught just about anything under the sun,  I recently saw a video of dogs driving cars...Crazy yes, but true.  I hope these dogs are not being hired out for Operation Red Nose over the holiday season.  That being said the methods are easy,  its the time that needs to be committed that is the real hard part.  Dogs for one, do not carry grudges nor do I beleive they do things out of Spite or Jealousy.  They do what works for them.  If it keeps working then they keep on doing it.  All behaviours are reinforcing in some way to your dog, that is why he keeps repeating the same crime over and over again. 

Digging up the yard, barking out the window, counter surfing and repetitive running away are perfect examples of self rewarding behaviours.  This means that the dog does not need YOU to reward him for doing them, he simply rewards himself.  We keep leaving Muffin in the yard unsupervised so she happily re landscapes the garden for you.  You will not be happy with the new changes but Muffin thinks they are real grand.  Stealing your dinner off the counter is a behaviour that speaks for itself.  Hamburgers and grilled cheese are way better than dog kibble.  The one time he was allowed to jump up and steal a morsel of human food was the day that it becomes a daily ritual of counter top patrol.  Buddy gets a tasty treat everytime he jumps up there and checks.  Why on earth would he ever stop checking?  Humans keep leaving things there for him to eat & no consequences ever happens at the time of the stealing.

     So how do we outwit, outsmart and even out play these crafty canines.  Well, it is absolutly a game of Survivor.  If he is constantly on the counter, don't leave him in there and go take a shower.  When you are eating or preparing food ban him from the kitchen.  If he is redecorating the yard, then don't leave him out there to do so, build him a run!  If Tyson has eaten through the basement drywall and 7 couches, crate him when you go to work or take him to doggy daycare. 

     One of the things that needs to be investigated with these crazy dogs is how much exercise are they even getting on a daily basis.  Sadly, you don't want to know the answer to that.  We often fail to commit to the exercise requirements of these dogs.  Especially the working breeds.  Labradors, Retreivers, Boxers and Shepherds were not meant to sit around all day with nothing to do.  They do not utilize that large back yard you have like you claim they do.  They need daily physical and mental stimulation.  We get dogs most of the time based on looks, personality and the old "I had that breed as a kid" reason.  But can we offer what these dogs truly need from us?  When you were a kid with a German Shepherd you didn't have a full time job or 4 children to focus on.  You do now, so how will this dog fit into that chaos already?  He cannot exercise himself so it falls on you to get the job done.  Every dog regardless of breed, sex & temperment needs on average 45 to 60 minutes a day.  Younger dogs sometimes more.  Increase the exercise and often the problems get considerably better. 

Behavioural problems are often a signal that something else in the dog's life is lacking.  Be it exercise, dicipline, rules or training.  Is your dog under exercised, he is bored or is he ignored?  Is your dog being allowed to repeat the bad behaviours over and over again?  If so, WHY?  The solution, needs to start here.  How can you keep your dog from reoffending?  A leash, a crate, a head halter, a fence around your yard, supervision?  There are many ways to do it, you need to choose which one works for you.  Interruption is the first and foremost thing that needs to be incorporated into the routine with your dog.  If you cannot catch your dog in the act of the misbehavior then how will he ever learn?  Ten seconds later is too late.  Humans are pros when it comes to the word NO.  No-no-no...which is great but it teaches absolutley nothing about what you actually would like him to do.  NO,  don't jump on Aunt Mabel!  Train him instead to SIT in front of her and prevent him from tossing her to the ground.  Instead of NO try SIT!  Sit for greeting people and once she does, for pete's sake praise her and give her a food reward.  Don't ignore her.  Instead of looking for all the mistakes she makes, catch her doing something right.  Then let her know she did it. 

Redirection.  Once you have caught him or her in the act of the mistake and you have successfully interrupted the behaviour, you now need to redirct them to an incompatiable behaviour.  The opposite of jumping is sitting.  Opposite of counter surfing is laying calmly on their dog bed chewing a bone or KONG.  Barking or lunging at a passing dog?  Please give me your attention.  You can not bark or lunge when you are sitting and looking at the owner.  The list goes on and on.  Things do not need to be complicated.  You also never have to resort to physically abusing your dog to fix something.  If you cannot outwit, outsmart or outplay a dog, then maybe that is the problem. 

The other factor to keep in mind is that training shows on TV are not realistic accounts of the amount of time it takes to solve problems.  Behaviour modification with dogs as it is with children takes time, love and lots of patience.  Intimidation methods only prove to ruin your bond with your dog.  If your dog is afraid of you, then why on earth do you have him  then.

The UnReliable Recall

by Michelle St Germain on 10/31/12

Most of us at one time or another have chased our dog down the street at 2am wearing nothing but a bathrobe and slippers.  These are memories that we tend not to scrapbook about, but most likely these are best forgotten for preservation of the family dog.  Does this sound at all familiar?  When we first bring home that cute brown curly haired little puppy, we instantly fall in love.  We take for granted that in a few months time this cute little bundle of fluff will become a holy terror if training isn't started right away.  A dog with no rules is not a valued member of the family and is often rehomed by the age of 2. 

     One of the most important behaviors to focus on is the recall.  Getting your dog to come to you when you call it.  Not only does this behaviour reduce the stress in a family it will also at some point save the dog's life.  An important factor to remember is that the life span of said puppy is 12 to 14 years, that is a lot of trips down the street in the middle of the night wearing your underwear screaming at the dog to come back!

