Tips to Help Fido with Fireworks, Fear and Anxiety!

Not all dogs start out afraid of fireworks.   Sometimes they can develop issues with loud noises as they get older.  Whether you have a new puppy or have had a dog suffering from anxiety or fear for a while, the question is what do you do?

My shepherd mix that passed away a couple years ago suffered from issues with thunderstorms and fireworks.  Anytime a storm system started to develop, you could tell because he would start pacing around the house and start panting really heavily.  He could never sit still or lay down for very long and pretty soon he be up walking, panting and coming up to me and looking at me like “help.”  He was never like this as a puppy.   He really had no issues with noises, sounds, people, dogs or really anything. I saw him at a later age developed issues when he was about seven years of age.  Whenever there were thunderstorms, I had to put him away in the bathroom or a smaller room where I could shut the blinds and make completely dark.  If free to roam he would pace through the house, open doors and I would find myself woken by a dog panting in my face.

My youngest dog I actually rescued from a private party and she suffered from a TON of anxiety.   She was in a kennel for 12 to 14 hours a day because her owner worked manufacturing and didn’t really get a whole lot of access to the outside world except for her backyard.  Her anxiety was more because she was a high-energy breed stuck in a small area with no outlet for her energy to go.  She actually suffers from O.C.D. behavior where she spins in circles especially when she’s excited.  It is actually now a trigger sign when she has to go outside to go potty.

Below are a few different options that you can use if your dog suffers from anxiety or fear of noises and training tips on prevention when you get a new pup:

ThunderShirtThundershirts.  Thundershirts are great because it actually is something that helps a dog feel more safe and secure.   There actually also are used for autistic children to make them feel like they’re in one spot instead of five.  I actually used one of these Thundershirts on my female and it made a huge difference for her anxiety.   You could tell that she was a little bit more relaxed when she had it on.  Thundershirts do not work on every dog, it is a case-by-case basis, but is certainly worth a try. Most Thundershirts will also have a little patch on the side that you can actually add a couple drops of essential oil such as lavender to help them calm even more while wearing it!  (*This product is vet recommended.)


51EqFkxbmNL._AC_UL320_SR268,320_Adaptil Diffuser Plug-in or pheromone spray.  Scientific studies have shown that using Adaptil helps to reduce the signs of stress in dogs and puppies exposed to challenging situations. It actually has pheromones that help dogs relax such as lavender. You can plug in by their kennel or you can spray it on their bedding anytime you need them to relax or they’re going to sleep. (*This is also something that is recommended.)



essential_oilsEssential oils.  Using essential oils on dogs is starting to become more and more common because it does work.  Using essential oils such as lavender and chamomile can help calm a dog down faster than you think.  You can put the essential oils concentrate on a bandana and put the bandana around the dogs neck so it breathes in the aroma quickly and frequently.   You can also put some essential oil and coconut oil together and rub it on the dog paw pads so that when they lay down and put their head down by their paws, they breathe in the essential oils.   When most dogs lay down they usually put their head near their paws so this works out great.

deTerra Essential Oils for Dogs pdf book:


Exercise, exercise, exercise.  Nothing helps reduce anxiety more than exercise.   When you see dogs absolutely mutilate dog kennels just to get out because of their anxiety, chances are the dog has not been exercised frequently or quite enough so it’s going to use all of that energy just to try to get out of it’s crate. A tired dog is a good dog. is a recommended kennel that dogs can’t get out of!

Treadmill work. Encouraging a dog to use a treadmill has been incredibly beneficial in a rehabilitation for dogs.  It is a mental activity and they need to sustain that mental activity in order to not fall off.   They need to have good focus for a longer period time which helps tire them out mentally which then helps tire them out in general.  What we have found is that the dogs that do bastion treadmill work are usually the ones that are the most anxious and can’t always walk a straight line.   My youngest who is OCD and walks in circles loves the treadmill in jumps on it waiting for me to turn it on.   She could go for hours.

Treadmill School with RUFF Academy!

Medication.  We look at medication as a last resort where we have tried everything else to see if we can find either a combination of things or one thing that will help reduce the anxiety.  Honestly some dogs don’t have everything working correctly up there in their brain and need a little bit a help with medication.   We have use medication and a couple of our rehabilitation dogs and it has actually made a huge difference while training them.  You can see reduction in anxiety and more of a clear focus in training.  We then work on weaning it off as time goes on.

Simple Benadryl.  Sometimes just by giving your dog Benadryl you can help calm them down.  This does not just help for allergies as it can also help for anxiety.   Especially for dogs that have anxiety while riding in a car, you can give them a Benadryl shortly before you leave to help relax them.

Benedryl Formula chart:

For dogs that are scared during thunderstorms and or for holidays such as Fourth of July, find a safe and smaller area for them to be in such as a kennel/crate or even a small bathroom that is quite dark and contain them there while the storm is happening or the fireworks are being done.  Dogs can injure themselves quite a bit if they are left in an open area where they can pace.  Pacing only makes them amp up more and can cause even more severe anxiety.  For Fireworks, not all dogs can overcome this fear and it is purely about management and making them comfortable at the time of anxiety.

