November client spotlight: Hudson the Australian shepherd

Congratulations to our November client spotlight, Hudson the Australian shepherd!

Hudson is one smart, charming goofball!

Hudson is one smart, charming goofball!

Hudson is a fun-loving guy who loves Day Training with us! We’ve been able to work on loose leash walking, leave it and come when called skills, and are working on other items like not jumping (he’s so excited!) on visitors and not bolting through the door. He is also having fun learning a few tricks too, like sit pretty and roll over. He’s getting lots of compliments now on his leash walking, and doesn’t react anymore when scary workmen or strange dogs are around.

A brilliant Aussie, he learns quickly and enthusiastically. His sister, Jane, is sometimes a little jealous of all the attention she gets so sometimes she, and even brother Jag, will accompany us in training. This allows us to all learn how to work together and control impulses better in these more distracting scenarios.

We really appreciate that Hudson’s parents contacted us for their training needs. It’s been a blast working with him and having lots of fun doing it! And we hope he has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday excursion, as he’s going on a road trip. We wish he and his family happiness and safety on their journey, and look forward to seeing more of them again in December. :)

Thank you!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

My recipe for successful dog training

There are many different methods in dog training. Each has its own pros and cons, and all trainers are individuals who are influenced by their education and hands-on experience. I wanted to take a few moments today to tell you a little more about my “recipe” for successful dog training; here are all my ingredients!

Having a loving moment with Charlie after a Walk & Train session

Having a loving moment with Charlie after a Walk & Train session

  1. Lots of love. If I don’t genuinely care for the dog (or his people!), then I won’t be able to connect with him to successfully teach him what I want him to know. This may sound a little hokey, but it’s a key ingredient. I think a high degree of my success is because I am genuine in the love and care of what I do, and for whom. The dogs—and people—can definitely pick up on it, and it sets the tone for everything else.
  2. Respect and trust. Likewise, if I don’t have respect for those with whom I’m working and build a trusting relationship, all will fall apart. One of the main reasons I use positive reinforcement heavily is because it builds trust. The more trust I build, the more my clients will comply with what is needed to be done to meet goals. The more trust I build, the more the dog will be motivated to work with me, and make the right choices. Respect and choice should be given and received from all.
  3. Proper management. A key element in successful training is management; if I allow the dog to continue with behaviors that aren’t desired, then they’re getting practice at getting better at them—and keeping them! If I don’t address criteria properly and my dog gets too overwhelmed, excited, anxious or stressed, then I will also have a problem teaching the dog what I want him to learn. Making sure I have the right setup and management plan in place is crucial to the success of everything else!
  4. Addressing emotions as well as behavior. If the dog with whom I’m working cannot relax, or is in a state of overarousal, excitement, fear or anxiety, then he cannot think to be able to offer behaviors I want. I may need to address this by teaching relaxation techniques, giving supplements, calming tools or medication if appropriate, and doing appropriate desensitization and counterconditioning to teach the dog that whatever it finds overwhelming is awesome. If I address the dog’s emotional state and turn it from something like fear into happiness, then I have opened the door to building trust as well as helping the dog return to a thinking state of mind, and reinforce behaviors I want instead of having a meltdown that frustrates and stresses all involved.
  5. Proper criteria. If a dog is being asked to sit in a very exciting environment (such as a popular, crowded park on a weekend) after practicing at home with no distractions, then I’ve failed. I have set the dog up to fail and will only frustrate him and the client, as I’ve gone from basic arithmetic to calculus! It’s important to know where the level of learning currently is, and how to build on it gradually for for continued success. Varying the difficulty, rather than making it constantly harder and harder, is also important—I make criteria easier at times, not just constantly more challenging. Doing this will make learning less stressful, more fun and faster for the dog.
  6. Lots of reinforcement for behaviors I want! It is so very important to be generous with reinforcement, especially when the dog is learning something new, is facing something particularly challenging, and when the dog is doing a great job. Good training has to have balance in this way; if I am too stingy, the dog may lose interest and it may all fall apart, or he may get frustrated because I’m not in tune with the great job he’s doing. You can always lessen reinforcement over time and repetition, and continued good performance, but it’s crucial to balance this with your criteria and the dog’s ability. I believe in being realistic and generous.
  7. Avoiding punishment, particularly physical corrections. Punishment doesn’t teach a dog what to do; it only suppresses behaviors we don’t want. If we properly manage, we won’t need to correct, and if we adequately set criteria, address emotions, and reinforce desired behaviors, it won’t be necessary. I’m not saying I’m perfect—I am human and have definitely lost my cool and yelled at my own dogs, or have been frustrated–but it is never okay to physically harm a dog. It may be a quick fix, but it can damage your trust and at worst, make the dog feel worse and therefore behave worse. There are too many pitfalls to punishment to have them in my toolbox, which is why I do not use electronic/static/shock collars and devices, prong collars or choke chains, or any tool that will apply pressure to a dog’s body or take away his choice. And while some tools may not physically hurt or damage a dog, psychologically it could be a whole other story, and set back your training instead of move it forward. I highly recommend reading the AVSAB’s statement on punishment for more about this.