     That cute little puppy that followed us around aimlessly, will soon figure out that freedom is just a few steps away, an open door away, a frustrating chase down the driveway away, the list goes on...  Why is the puppy now choosing the environment over us?  The simple answer is that in many cases it is a lot more interesting than we are.  That gross pile of horse manure he found is a delicacy, the other dog he ran across the street to is a good time, that unsuspecting human taking a walk by your house is fun to jump on and grab and then there is YOU!!!  You are most likely yelling, possibly cursing, trying to grab and is generally really MAD.  With all good reasons for the previous reactions, the dog will begin to look at you as the fun police.    The body language you are portraying at that moment is the reason of all future recall failures.  So what is an owner to do?

     Recalls need to be practiced and practiced and then practiced some more .  They have to be practiced in different areas of your house, yard, neighbourhood,park, beach, dog park, with dogs around, without dogs around, with humans around, with squirrals around, while on the hunt, yada, yada, yada.  With all that being said, when will you start to see the results you are looking for?  Here is a list of important rules to follow consistently:

RULE 1:  Limit the dog's freedom.  Each and every time your dog practices running away from you and self reinforcing, he is creating a bad habit.  A habit which is COME means "keep doing what you are doing, until they catch you first".  A leash or a long line will help to ensure that your dog cannot ignore you.  Regardless if you have an acre lot or a small backyard...a dog that doesn't come when called is a danger to itself and to others. 

RULE #2:  If you say the word COME , you must be able to follow through and make it happen.  Don't call your dog if you know he will not come to you.  Go get him!  You cannot say it and then walk away.  Don't allow Curly to ignore you!  If you say it and then allow the dog to continue what he is doing:  Score 1 for the puppy, 0 for the human!  We are supposed to be able to outsmart an animal.

RULE #3:    REWARDS need to happen each and every time.  Rewards need to be the "be all and end all" of treats.  Rewards need to continue to be given until you feel that your dog gets the concept of coming when called.  We worry way to much about the amount of treats we give to a dog.  We need to convince the dog without a shadow of a doubt that we are the best choice each and every time.  The more you payout in the training, the more reliable the behavior will become, the more effective it will become and the quicker it will come.  You will not need treats forever.  The rewards need to be awesome and better than whatever it is that keeps your dog away from you!  Take advantage of your dog's weaknesses.

RULE #4:    Be FUN!!!  Who wants to come back to something boring.  Play with your dog during training.  Play Hide & Seek with your dog.  Run away from your dog.  ignite your dog to want to be with you.  If you are having fun, your dog will too!!

RULE #5:   Never call your dog to you and dicipline it in anyway.  If you are angry with your dog, let him know with a firm voice at the moment he misbehaves, not at the moment be comes running back to you.  You have just reprimanded the come if you do that.  Remember a dog associates dicipline or reward with the last behavior what was occuring a the moment of the dicipline or reward!

RULE #6:  ties in with rule 5.  Never call your dog to put it away in the crate or trim his nails.  If your dog preceives the activity as negative then never do a recall and reward them with a nail trim.  :(  Simply go to the dog and take them to where you want them to go. 

RULE #7:    Even after the dog runs off at some point it will return to you.  If you reprimand him for returning regardless of how peeved you are...you are making a BIG MISTAKE....he won't return to you next time.  Simply ignore the dog, say nothing, calm down and tomorrow start training a more reliable recall with your dog.

RULE #8:  Practice several times a day,  every day of the week.  It won't take long.  You need to take your dog out everyday anyways, practice on your walks, practice in the park.  Sunddenly stop, back up and call Rover to you.  You can do 20 recalls during a walk, 7 days a week.  Thats 140 recalls a week.  Repetition is the key.  Dogs learn like toddlers, by practicing over and over again.  Unfortunately, they cannot read this BLOG and learn to come any faster without the commitment of their human.  Well, a Border Collie probably can!

     After all is said and done and you have practiced and practiced.  I do guarantee that your dog will learn to COME to you when you call upon him to.  Never underestimate how much practicing you have done with your dog unless you have tested him in several environments and against different distractions.  The little brown curly adolecent dog you once fell in love with will thank you for all your hard work and time you committed.  You may even find yourself hugging him instead of wanting to strangle him!  The late night bathroom trips to the yard will also be shorter and less awkward.  Although your neighbours late night entertainment will come to an end.

If you are interested in a private one on one session to teach your dog to COME, let me know.  I would be happy to help.  We can work together to get the results you are looking for.  In 2013, Happy Tails will be offering a Recall Workshop specifically for anyone experiencing Recall Turmoil on a regular basis.  Call or email for more details.


Land Shark: The truth about Teaching Bite Inhibition to Puppies.

by Michelle St Germain on 10/11/12

SHARK PUPPY:  Teaching your puppy BITE INHIBITION.

     One of the most common annoyances of puppyhood is their constant biting and nipping.  This is ususally the first thing people who have just aquired a puppy want to change about their behaviour. WHY? Well, it really hurts.  Secondly, we are frightened with the reality that puppies who are allowed to continued to bite grow into adult dogs who bite.  This is not only worrisome to pwners but it is a huge liability.  A dog that bites is dangerous.

     So should we discuss the bad news about biting first and then move on to the good news?  Yes, I did say there is good news.  Don't turn away just yet, I'm not crazy!  The bad news is obviously the biting hurts, it is very destructive at times, super annoying and of course did I mention it really hurts.  Some dogs do indeed bite more often and harder then others.  There are no breeds that bite more or harder than others, it is a dog behaviour not a breed behaviour.  I do find that more confident dogs, regardless of sex tend to use their mouths more often when excited.  The shyer dogs tend to bite less and softer and take human feedback more seriously than their cocky counterparts.  Are confident dogs more likely to become aggressive as adults..not necessarily!  These dogs in particular need to be kept on top of and made to follow the rules of the house.  The rules need to be established sooner rather than later.  Nothing in Life is Free is a great program to start all puppies on from Day one.