Tips for a new puppy: 

1. Socialize it at a young age so that is not scared of people or dogs.

2. Desensitize it from noises sounds in surfaces that doesn’t become fearful of a trashcan falling over or a plastic bag being opened or even a car honking.  Even having them walk over a weirdly sounding bridge or knocking things over like utensils or broom makes great training exercises for desensitization.   The biggest trick of all of these things is not making a big deal about it if it happens.   If the dog freaks out over any of these noises, you just look at them and say “you’re good OK let’s go!” and redirect them to doing something else.  Just like children, if you don’t make a big deal about the fact that they fell over or still there tell they will make a big deal about it either.

3. Take them to many different places. Do not restrict training to the inside of your house because it’s convenient or the backyard because that’s where you take your dog to go to the bathroom because you’re going to eventually have to take it to the vet or the pet store and you need to make sure they understand the behavior that is asked and that it is an enjoyable experience instead of being scared.

4. Help other dogs teach your dog positive behaviors.  Good manners learned at the dog park, in your local training class or even in your playgroup that you have is great ways for dogs to build confidence and less fear in a lot of situations.

Come to our Puppy Playhouse classes!  They are fun!!

The main thing to remember is don’t give up.  Try different things to see how your dog responds and speak with a trainer on behavioral issues that you find as you start digging into this.  

I now have two Weimeraners that have no issues with thunder or fireworks and it is very nice, but I can relate to those that are suffering from this issue! Hang in there!  For more information regarding behavioral work and/or training, go to my website


Give That Dog a Job!

Having a job reduces the possibility of barking, destructive behavior, aggression, territorial tenancies and/or protectiveness.

Dog owners choose dogs because we want companionship and want loyalty. So really, in actuality, we’re quite selfish because we want something that adores us completely.  Not the worst thing in the world to want honestly.

Problem:  we choose the dog, but we don’t always think about satisfying the dogs need and if the dog is happy as well.   Herding breeds such as a Border Collies, Australian Shepherds or Blue Heeler’s need to work, they need a job.  Dog owners reasons why they choose these breeds usually are; because they think they’re pretty and they like the markings, they had one as a kid or they just really love the fact that they’re very smart and they want a smart dog. The same thing is seen with German Shepherds or Siberian Huskies.  They have incredible markings and a very loyal and have a very regal personality.  German Shepherds can become very protective and territorial of their property and Huskies love to run and any chance they get they are gone.  It doesn’t matter how much they love you, in their mind they look for opportunities that are going to benefit them.

Summary:  We choose dogs for our own reasons and dogs have a completely different idea in mind.

Reality check: Unless a dog has been TRAINED to do a “specific task,” it will find a specific task that works for them.  If an owner decides to purchase a puppy and does not plan on doing any training with it, giving it a specific job or supplying them with something to do during the day things are gonna happen.

Typical conversation with the professional: 

Client:  “My dog is barking and it won’t stop.” or “My dog is destroying my house.” or ” My dog will not stop chewing.”  or “My dog doesn’t listen to me and runs away.”   

Me: “What kind of dog is it?  How long have you had it?  What kind of training have you done with it so far?  How much exercise does it receive DAILY? Have you had this breed before?”

Education time:  Most of the time it’s a dog that needs a job. German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Border Collies, Dachshunds, the list can go on.  Each breed was designed for specific purpose.  For example, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and was bred to sit on the lap of royalty.  A lazy job, but a cushy one. It is still a spaniel, however, which means it’s going to love to chase animals in the backyard and will require you to go for walks. The cushy factor is only part of the breed.

What owners fail to do, but should: Research the breed chosen.  Then pick the dog that is best for them,  their circumstances at the time and their true personality. For example, an owner will purchase a Siberian Husky because ever since they were little kid they have always wanted one or their neighbor had one and they thought it was really cool looking. This is not the right fit and will result in chaos.  Prime example, is when the movie 101 Dalmations came out.  IMMEDIATELY, everyone  wanted one.  In the movie, the dogs were trained, very well behaved and showed no signs of their normal high energy and high strung personality.  

Important fact: This is the exact reason why no shelters will not adopt black cats during Halloween and most pet stores will not sell rabbits during Easter.

What every owners goal SHOULD BE: Having a true intention of wanting a specific breed for a specific reason is really what a professional looks at the most.  If you’re going to a professional breeder to get a puppy, they will know exactly what puppy will fit for the personality and the temperament of your home.  They will know what to look for and will handpick one that will work best for you.  If you are adopting from a shelter or rescue, you should chat with the group to let them know what you are looking for so they can help pair the right dog to you.

Professional Trainers To-Do Checklist for the Owner When Picking Your Next Dog:

1. Research the breed.  Where did it come from, what was it used for and if you’re picking up a puppy from a breeder, find out information about the mom and the dad so that you can see how the puppies are going to be as they grow up.

2. Do you have children? If so, not every breed is great for children.  If you have kids under seven and you decide to get a puppy keep in mind that puppy will see your young children as other puppies and will not understand to leave them alone.  The puppy will nip them, jump on them and overall try to play with them on a regular basis.  This will cause your children to scream and will excite the puppy even more and think that they want to play.

3. What kind of lifestyle do you have?  Are you an active person that likes to go running? Are you an active family always on the go? Are you pretty laid-back and like to relax most of the time? Do you entertain on a regular basis to where you will have people coming into your home regularly? Do you work from home and will be home all day? All of these scenarios are key factors in finding the best dog for you.

4. what kind of dog do you want to have? Do you want a dog that runs all the time? Do you want an athletic dog that likes to jump, swim and run with you? Do you like to hunt and want to find a companion in your hunting adventures? Do you want a dog sit down next to you on the couch while you read a book? Do you want a dog to protect your yard while you’re gone? Do you want a dog that you can take with you to go visit a friends house, go to a family party or go down to the local park? Do you want a pet that you can put in a purse or put in a stroller or basically a purse dog? Paris Hilton has many Chihuahuas. They’re not used for anything, but all have names of cars and brands of clothing just because she wants them.   They are also the most spoiled dogs in the entire universe with their own mansion as a doghouse including their own nanny. Don’t forget they each have a wardrobe.

The biggest thing that you need to consider is do you have time for a dog?   Do you work a manufacturing job that makes you unavailable for 12 to 14 hours a day? Do you have a roommate and are expecting them to take the dog out when you’re not home only to find out they are not going to and now you’re in a predicament? Are you planning to go off to college and not be SURE you can take the dog with you and now it’s your parents responsibility while you’re gone? Are you dating somebody and you guys are considering getting a dog together? Keep in mind if you break up the question will be who gets the dog? And lastly, my favorite, are you getting the same breed as you had before because your last dog was perfect and you expect the exact same temperament in this new puppy? ( I forgot to mention the fact that you are 70 years old and your dog that you had passed away at the age of 15 and you’re now starting with a 10 week old puppy with expectations of it having the mindset and mentality of a 15-year-old dog). 

Now, of course I always have to add the most important requirement of getting a new puppy.  The new puppy needs to go directly into a training class and stay in training classes until least about a year of age.   Everyone has great intentions when they first start out, but after the first couple months of working with the puppy and feeling exhausted your focus changes.  The main thing to remember when you were looking at getting a puppy or even rescuing a shelter dog is please consider what that dog needs. Does it need to run? Is it high energy? Is it extremely smart and will probably get bored if it doesn’t have something to keep his mind busy?   These factors are very important to the happiness of you and your dog.

For more information or training advice, please go to my website!

Relax with Rover: Finals are RUFF!


It was absolutely amazing what the program has done and how it transformed North high school this last week! The smiles on the kids and the comments of how it made them not to freak out for finals was amazing. There were two events that happened that really solidified why we’re doing this program.

Event #1: Anxiety

A student had had something negative happen at home. The student came to school take a final. When the student came to school they became very upset, threw the test at the teacher and said they were gonna go home.  The teacher then told the student that there were dogs downstairs and would they like to go and visit them. The student agreed and went downstairs to see the dogs. After 10 minutes of cuddle time and relaxing with one of the dogs, the student was able to successfully return back to the classroom and complete a 110 question final!  Their mood completely changed and confidence resounded.

Event #2: Self-Esteem

On the third day of finals and our therapy program, a student came up to one of the dogs. The caregiver of the dog asked the student if they wanted to walk the dog around.   The student very excitedly nodded their head, took the leash  and proceeded to walk the dog around the common area. When returning the dog back to the caregiver, he smiled and said thank you and seemed very appreciative that he could spend time with the dog.  The student then walked away and the caregiver was approached by a teacher.  They asked what the student did.  The caregiver then explained what happened and the teacher said that they were completely shocked.   The teacher proceeded to explain that that student rarely talks to anyone let alone approaches anyone.  It was because of the dog that the child decided to become more confident.

It is events like this that encourages us to continue to do our program.  These are just a couple of examples that show how therapeutic a dog can be.  We also volunteer with a group called Project Independence,” where we use pet therapy with adults of different disabilities.  The smiles on their faces and the encouragement of positive body motion is what helps us continue to work with them.

The main reason why we started the “Relax with Rover” program is because of a prior student two years ago that was struggling in school.  One of his main loves was dogs.  The teacher that worked with him contacted me and asked me if I had any ideas on how we could help him.  At that time, I was volunteering at the local Humane Society so we set up times for him to join us and work with dogs.   He worked with one dog specifically and they it worked well.   One day he decided to get really upset.  Instead of provoking a teacher or anyone else, he ended up sending himself to the emergency room.  This showed that he had anger, but had at least a little bit of discipline.  I personally never saw any of his anger when he worked with me.   He was very respectful, kind and smart.  What everybody else in school was different. I feel I saw the true student.

So in our first full year of the RUFF Academy North Mentorship Program, we have achieved success in many different ways.  Through mentorship were able to instill a positive mindset with dogs in school.  Which then ended with the Relaxed with Rover program during Finals Week.  I honestly had no idea that it was going to be as successful as it was, but I am so glad it has made such a positive impact on the students and the school.   It is all about education and helping the community and I feel we’ve done that with even more good things to come!

15 Myths Regarding Dog Training

15 Myths Regarding Dog Training

Number 1: “I was told by neutering or spaying my dog it will calm them down.”