     On to the good news.  The good news is that your puppy is in fact using its mouth on you!  Why would anyone say that or even agree to that ridiculous statement?  I say this because if puppies didn't bite then how on earth could we teach that them to be gentle with their soon to be powerful teeth.  How could we teach a dog who never uses its mouth, or discouraged to early to stop using its mouth on humans that biting HURTS!  The truth is that we couldn't with any real reliability.  A puppy mouth although at times does scratch, pierce and even on occasion does leave a mark is relatively SAFE as the only have baby teeth and an underdeveloped jaw strength.  This rule of course applies only to puppies under 6 months of age.  Puppies first need to be taught that biting hurts and to inhibit the force of their bite.  We do this by teaching a puppy to mouth us before we decrease the incidences of biting and therefore stop the biting all together. 

     On of the best teachers of BITE INHIBITION are other puppies.  We have all seen how puppies play with one another.  There is constant biting, attacking, flying through the air and all sorts of out of control behaviours.  What happens when one puppy bites too hard?  YYEELLPPPPPP!  Then what happens is almost always the result of a play session gone terribly wrong.  The play will stop, it may not be for longer than a nano second, but it will stop or slow down.  The serial biter will be sent an important message , it is if you bite too hard again you will be friendless and the good times will be over for him.  Bite softer and you can still play with us!  He may not get the message the first time or even the second but the more he gets to practice he soon will learn that hard bites lead to solitary confinement!  What's the fun in that?  The biter also realizes that it is his biting that is causing the other puppies to avoid him.  Play sessions will be more enjoyable for all.  It is so important to allow puppies to play with other dogs.  They are first and foremost the first teachers your dog will have.  Puppies should also be allowed to stay with their litters until minimum of 8 weeks of age.  Earlier extraction from the litter and momma can result in lost socialization as well as lost information in biting skills.  What does momma dog do when an over zealous pup bites her teat when nursing?  Let's just say her discipline usually results in an immediate understanding of the rules as only another dog can teach it.

     At 8 weeks of age these biting machines come home to live with a human litter.  Humans are so fun to bite as their reactions are funny.  Humans yelp, sream, screech, run, play tug of war, play chase, rough house even more.  They wear clothing that waves in the breeze, that is so fun to grab and shake.  Sometime if we are lucky an unsuspecting human will nuzzle their faces and ears into our faces and CLAMP we get them.  These scenarios are funny to the reader but not so much to the family living the horror.  How on earth did we domesticate their horrible little saber tooth tigers?  Why do we choose to share our homes with these crocodiles?  Why? Why? Why?  Well, look into their furry little faces, smell the puppy breath (hope all it is is their breath), their wagging little tails...the list goes on.  Puppies are AWESOME.  Puppies are FUN!  Puppies are unconditional love machines!  But inside also lurks a bundle of mischief who need a whole lotta training to get the dog you want.

     We need to set the rules from day one of puppy joining the family.  Please don't think that the biting is just a phase, that she will grow out of the behaviour or give them the she is teething excuse.  These myths are simply nothing short of ridiculous and unrealistic.  The behaviour if not managed properly now will only get worse or never go away entirely.  Day 1 start BITE INHIBITION training, whenver puppy puts his mouth on you regardless if it hurts or not you YELP or firmly say OUCH! to the puppy and stop all interactions with him, walk away if necessary.  You need to teach him that all bites hurt until you can feel a marked decrease in the pressure being used.  This could take several weeks but the more feedback she gets earlier the faster she will learn to mouth you instead of bite you.  Anytime you play with your pup, feed the pup, interact with the pup, if there is mouth contact the human needs to react as if the pup has just commited the worst crime possible.   Once the puppy understand to only mouth humans then we can start decreasing the frequency of the bites.  You have till 5 months old to teach this vital life skill to your puppy!


  • NEVER, EVER, EVER leave young children alone with a puppy who bites.  You do not want the puppy in the habit of bullying the children.  Puppies are excellent dterminants of the weakest link and torment that child the most.  Be the voice of your children.  Kids do not have the physical presence or tone of voice for the pup to take them seriously.  They are seen more like littermates rather than disciplinarians.
  • Never slap, swat with a newspaper or hold the puppy's mouth closed...disciplining is not suppose to hurt or intimidate!  It is supposed to teach!  The more often you slap or swat the pup the higher the risk of teaching your dog to fear human hands and that is a dangerous fear to have when you are a dog!  This is not why you got a puppy!  Remember a puppy knows nothing more than how to act like a dog!  It is your job to gemtly teach her how to live in a human family!
  • Puppies wil bite more frequently and harder when they are excited!  When these times occur and they will.  Time outs work best of all.  Remove puppy from the situation and redirect her to a calm activity like chewing a bone or food stuffed KONG.  When your OUCH cries are ignored, crates will keep your pup out of trouble.  Take your pup on a long walk or redirect her energy to an unsuspecting chew toy or go enjoy a fun game of fetch.
  • Exercise you puppy daily.  A tired dog is a good dog! A tired dog is sleeping peacefully by the fireplace (awe) and not ambushing the family.
  • Hand feed your puppy at least one meal a day.  Each kibble you hand feed offer a training opportunity to teach your puppy GENTLE50 kibbles= 50 hand to mouth interactions.
  • Give the puppy DOWN TIMES.  They can get over stimulated like kids.  So give them some alone time several times through out the day.  Offer quiet things for them to play with or chew.
  • Give the puppy a reasonable amount of time to succeed.  If you and your family are consistent then the puppy will be too.