This is not correct, primarily because the main thing to remember is when you neuter a dog, it will reduce the amount of testosterone that’s been produced in the body.  The behavior and personality doesn’t change just like you a human doesn’t change their personality, just improve as they grow. If you have a hyper dog, they will continue to be hyper.  If you have a chill dog, they will continue to be chill. The only thing that has really been seen is that males desire to find a female is reduced and with some nuetering and spaying, it can cause them to gain weight after surgery.

spay and nueter

Number 2: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

On the contrary, just because you get an older dog from the shelter or from a rescue, doesn’t mean that it can’t learn basic commands and/or tricks.  If you have an older dog their drive may not be as high to want to learn new things but they still can. For example; if you rescue a dog and it has issues with pulling, you can teach it to walk nicely. If you adopt a dog from the shelter and it likes to bark, you can learn to teach the dog to redirect his behavior.


Number 3: “We will just wait because he’ll outgrow that behavior.”

Dogs don’t “outgrow” behaviors such as running away, jumping up, barking, or potty training.  Plus, if they’re showing dominant and sassy behavior, by ignoring it it will actually become worse. I’ve heard such things as “We will just let him bark it out. He just really likes to talk.” I can guarantee you this will not work. The behaviors listed above need to be consistently worked on and monitored throughout the course of the first year to have success.

Number 4:  When a dog urinates in the house, you were supposed to “RUB their nose in it to let them know they did wrong” OR “Roll up a newspaper and hit him on the nose so they know not to do it again.” 

BOTH of these comments are horribly wrong. Rubbing a dogs nose where they urinated or defecated is only going to encourage them to go somewhere where you can’t see them. And CERTAINLY rolling up a newspaper and hitting them on the nose is only going to cause them to fear the newspaper and fear you.  Not to mention it’s horribly abusive and inhumane!  Consulting with a professional trainer on questions regarding potty training is best. Using techniques like gating and crating, while watching their food intake and water intake is really the best way to create good potty training principles.

Number 5: “My dog is dumb, it can’t be trained.”

There is no such thing as a dumb dog.  What I see as a professional trainer, is a lot of owners give up if it’s too hard or if they can’t figure it out.   Dogs bank on the fact that you will give up before they do.   You were always in a hurry and impatient, they are not.  Plus, they learn if they wait long enough you’ll give in. The best thing to remember is to try different techniques, use different types of treats and consult a trainer if you’re struggling to make sure you can achieve your goals.  I have not met a dumb dog yet, just frustrated owners!


Number 6: “My vet said you can’t start training a puppy until six months of age” OR “My dog is too small to be trained, I have to wait until gets bigger .”

This is incorrect.  Most training establishments encourage you to start training your puppy at at least 10 weeks of age.  In my puppy playhouse classes, it’s best to start anywhere between 8 to 10 weeks primarily because we work on desensitization of noises, sounds and surfaces while focusing on socialization to reduce any fear or insecurity in puppies.  As long as they’ve had their initial shots and boosters they are OK to be around other puppies.  The earlier you start training a puppy, whether at home or in a training class, the better they’re going to be later on. As far as little(toy) breeds such as Chihuahuas, Shitz Shu’s, Pomeranians and Yorkies they ESPECIALLY need to be trained at it early age because they can have problems with being small and show to be fearful of everything.   You see commonly the behavior called “Napoleon Complex” because they are insecure about their size. Plus, the more a dog is exposed to the outdoors  and other dogs, is the less likely that they are going to get sick as you build up their immunity just like children.


Number 7: “You have to be DOMINANT in order for a dog to listen to you, positive reinforcement methods don’t work.”

Honestly, just like school bullying never get you anywhere, being kind does. Old-school ways was yanking your dog around and applying dominant behaviors to gain success.  These techniques involved using a choke chain or prong collar and “yanking” on the dog and also “alpha rolling” to provide your dog to submit to you.  I’ve even seen dogs “hung” until they submit which is HORRIBLY inhumane.  When I started training dogs over 20 years ago this is what I saw.  The truth of the matter is, positive reinforcement is the new and popular way of training.  Providing a positive reward for correct behavior.  Many owners don’t want to use behaviors on their dog or submitting them in an alpha roll.  Most owners can accomplish many different things by using clickers, treats, positive praise and a positive attitude.  Ultimately, it’s about your consistency and not how harsh you are.   If you work with your dog consistently every day, it’s fresh in your dogs mind therefore they’re going to be showing those behaviors more regularly.  My recommendation to you is, if you go to the class and the trainer does nothing but scream and force you to manhandle your dog, PLEASE leave and find a different establishment.  Firm correction does need to be done at times, however, it it should not be the majority of your training.  “Bullying” your dog to do what you want it to is no different than a human being pushed around to obtain dominance in the workplace. It doesn’t feel good for humans and it certainly doesn’t feel good for a dog.


Number 8: “Using food is bribery.” 

The main thing you need to remember when you are training your dog is that they prefer to work for a paycheck.   The best example I can give to you regarding this is as follows; we all go to work and receive a paycheck.  If we went to work one day and our boss said to us “You are doing a fantastic job and going above and beyond your requirements. We appreciate you.” And then ends the conversation with “oh and by the way we’re not paying you any more, thanks again for your service and will see you tomorrow!” Would you stay or would you go and find another job? Dogs are very much the same way.  They like you and want to please you, but ultimately if you have nothing for them they’re going to go and find it elsewhere.  Which means if it’s a choice between you in a squirrel, they’re going to choose the squirrel every time. The squirrel gives them the option to chase, which gives them a sense of competition and pleases their prey drive.  Catching a squirrel in the end is worth ignoring you. They may not catch the squirrel, but they go for it anyway.  The thing you have to remember is, your dog may love you but not enough to where it will refuse instinct.

Number 9: “My dog rips up my shoes or pees in the house when I’m gone because it’s MAD AT ME!”

The main thing that owners need to understand is dogs do not have human emotion.  They can feel when you’re upset and they can certainly have sadness due to the loss of another dog, however, ripping up your shoes or peeing in the house when you’re gone is behavioral and not connected to emotion.  The term that is used is “anthropomorphism.” That basically means that humans put an emotion to what their dog is doing to provide an excuse for what their dog did.  Ultimately, your dog ripped up your shoes because they were there and it was not trained to understand to “leave it” and it urinated in the house when you were gone because you did not potty train it properly. These behaviors can be easily trained by using consistent training techniques.


Number Ten: “If I use food to train, I will always have to use food to get my dog to listen to me.” 

This is incorrect.  The earlier statement regarding using food as bribery, relates to this one as well primarily because the dog needs a paycheck to listen.  However, once basic commands have been learned and taught and the dog is showing those behaviors on a consistent basis you start to “wean” off the treats and start asking for expectation.  Just like children, initially it’s teaching them the behaviors you want by using rewards, but eventually teaching them that they are expected to do it as a basic behavior.  Through consistency in training they learned that it is part of what is expected to be in your household, just the same as it is for a dog to be expected to know the behaviors to be in your pack.  If a dog will “only do it for a treat,” this is what you have taught it to do and you are the issue.   To correct this behavior please consult with a professional trainer.

images (2)

Number 11: “My dog is being DOMINANT, that is why he doesn’t listen.” OR “This dog is being dominant because it’s a male.”

A dog not listening truly has nothing to do with it being “dominant.” Dogs can certainly have more of an “assertive” behavior, however they still have the ability to listen.  It is truly about the training that is being done and whether it is working for your dog or not. If your dog is walking in front of you want it to walk nicely or if you’re asking it to sit and it looks away from you and refuses, those are examples of a dog not understanding either the command or struggling with leadership and what is expected, NOT DOMINANCE. As far as the whole debate whether males are more dominant than females, the answer is is that you can see a dominant female as well as a dominant male.  Female dogs can be just as assertive as male dogs. Really in pack order, there is always an alpha male, alpha female and then the rest of the pack. If you’re struggling with training and not having the results you’d like to have, consult with a trainer for some advice.

Number 12: My dog looks GUILTY, so he knows he did wrong.”

This is one of my favorites.  In the animal world, they understand dog behavior which means they understand when a dog is upset, mad or they have upset the pack order by doing a specific behavior.  In this case, they just peed in front of you. Your reaction was to get up and start screaming at them, so the best case scenario to avoid any kind of conflict is to stop sit down and cower making minimal eye contact with you until you stop screaming.  Or another example; you came home and walked in the house to find a puddle of urine or a pile of poop and instantaneously get mad.  You haven’t even started to yell, you just “make that face.” So in order to avoid conflict or yelling they sit down and make minimal eye contact.  You as the owner, see this and instantly bypass yelling or reduce the amount of yelling you normally would because you can “see they’re sorry.”  In the end, The dog changed their behavior to change yours.  It’s honestly no different than a young child who gets in trouble and instantly cries to appeal to your emotions and making you stop yelling.  You feel bad because they’re crying and you don’t want them to cry so you stop.


Number 13: “You should never play tug-of-war, it only creates aggression ESPECIALLY with bully breeds.”

This is another favorite.   The main thing to remember is when you are playing tug-of-war is there must always be rules.  To make sure the tug-of-war is being done correctly, you need to always find a way for YOU the owner to win.  It’s best to start with “take it” and “Drop it” commands so the dog understands when you start and when you stop.  Honestly, no matter what the breed is, if done incorrectly it can cause more assertive behaviors to happen.  The main thing to remember when it comes to bully breeds is they are very strong and powerful and honestly they can win physically.  If you teach them to do this it can cause more assertive behaviors and with most bully breeds their confidence level is never a problem so an issue may develop in the long run. Having strong jaws and physical bodies they love to tug.   Teaching them to “use their powers for good” is important.


Number 14: “Using “people food” will only make my dog bag at the table.”

This is another favorite.  When using lures and reward such as string cheese or hot dog for training, this does NOT mean that automatically when you eat string cheese or a hot dog that your dog is going to be sitting and begging for more.  Dogs understand the difference between training times and non-training times.  If you work on the command “leave-it” or even “Are you Begging!” To help train them and understand that they are not to beg, they will be fine.  A friend of mine used the “Are you begging?!” Command and taught her dog that if she asked that question his job was to automatically look away.  Now, if you’re eating dinner and your dog is staring at you and and you give it table scraps on a regular basis it is going to think that people food is ok.  If done only during training you will be just fine.