     The truth is there are very few puppies who do not go through this developmental stage.  It is very important that it is dealt with calmly and consistently in order for the dog to make the association.  Biting does hurt but if you spend the time NOW you won't be sorry later!


Socialized OR Social Loon

by Michelle St Germain on 09/18/12

     There is a fine line between the socialized canine and the socially inept canine.  There is a time and a place for proper socialization or at the very least there should be.  We should want to teach our dogs young or old that being friendly is the most desirable behaviour we want.  We should also want to teach them when and how to be social.  This is something that I think has merged into one!  It is a misconception that each and every outing should be filled with greeting after greeting with people and other dogs.  We then are perplexed on why our dog has absolutly no manners when out on a walk. 

     There is a time and a place for these socialization interactions to take place.  First off, it is always better if there are no leashes attached to dogs that are meeting for the first time.  This cannot be done when you are on a walk, so why do we continue to do it.  Let our dog run into the space of other dogs on leashes.  There is an argument or fight waiting to happen.  I love the "He just wants to say hello to your dog" as he is dragging the owner down the street towards me.  When their dog gets a growl back, they look at you as if you own the meanest dog around.  I shake my head...Do you say hello to a perfect stranger that way, run into their personal space....be lucky if it is just a growl you get.... 

Who would love to own a dog who when you are out for a walk sees another dog and calmly walks past???...  I do, I do, I do!!!  What a pleasant experience it would be not to have to roll up the leash as tight as a noose, curse & swear at the dog & participate in the WWE wrestling match on each outing.  How about not having to have excuses for your dog's barking and lunging at other dogs?  Dosn't that sound blissful?  This can all be accomplished by changing a few key elements of your daily walk ritual.  Here they are:

  • Walking is for walking NOT direct contact socialization. 
  • Where there are leashes there are MANNERS.
  • OFF LEASH is BEST for social interactions.
  • running into another dog's personal space is NEVER ok.  This is considered INTRUSIVE and RUDE amoung dogs.  This can result in a negative experience for one or both dogs.
  • dogs should NOT be allowed to charge another dog (on or off a leash).  This behaviour needs to be redirected ASAP.  Never allow your dog to PULL you towards anything he wants while out on a walk.
  • Rough out of control play should be supervised, limited and controlled.  Bullying should not be tolerated at all from large or small breed dogs.
  • Teach dogs to SIT calmly when another dog passes on a walk.  Work up to being able to walk calmly by other dogs.
  • Teach a command that means GO PLAY to your dog.  Unless they hear it, they need to remain by your side.
  • Teach dogs as early as possible that other dogs are NOT always AVAILABLE to PLAY at all times. 
  • Socialize all breeds and sizes TO all breeds and sizes as early as possible with positive safe experiences.   Small dogs are often terrified of big dogs from lack of exposure and vice versa.  Nothing sadder than a ST Bernard running away from a Shih Tzu!
  • Expose to many, many people as early as possible and teach manners right from the start.  A 10 lbs puppy quickly grows into a 60 lb puppy!  Jumping needs to be controlled from day 1.  He can't help that he grows!
  • Dog Parks can be fun, but control must be exercised .  A reliable COME, GENTLE & OFF are all of importance.  Remember anyone with a dog can be there and that is not always a good thing.  The only thing you can control in a dog park is your own dog.  Dog parks are a great way to let your dog socialize and expel an abundance of energy but be smart about it.  I find off peak times are safer and more enjoyable then weekend afternoons! 

     An important thing to take away from all this is that a well behaved dog on a leash walking calmly past another dog or person is still being socialized.  Socialization is not the act of allowing your dog to intrude into everyone's space.  We are not doing our dogs any favours by allowing continuous obnoxious behaviour on leash or off.

Socialization: A Lifelong Process

by Michelle St Germain on 08/23/12

     Much like a 2 year old toddler ,a dog need to be socialized as well.  This process is not a short and simple process.  It should begin as early as possible and continue through the lifespan of the dog.  Puppies should begin socialization with people as soon as they are born.  Dr Ian Dunbar's rule of thumb is that a neonate pup should meet 50 different people between birth and 2 months of age.  The socialization process with other dogs is immediatly taking place with its littermates and the mother.  Unfortunatly, depending on who the breeder is this process generally is not happening early enough resulting in shy fearful puppies.  Most neonates are handled only by the person who bred them and possibly their families.  There is much work to be done in this area.  Before you buy a puppy ask the breeder this important question, who have their dogs been handled by? how often? and from what age?

     We bring our puppies home between 6 and 8 weeks of age. (Just a word of caution on this as well, puppies should stay with their littermates and mother until a minimum of 8 weeks.)   We are on top of the world and can't wait to take the puppy everywhere to show it off to anyone who will look at him.  Puppies attract people, it is a universal method to meeting someone new.  What a way to meet a potential mate if you are a single person who owns a puppy! :)  Although you must exercise caution due to the pup not being fully vaccinated, this does not mean to vacuum seal the pup and be terrified to take it out of your house and yard.  Be smart about it, carry him where possible, don't take him to parks where other dogs frequent, and most importantly wipe his feet well after a walk.  Puppies could be 4 to 4.5  months old by the time he is fully vaccinated, this is too late to start the socialization process.  Puppies by this time need to have met at least 50 unfamiliar men, 50 unfamiliar women and 50 unfamiliar children of all ages!!!  This unfortunatly is not being done, resulting in shy, fearful puppies.  It is so easy to do, it's FREE and it is a lot of fun! 