Number 15: “I don’t need to take my dog to a training class, I can do it myself.” 

This last one isn’t a myth, however, I like to bring it up primarily because I hear it quite often.  Training your dog is not rocket science or brain surgery. You can look up videos on YouTube(RUFF Academy YouTube Channel,) a lot of people have friends who are trainers and you could even watch TV shows that relate to dog training and figure it out.  The biggest thing to remember is even though you may know what you’re doing and how to train your dog but the training classes or not so much for you as it is FOR THE DOG.  Dogs need good class time for socialization and desensitization.  Playing with the next-door neighbors dogs or your friends dogs is good, but they still need to meet other new dogs and be in new places in order to understand how to be well-balanced when instructed.  Men seem to have an easier time for training primarily because they’re not training with emotion, they’re training on practicality. They say sit, the dogs sits.  They visualize what they want with nothing else confusing the dog.  Women become upset or impatient if the dog does not do what they’re asking them to do. ESPECIALLY if they see the dog respond their husband quickly and ignore them.  My classes are primarily female based, however, it is nice when the husband comes along so they can work together on training.  Pack order is established by who does the training and how often.  Dogs will listen to whomever does the training.  So couples working together as a team shows the dog to listen to both equally versus just one.  Some training establishments require only one human to come and train the dog to provide good leadership.  Problem with this is that the dog learns to only listen to that one person, so when that one person is not present the dog doesn’t listen to anybody else.

These myths are very common and you see them or hear them all the time.  The main thing to remember is ultimately listen to a professional when it comes to training your dog. Take the knowledge that you know and enroll in a training class or speak with a professional trainer and you ultimately will have success no matter what. It is truly a win-win.  Education is the key, then can share with others so that they can learn as well.

If you are a first time dog owner, following is recommended:

-Consult a veterinarian for any health related issues and needs.

-Consult a professional trainer on any dog training or behavioral needs.

-If your neighbors or friends offer training advice or even advice on your dogs health, what to feed them, what training tools to use on them, what worked for THIER dog, what place you should take your dog to train and other tips and advice take it is just that.  TIPS AND ADVICE.  

Everybody considers themselves an “expert” and wants to tell you what to do, but ultimately the professionals are in it for the specific reason of educating and helping you know what is best for you. They WANT you to ask for help, they WANT you to ask for advice. That’s what they’re there for!  Nothing is more frustrating to a professional than hearing “Well my sister said or my brother said or my next-door neighbor said” because ultimately even though there is good intention, they are not the professionals.

The BEST thing you can do as a first time dog owner is research your dogs breed. What was it bred for? What needs does it require to satisfy? For example, does it need to hunt? Is it more protective? Does it like to herd things? By doing this, it teaches you what YOU as the owner need to do to make sure you have a happy dog and a well behaved dog. If you don’t fill the requirements of the breed there can be major issues and your training could be more frustrating.

For more dog training information, please subscribe to my blog and also feel free to visit my website!

Yank and Crank vs. Positive Reinforcement: The Ultimate Debate

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The Yank and Crank vs. Positive Reinforcement Debate

There is a constant controversy on training and what items should be used. Some dog owners use yank and crank items such as prong collars and choke chains in order for their dogs to listen while other owners prefer the positive reinforcement method such as clicker training using treats and lures.  Some go as far as electronic measures to help assist with training.  Ultimately when it comes down to it the whole point is helping train good manners for your dog who understands commands and in the end building a relationship with your dog.

As an owner you don’t need to force yourself to do something or to train your dog in a way that you don’t want to, it is completely your choice. There are many trainers out there with different techniques, tactics and different training methods that you can choose from.  At the end of the day you should have no problem finding a training style you prefer and training your dog to become your loyal companion.

Here’s some things to consider and I’ll let you make the choice.

Scenario #1: Shock Therapy vs. Treats:  

1. Shock Therapy including Remote trainers, Boundary Control and and Bark Collars

Remote trainers

Electronic training collars such as remote trainers are primarily supposed to be used for hunting dogs in the field and especially for doing any kind of certification or titling programs. There’s a shock function, a tone function and there’s a vibrating function. They range anywhere from level one to level 18. Please God never use level 18 on your dog and I usually recommend not even going past level 3. Depending on what you’re trying to train your dog to do, you can use one of the three functions and find success.

Remote trainers are primarily used when an owner has become upset because their dog sees a rabbit or a squirrel and has decided to go chase it or it sees the neighbor dog on a regular basis and goes to visit without asking.  The recall command has not been trained and so the dog doesn’t respond when the owner is calling it.  For the reasons listed above a remote collar SHOULD NOT BE USED WITHOUT CONSULTING A PROFESSIONAL TRAINER.