     There is also the increasing problem of raising dog to dog friendly dogs as well.  It is amazing to me how many dogs by the time they  are adolescents are not happy in the company of other dogs.  This process is also being sadly neglected!  Dogs are social animals and should not dislike other dogs.  Sure, arguments are a fact of life and you cannot expect your dog to like every single dog he meets but so many dogs can not even take a walk daily without an embarrasing reaction at the mere sight of another dog.  No, there is nothing wrong with your dog, it was not ever allowed to interract with other dogs on a regular basis and never allowed to practice any social skills with them.  Now it is only reacting as a dog does in these situations(and as only as a dog knows how to)...barking, lunging, growling, and even biting!  :(   Now we have a potentially dangerous situation on our hands. The signs begin so subtly, we often miss them until the problem errupts into a vast display of aggression.  It never just happens, the signs were always there...we simply missed them.   Then, we inevidably STOP walking the dog, which will create a whole other array of behavioural problems!  Another BLOG!

We tend to take puppies everywhere, maybe even to puppy school.  Once the puppy hits about a year old or puppy school classes end in 6 to 8 weeks,  we figure the process is DONE!!!  That is not further from the truth, this is where  the process is beginning.  It's easy and safe to socialize a young pup.  Things can drastically change at adolecense.  They are bigger, stronger, faster and have a mouthful of strong sharp adult teeth.  This can now be more of a challenge.   If the process was started early enough (I recommend between 10 and 12 weeks of age) the transition between puppy hood and adolescense will be smoother and often without behavioral surprises. 

Socialization after adolencence will quickly regress if owners stop taking the the much needed time to continue socializing their dogs.  But my dog lives with another dog?  The ususual excuse for not taking your dog out of the yard.  Yes, that is socilaization but only to that dog or to your family & friends.  Socialization for animals as it is with people is to unfamiliar dogs, unfamiliar people and to unfamiliar environments and experiences!!

     Puppies are naturally curious and playful.  Capitalize on these qualities and start early enough in their lives and continue the process throughout their lives.  Your dog and your family will all benefit from it.  I guarantee it! 

There is nothing more fun to watch than dogs playing happily together.  Playtime also helps puppies and dogs to fine tune their bite inhibiton skills.  What better teachers than another dog.  They will give important feedback to your dog and vice versa when play gets to rough.  "HEY, that hurt...if you want me to keep playing with you, you better not nip me as hard"  Dog playtime will also give you the owner more practice in being abe to control your dog better around other dogs.  "Can you get your dog to COME when called away from another dog?"

 I take our 2 year old Boxer to the dog park at least once a week to allow her to practice her social skills.  I also plan playdates/walks with friends and their dogs to make sure she stays socially savvy with other dogs.  If these skills are left unchallenged you will end up with a dog that is reactive to other dogs and people.  If you don't use it you will LOSE it.  Isn't that the old saying for most anything we have learned. 

Be responsible and socialize your dogs for their whole lives.  You won't regret you did!

Common Misconceptions regarding dog training.

by Michelle St Germain on 08/08/12

Common Misconceptions regarding dog training.

After 12 years of meeting people and their dogs I have realized that there are a slew of old wives tales and misconceptions in regards to dogs and to training them. I am going to talk about a few of them in this blog.

1. Behavior Problems will go away: I have heard a hundred times from people, "he'll just grow out of it", "I'm not worried about his chewing, he's just teething", "she's afraid of people, it will just get better." The list goes on... I can assure you that problems do not just go away if they are not dealt with at the very first sign of trouble. They get worse rapidly and the dog grows bigger and stronger. Making problems harder to manage or even prevent from occurring . The longer the dog is allowed to practiced the behavior, the harder it is to repair. Dogs grow out of nothing except their collars!!!

2. A dog's mouth is cleaner than humans: they lick their bums...case closed!

3. Humans need to Dominate dogs to train them effectively: Thus is totally something from the dinosaur ages. Old school methods of training have been replaced with positive , kind training. I ask one question to you: How on earth is a child supposed to dominate a nippy 7 month old German Shepard Dog??? It can't happen, which in my opinion makes this more ineffective than effective. With the kinder, gentler methods of training even a child can do it. More times than not you are setting your self up for disaster. One of two will result from human domination: the first being owning a obedient dog who is intimidated by you or worse fears you. Secondly, you may also end up with a dog who gets fed up with being ALFA rolled by you and it eventually bites you or someone else when they go to touch it. I got my dog to be a companion to me and my family, why on earth would I want to scare it into obeying me. This is certainly not to say that dogs do not need rules...they most certainly do and lots of them. But training with love,understanding and kindness is a far better route to take then adversary training!

4. Caesar can fix the dogs so fast: This is truly the one that hurts trainers the most. An hour long TV show cannot possibly depict the timely process of retaining, desensitization and management. TV shows make it look so easy and best of all fast. This is simply not at all reality. Behaviour problems cannot be fixed in minutes or hours. You can learn new techniques to manage or prevent your problem in minutes or hours but the end results will take time (sometimes several months)and patience and sometimes even restructuring if it is not having the desired effect. All in all the more you work on fixing the problem the less time it takes to fix it. Practice makes perfect!

5. He's just playing, he won't ever bite: So now we are reading the minds of dogs. How can anyone 100% guarantee that their dog would never bite someone or something?? Dogs are animals and animals bite. Whether it is for protection, fear, excitement, injury, the list goes on. Dogs can bite and often they do. Often, owners are surprised when they do because they never saw the precursor signs that led up to the bite in the first place. Lean to read your dogs body cues both physically and vocally. When they bark or growl at a person or other dog take it as a sign that a bite can be the next step. This was always a favorite of mine when I worked at the vet's office.

There are so many more training bloopers. If you have
heard of please feel free to share them with me. =

The Circus known as the FRONT DOOR. Teaching DOOR MANNERS to your DOG:

by Michelle St Germain on 06/06/12

     One of the most common problems people complain about their dog is the fact that they go bolistic at the front door.  We have all seen this senario...Dog is resting comfortably in the house....door bell rings...next comes the INSANITY!!!  Barking, jumping at the door, running around in circles, bolting out the door, the mauling of guests, growling...the list goes on and on and on.  How on earth do you even begin to control the chaos that is known as your DOG?

  Well, first off it takes a lot of practice, prevention, consistency, patience and de-sesitization.  Did I mention practice!  How long does this process take....well, that all depends on how long has the dog been practicing this obsene behaviour?  3 years, 3 months, 6 years????  I find that the more consistent you are: the nimber of years the habit has been being practiced correspondes with the number of months it will take to correct it.  This is really just a ball park.  But what I don't want you leaving here thinking is that it is solved in an hour episode of the DOG Whisperer.  If your dog has been  charging the door for 3 years, set a goal of 3 months to have it solved...it may take longer it may not, each case and each dog is individual!  Something Cesar fails to mention.

So first, we need to think of some incompatiable behaviours that prevent this circus from happening.

  • SITTING:  can't charge the door from a this position.
  • DOWN:  ditto
  • Tethered to an area away from the door
  • Calming down in a Crate
  • Head halter and leash for better control at the door.  With the owner stepping on the leash to prevent the jumping and/or charging at a guest.
  • Gates & Barriers

Those are a list of behaviours your dog can practice before  the door is opened.  Remember that in order to change an unwanted behaviour you first have to be able to INTERRUPT it (which is often to hard to do for this particular issue) OR PREVENT the dog from practicing it further.  When he has calmed down, training an incompatiable behaviour can be taught.

That all sounds too easy....IT REALLY IS!!!  It just takes repetition after repetition after repetition....  You have to practice this daily not only when someone is at the door.  When we actually have people at the door, the dog is way to aroused to learn anything.  We also only have people come to the door on an occasional basis, thus making the behaviour training sessions few and far between.  So now what.....this is what you need to do

  • Teach your dog a FAST RELIABLE SIT.  Practice this daily for everything and anything the dog wants from you.  Practice this anywhere and everywhere NOT just in the house.  Do it randomly on walks, at the vets, in Petsmart, at the dog park.... Do it when the dog is Calm and when he is distracted in good times and in bad (wanted to see if you were still paying attention.)  There are so many things a dog cannot do when it is sitting.  Teach your dog to SIT before any door is opened for him.  Teach him to exit and enter calmly and with a cue "OK".
  • Practice your SIT STAYS as above... Practice several times daily around the door when no one is actually there.  This is the de sensitization process.  Open and Close the door while the dog learns to remain sitting and behind an invisable line that we teach the dog not to pass unless asked to.  I use a floor divider for my girl.
  • For the initial training process..I also disconnect the door bell or ask that people do not use it.  Dogs get much more crazy at the sound of a door bell then to knocking.  Get knocking more under control then practice with door bells.
  • Before you open the door to a guest, leash, tether or crate your dog.
  • If you are tethering the dog, be sure it is far from the door.  Ignore all the antics he will do.  Only apporach a calm sitting dog.
  • If you are leashing, step on the leash, so the dog cannot jump up on people.  (a head halter may help with control of a large dog)
  • If crating, the dog must be put into the crate before the door is opened.  Puppy is only allowed to come out if he has calmed down first and  most likely should already be wearing a leash.
  • Instruct your guest not to touch, talk to, or touch your dog.  All these things reinforce the dog's silliness.  If you have a very excitable dog, being calm around him will help him calm faster.  It is amazing the power of IGNORING!
  • For aggression and or growling issues at the door, please use caution.  Leashes, head halter and sometimes even a muzzle will be needed to ensure safty to people entering your home. Consult a professional to determine the primary reason of the aggression! 

I hope this helps you out.  I have practiced these things on a continual basis with our young Boxer and we have had great success.  We have near eliminated any bolting out the door..may happen if the 4 year old throws open the door but these times are few and far between.  I don't have much success with the training of human 4 year olds!  I have found teaching a dog to SIT and Wait at any door has helped with this issue tremendously.  I have also found that teaching a dog to follow you out of a door rather than lead/pull you out, helps with the general manners and safety at the door.  A verbal command should be given to let the dog know when it is acceptable for her to use the door for freedom.  I do it at EVERY door in my house and the crate. 

Let's get rid of the common human statement used at most front doors  "Just a minute, I have to catch the dog".

Let's also get rid of the common doggy thought..."Open doors mean Freedom all the time" 

Any thoughts and questions...I would be happy to address! 


Jumping up isn't the Best way to say Hello...according to the human!

by Michelle St Germain on 05/15/12

Haven't we all been greeted by a dog with it's paws planted in our chests?  This this such a common problem amoung dogs.  Well, it isn' a problem according to the dogs.  They think this is an acceptable form of greeting.  It's the humans who have the problem.  Big dogs, little dogs, black dogs and white dogs, jumping isn't exclusive to one particular breed, sex, color or hair length!  It is a problem that goes with just being a dog. 

Jumping is an annoying behaviour but it also carries varying degrees of danger as well.  A small or elderly person could easily be thrown to the ground by a dog jumping into them.  Paws clawing faces and arms is also a very real danger.  People who are afraid of dogs can feel threatened if your dog jumps on them.  All and all no matter how normal a behaviour it is to dogs, it is just plain rude to people.