Boundary control

If you’re looking for boundary control there are a couple different units whether it’s in ground or not that can help you contain your pet within the yard so it doesn’t go running off trying to find the neighbor dog or a bird. Recall training takes time and probably about a timeline of six months to a year in order to have a good, trusted recall depending on the breed and the personality of the dog. Staying in the yard on it’s own without consistent training is really like asking somebody to know a foreign-language without studying at all. For responsible dog owners that want to use a boundary system is because they live in a subdivision where they can’t have a fence or they have had it before, had a good result and are familiar with the system.  For an in-ground system, the training time is still a MONTH of training with a 20 foot lead and treats to reinforce a behavior so when the collar is enforced the fourth week, it is a smooth transition.

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Bark collars

Bark collars…well…I pretty much think those are useless. Bark collars are what I call “Lazy” collars because most of the time the owner has decided to either leave the dog out unattended and not correct the dog when barking or the owner has just decided to yell at the dog, but do ABSOLUTELY NO FOLLOW THROUGH to resolve the issue. In some owners defense, they just moved into an apartment and the dog is transitioning to new sounds and activities that it isn’t used to.  There are ways to fix this without a collar, but sometimes they are FORCED to do it from surrounding neighbors and the possibility of eviction. The unfortunate issue is that most dogs build up a tolerance to the bark collar and eventually don’t care about the pain.

Most electronic items are used when an owner either doesn’t have time for training, wants quick results without being patient or was told by their friend it works great.  My personal opinion is if it’s used for hunting and what it specifically supposed to be used for even with boundary control and it does what it’s supposed to great.  If it’s manners that you could easily teach them in a training class or doing one on one then IT IS ABSOLUTELY THE WRONG DECISION.  Contact a professional trainer for training advise.

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2.Treats and Positive Reinforcement Items such as Ultrasonic Systems


When using treat lures as rewards the whole point is to mix up the treats so it’s not always the same kind, make sure that when the dog knows the basic commands that you’re having them do multiple commands before actually rewarding them and eventually weaning the treat away.  This way the dog understands that it doesn’t receive one every single time. It starts looking at you as far as what type of reward and at what point it gets it.  Rewards can be anything from positive praise, physical attention or toys.

In reality the young puppies that are being trained for service dog are actually trained with absolutely no treats or food and it is all based on positive praise.  The whole method behind this madness is that really that’s the only thing they have known and if done correctly they can actually respond pretty well.   The method to this madness is primarily because they’re doing what they can to please their owners which is one of the reasons why they use labs and golden retrievers as service dogs It is part of their personality and breed traits to please.

Now on the positive side quite a few trainers are into using treats while working with puppies in training.  This is a positive method, it is a good consistent method and ultimately a lot of people do it.   The only downfall to this method for some is you find the owner saying “my dog won’t do anything without treats.” If done properly, you can act as if you put something on a stick and have them sit and ultimately get them to do it.  If you only spend five minutes a day training and working with your dog and only using treats during that specific time, of course your dog will only do things for treats because that’s exactly what you taught him to do.

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Ultrasonic systems

With ultrasonic systems it really depends on the dog. One day when I was volunteering at the local Humane Society I walked into the back area where there were dogs in kennels barking all over the place and I grabbed my sonic egg which is just a handheld ultrasonic device that you can control.  I hit the button to see what dog would respond. When I hit the button, about 85% of the dogs hit the floor because they didn’t care for the ultrasonic noise or pitch that the item used.   The others just kept barking.

Another example was when I had my Weimeraner Romeo as a puppy. At the time I also had a White Shepherd.  The White Shepherd was 10 years old and my puppy was about six months. I tried an ultrasonic device in my living room to see if it worked with barking and when my puppy went to bark the ultrasonic system went off and my 10-year-old dog freaked out, ran out of the room and didn’t want to come back in.  Meanwhile, my puppy was continuing to bark and not care.  I have had owners of Dachshunds swear by the ultrasonic and other ones that say using your ultrasonic system, it made them swear because their dogs would not stop barking. I currently use the Sonic Egg on mine and if they happen to see something go past the window and want to bark it quiets them down right away. However I have done extensive training with mine. Our relationship is stronger to where it is an added training item not the main training item.

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Scenario #2: Choke chain and prong collar vs. Gentle Leader and Easy Walk 

1.Choke chains and Prong Collars.

Old-school methods are choke chains and prong collars. It’s a very dominant way of training and ultimately you do more physical force in order to receive a reaction from the dog. Choke chains do exactly that and Prong collars are meant to “Mimic a dogs bite” to discourage the dog from pulling.  It is a pressure based system that when the dog feels a “pinch” or negative pressure they stop doing what they are doing at the time.  This is paired up with training class and basic commands to provide an “instant” result. On a more positive note, using these training collars correctly and paired with treats, they can provide a positive result.


2.Gentle Leaders and Easy Walk Harnesses

The New Age training collars are gentle leaders and easy walk harnesses.   It is again a pressure based system where the pressure comes towards them encouraging them to back up or stay next to you in order to have a positive experience.  It is all about redirection and usually is also paired up with treats to provide a positive result.  The only downfall of these items, especially the gentle leader head collar, is that most owners are used to the old-school methods and they have to learn a new behavior.  Plus if the dog is not trained correctly on how to use these items the dog can pick up behavioral issues such as flopping to the ground or rubbing his face.  The owner at this point doesn’t like it and can choose a different training method.  It is important to watch the DVD included and consult with a professional dog trainer for how to fit it properly.