How did jumping begin?  The history of it is simple, we bring home this cute little bundle of fur into our life and now the chaos begins.  Humans reinforce the jumping behavior from day 1, usually unconscienceously.  Petting, playing with, baby talking to, shoving away, looking at, and the list goes on.  To the jumper this is reinforcement, a license to JUMP, to the victim is is a real problem.

So, all that being said what do we do about it?  Well, for starters if you are the owners of a new/young puppy start NOW!  Do not touch the puppy when he is jumping.  Use a leash and the crate to help you manage the problem and teaching the puppy the correct way to greet people is to SIT or lay DOWN!    As the puppy approaches you whether called or not, instruct her to SIT before any petting is to be given out.  Be very strict with this and the behaviour will quickly resolve itself.  If the dog sees a loophole, he will take advantage of it.  Dogs do what works and if jumping on people gets him attention then jumping he will continue to do.  The same approach is used for the seasoned jumper as well. Consistency and management are the secret formula.  Being able to determine when the dog is going to jump and correcting him first with a firm SIT command or preventing it all together.  I like to use a crate or a leash tethered away from the front door where most offenses take place.  The dog is only allowed to approach people in a calm manner.  Hyperactivity and excitement make it too hard for the dog to follow directions effectivley.  Allow the dog ample time to calm itself down before allowing her anywhere near your guests.  Ignore all attempts of obnoxious behaviour and be sure to catch the dog acting appropriately at any moment.  Use calm Praise and a food treat.  If you are calm the dog will be too.

     Dogs are not hard to teach but humans are.  You will quickly see the dog will understand what is required of her.  Your guests on the other hand will be harder to convince not to touch your dog when she is acting like a bafoon at the door.  Be vigilent and strict in what you ask your friends and family members to do when saying hello to your jumping bean!

Another exercise to practice is to do lots of repetitions at the door when people are not there.  Practice your dog sitting at the door when you open the door, open the door and walk out & come back in, when you knock once, twice, ...  Be creative and challenge your dog.  You may need help when doing this depending on how out of control the dog is at the door.


Funny things you love about your Dog!!

by Michelle St Germain on 04/27/12

Hey Folks;

Please leave me your funny stories and quirks that you love about your dog.  What makes your dog unique?

Have fun with your dog everyday!


by Michelle St Germain on 04/24/12

     Is there anything more frustrating than a dog pulling you down the street?  I personally think that this common behavioural issue is one of the most difficult to teach our four legged companions.  They have four legs, we have two, they are naturally faster than most humans!  They are alot stronger than us & when they want something they will often stop at nothing to get to where they want to be.  Every step we allow the dog to take while out at the end of the leash is reinforcing them to continue to do so.  It also makes it next to impossible to control a dog that is out at the end of the leash. 

     The longer this is allowed to continue one of two things will happen:  the owner will become so fed up with this behaviour that the walks will be discontinued OR the dog will become leash reactive.  What is the consequence of these issues?  Firstly, if the dogs walks are stopped then the dog will quickly become de-socialized.  Secondly, leash reactivity becomes a problem simply due to the fact that leash pulling and leash jerking (by the owners) go hand in hand.  As the dog approaches another person or dog while pulling on the leash. The owner more times than not is giving leash corrections to slow the dog down.  This tells the dog that when approaching people with or without dogs it recieves corrections which in turns could result in aggression on the leash.

So how do we control these beasts on leashes?  Here is a list of things you will need before you get started on this journey:

  • high value treats or the dogs kibble(if he loves it)
  • a good soft leash (leather of nylon are easier on your hands than chain leashes or rope)
  • a nylon collar or Gentle Leader Head halter (a choke chain, pinch collar, retractable leash, body harness are not needed)
  • patience and a clear schedule ( don't feel rushed)
  • a realistic goal to start with (don't expect too much from your dog at first)
  • consistency

A helpful hint before starting is to freely exercise your dog with a ball, frisbee or playdate to get the sillies out of him.  If he is a little tuckered when starting the exercise,  it will be easier to keep his attention on you.

     Set yourself up for success:  Remember Nothing in Life is Free???  This is a good place to begin.  Ask your dog for a simple obedience behaviour before snapping on the leash.  While the dog is sitting or laying down attach the leash in a CALM manner.  If you are hyper about the walk, your dog will be too.  If the dog is jumping around, wait till he settles first before that leash goes on his collar.  This may take a few minutes for the dog to grasp this idea.  Be Calm, be consistent, reward each success.  Once the leash is on, he most likely will explode again with excitement.  Once again, wait for the dog to calm down before you open the door.  Ask for a SIT STAY to earn the door opening.  Ask the dog to wait until you have stepped out of the door first...  Forget the old saying Ladies First..How about Humans first...WhY??? not to dominant the dog, but to teach him manners.  It is safer to teach a dog that an open door does not mean freedom for him!!!  Starting the walk in a calm manner will set the walk on the right foot!  Remember be patient!  If you rush, the dog will get frustrated and then so will you...

Now you are outside, what do you do?  Here it is...

  • Leash in the hand opposite the dog, treats in the hand beside the dog.  Roll up the leash enough that the dog cannot get too far ahead of you, but not so tight that there is no slack in it.  Remember if we want to teach a dog to walk on a loose leash than he needs to know what a loose leash feels like.
  • Get the dogs attention with your voice or a food treat (if needed)
  • Take a step forward, if she is beside you reward and Praise her.  If she bolts to the end of the leash STOP and get the dog back into position.
  • Continue this process for the duration of the walk. 
  • Increase the number of steps you take as the dog becomes more attentive to you and less to the enviroment.
  • Use high value treats to get and keep your dog's attention when there is a distraction.
  • If your dog becomes too distracted then simply turn the other direction and reposition the dog by your side.
  • When you stop, Instruct the dog to SIT.
  • Practice daily for faster results.

Other rules to follow:

  • Never allow your dog to pull you to a distraction.  Especially another dog or to a person.  This is very rude manners.  Another dog may see this as a threatening advance by your dog and a doggy argument may result.  A person may become upset with you if your dog rushes up to them.
  • Only allow dogs to interact calmly when on leash and for short periods.  Use this as a reward for the dog for approaching properly.  A release word should be used to allow a greeting to a person or to another dog.  Keep the leash loose while the intereaction is taking place.  A tight leash may result in your dog becoming tense and a quarrel may erupt.  If you do not 100% trust your dog, then avoid these situations and teach your dog to ONLY SIT beside you while another dog is around.
  • Reward and Praise often for the proper behaviour/manners.
  • Keep the dog on one side or the other, do not let the dog choose where he is going. 
  • When passing another dog or person (familiar or not), always have at least one person between your dog and the person/dog.  Never allow a dog to pass someone (with or without a dog) right beside them.  Give your dog space. 

I hope this helps you take control of your walks!  Walks are a great form of exercise and socialization for our dogs.  Not only is it the physical aspect of the walks that make them important but also the mental stimulation that goes along with them.  Mental stimulation is equally important to keep your dog's life balanced!  Smells, sounds and different environmental stimuluses are all things that make a dog confident in our world. If the dog feels confident we reduce the risk of other behavioural issues creeping up on us!

Teaching a Dog to Come when Called

by Michelle St Germain on 04/17/12

     One of the most frustrating and dangerous behaviors that some dogs have is that they do not come reliablly when called.  To be able to run and play off a leash is a wonderful experience for all dogs and their people.  There is nothing more satisfying then to watch is a dog running free and having fun.  Sadly, lots of dogs never get to enjoy this kind of freedom, the chance to just be a dog and explore new environments!

     Teaching a dog to come is not as hard as it sometimes appears to be.  What is the secret?  This is not rocket science.  The secret is making yourself more attractive to your dog than the environment he is in.  What does your dog like above all other things?  For many dogs treats, meat, food.... for others the chance to play with a favorite toy or a game of tug of war.  People sometimes say to me, "I don't want to bribe my dog to come to me".  These are the people who still cannot let their dogs off a leash.  When the training first starts,  "luring" will take place,  and it takes place a lot.  I let the dog know, that I have something that it wants, and I watch the magic unfold.    I practice in a safe, undistractive environment.  By practicing in an environment free of major distractions, I am setting my dog up to succeed.  I am making myself better than the environment just by going somewhere there is nothing better than me.  I am armed to the max with cooked liver, beef, steak, chicken cheese....  If my dog likes toys, her favorite one comes too. 

     I may also install a 20 foot long line on my dog's collar for easier access to my dog, if she chooses to ignore me.  Now I have already written about the first most important rule of teaching the dog to come.  Making yourself more attractive to your dog.  Rule number 2 is:  If I have called my dog to COME to me, my first and formost next move must be to make it happen.  Don't just stand there, repeating the command to your dog.  Move towards the dog and try to get it's attention with the lure, a squeeky toy, running the opposite direction, stepping on the long line to prevent her from running away from you....Do whatever it takes to get that dog moving towards you.  Keep it fun and don't get mad at him.  The second the dog senses you are unhappy with it, it will continue to avoid you.  Happy, jolly tones work best of all.  All dogs, but especially puppies love the sing song voice.  As soon as the dog takes a step in your direction, pour on the praise and coax her to continue moving forward.   Do this in several different places with different distractions.  If you know that your dog will not COME to you for whatever reason.  Do not call the dog.  Go get her!  Don't teach your dog to ignore the RECALL command. 

The more you practice, you will see a progression in her response.  Once you have established a great recall with LURES, it is now time to start slowly reducing the amount he gets and when he gets them.  Don't just decide one day.  "No more rewards", it has to be gradual process in order to create a solid patterning of the behavior.  Soon your dog will be working harder to earn the reward.  Another fiun alternative is varying the types of rewards you are offfering.  Make it a guessing game for the dog. 

     Last important tips for success: 

-play hide and seek with your dog at least once a week.

-never call your dog to you and reprimand it for anything.  You are going to destroy whatever recall you have very fast.  If you are upset with the dog, go to the dog to stop any unwanted behavior.

-never call your dog to come to you and do something to her that she perceives as negative, nail clipping, grooming, bathing, putting it in a crate.  Go to the dog and lead it to where you want her to go.  Coming to something that they don't like, gives them the chance to ignore you by avoiding you.

-if your dog is playing with another dog and clearly not interested in you at all, go catch the dog and bring it to you, rather than repeating the command or giving up when the dog keeps playing.

-don't play chase games with a dog until your dog has a good reliable recall.  Chase games are great when you can control the dog when it is time to end the game.

-use HIGH value rewards...not his regular kibble for training RECALL.  Would you go to work everyday for jelly beans?  Remember you are competing with things that will make your dog ignore you.  Make yourself better than another dog's bum.  Sad but true!  :)

-Have fun with your dog.  Make the dog want to come to you.  Don't only call your dog to COME when the fun is about to end. (leaving the dog park, coming in from playing, etc.)  Use life rewards as well.  Rover comes when called can be rewarded with a thank you and getting to go back and play with her friend for a bit longer.