(**If you have any questions on the use of how a gentle leader head collar or easy walk harness is used or fit please refer to my RUFF Academy YouTube channel as I have videos on each of these products.

In Summary Scenerio #1 vs. Scenerio #2:

My personal opinion as a professional dog trainer is that overall the idea is finding a tool that works well for the dog and works well for the owner.   Ultimately, it is about creating a relationship with your dog and becoming a team.   The more one-on-one that you do with your dog, the better your dog is going to respond.   The more positive you are, the happier the dog is going to be.  There are certain times, however, when a firm tone and a physical correction may need to be done in order to reinforce the behavior.  The best idea is to find an obedience class, enroll your dog and talk with a professional trainer on what is the best tool for you and your dog. Ultimately, if you put time in when your pup is young or when you first have them, the end result is gonna be pretty awesome!

For more training information, subscribe to my blog and go to my website!

The Dog Behind the Glass


As a dog trainer I don’t really get scared too much by too many things, but every now and then something gets me.

I’m used to dogfights, breaking up dogfights, screaming children, parents screaming at their children and basically anything that would normally catch you off guard.  I see it coming or I’m ready to correct it.

Today I got caught off guard.  I normally pass a specific house within the first block from mine when walking my dogs. Normally nobody is home and the dog is inside the house. I couldn’t tell exactly what kind of dog it was but it looked kind of like a Cockapoo of some sort. I remember it, however, because usually when I walk by the house it FLINGS its entire body towards the window and scratches at the window wanting to get out really bad and NOT in a good way. After having my prior incident of the little dog swearing obscenities at mine, I honestly thought that I wouldn’t encounter too much else.

So I’m walking my dogs and I saw a couple houses up a mom, child and a dog out front. The mom obviously was doing some type of yard work and the child was hanging out, but what I noticed most was the dog which look like a poodle mix of some sort was really focused on the mom and was pretty much attached to her hip.   The dog showed signs of separation anxiety when it came to the mom going somewhere. I continued walking toward the house, and I saw that she saw me so I figured all was good.

Unfortunately I was wrong. She did not take the dog inside with her and the dog was freaking out that she was in the house. This anxiety then caused the dog to panic suddenly, see me out of the corner of his eye and decide to bolt STRAIGHT towards me and my dogs!  The dog had bad intentions and was putting on an extremely ferocious front.  I didn’t expect this because I thought the dog was going to wait until the mom came back outside and not care about us at all.

The entire time the dog was charging towards us I thought to myself please God let the dog be on a tie out or tied to something!  Walking two Weimeraners,  my hands were full without a whole lot of places to go.  Normally if it would’ve just been me I would’ve turned and faced the dog and said “ENOUGH!” really loudly to get it’s attention but being that I had my two dogs I didn’t feel comfortable to do that.

I told my dogs to “Leave it,” which Romeo was a pro at and continue to walk forward while Juliet was going in circles out to my right. I had mine under control and I was very relieved when I saw the dog come to an abrupt stop as it was attached to a tie out.  I paused a second waiting for the worst before realizing the dog was tied up and then after catching my breath continue to walk forward and looked back in disgust shaking my head.

Then, of course, I hit the next block and there was a old black lab off leash just standing in his own in his yard looking at us coming up and you could tell he wanted to greet us.  A bit gun shy I just decided to tell the dogs to leave it and keep walking which he saw we were not going to stop and just let us go.

Dog training Moment:

The main thing to remember with a dog with anxiety is it can lead to protective and aggressive behavior. If it doesn’t want you to leave it side it’s may freak out when it is forced to be by itself. It can either run and hide or can choose the other direction. Anxiety is something that needs to be handled and taken care of from puppy on and if you receive a rescue dog who has separation anxiety, find different ways to work with them and handle it so that it doesn’t become a problem.  Ultimately, your dog is your responsibility and you are responsible for whatever choice that dog makes.

In terms of children, if your children saw somebody walking by your house and decided to run at them and start slapping them you would be IMMEDIATELY go and grab your children, bring them back to the house and have a FIRM discussion with them (if not ground them for a brief period of time) for being so rude.  Why don’t people do this with dogs?  Honestly, I feel some people think dogs have no brain and can’t understand how to handle life.   It’s sad because most dogs are smart and can figure it out if given the chance.

I have to say I am still a bit rattled because of this because when I was a kid really young I had a dog charge me on their lawn while I was going past and bite the back of my leg. I was OK and didn’t get horribly hurt but it scared me. Also, as a child, I was chased by a German Shepherd while riding past the farm on a bike, but was able to continue to go pass without any injury. I have overcome these fears but today was a flashback.

The summary of the story is everyone is responsible for their dogs big or small and everyone is responsible for what their dogs do.   Dogs can be scary and ultimately do quite a bit of damage when afraid, fearful or having anxiety.  If your dog shows any of those signs you MUST consult with a professional trainer or behavioralist to help encourage better behavior.   As for my neighbor down the way they should really just keep the dog inside behind the glass…