I hope my recipe helps you better understand who I am as a trainer, and where my emphasis is. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Happy training!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

October 2015 clients

October was a beautiful and wonderful month filled with a lot of progress for our clients. We have really enjoyed working with all of you, and appreciate your support by having Delightful Doggies as your trusted trainer!

Click on the below photo icons to see all the great photos of our fun for October. You can also view it in a slideshow format after clicking on the slideshow button on that webpage (top right computer/play icon). There are more photos and slideshows on our Flickr site, as well as a lot more photos, videos and other great content on our Facebook page, so join us there, too!

Chief Rubble Hildy Allie Yogi Bear Mickey and Olive Charlie Sasha Kooka Purdy and Tula Fleetwood Ruby Harley Max Beemer and Gracie BG and Frank Rocko Ivory Sookie and Rufus Bear Loo Chewie Avery Hudson Addi and Gracie Stewie

Thank you, and Happy Halloween!

October client spotlight: Chief the Boston terrier

Congratulations to our October client spotlight, Chief the Boston terrier!

Chief looks debonair in his jacket

Chief looks debonair in his jacket!

Chief is enrolled in our Day Training/Walk & Train program to hone his leash walking skills so he can better accompany his father on outings. He is a sweet, mellow guy who enjoys working for a variety of yummy items, such as turkey hot dogs, Ziwi Peak venison food, salmon jerky, honey ham and Red Barn chicken liver food. He also likes to sniff, so he is rewarded regularly with short stops to check out the scents in the neighborhood!

One of our favorite things about Chief is that he is so Zen. His relaxed temperament really proves not only advantageous for his family, but for our long work days! It’s nice to slow down pace with him and hang in between rounds of training. :)

We appreciate the hard work Chief is doing for us in sessions to help him be the best service dog he can be, and we also appreciate his parents and his father’s service to this country. It’s a delight working with all of them, and we’re grateful for their confidence in us!

Thank you,
Owner, Delightful Doggies

What makes someone a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist?

This question is an open-ended one and depending on who you ask, it could have many different answers. Traditionally in dog training, trainers became trainers by apprenticing with experienced trainers. In today’s world, there are many different schools, online programs, certification programs and pathways, which is great, but also a bit confounding, especially if you’re new to the field or the average consumer.

Since training and animal behavior are unregulated fields, there are no laws about who can call themselves by these terms, or set up shop. I’ve personally had many mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am glad I don’t have to worry about a bureaucracy to do what I do, but on the other hand, I definitely am concerned about charlatans who are taking money for outdated techniques, if they have techniques at all. It’s definitely a double-edged sword, so I thought I’d write a bit about the labels those in our industry use, and how to get past the marketing puff to understand professionals you may want to hire—or run away from!

Sasha focuses on mom during a training session

Sasha focuses on mom during a training session

First things first, let’s clarify differences between trainers and behaviorists.

Dog trainers are focused on training skills with a dog. Their proficiency can vary—some trainers may concentrate on teaching obedience and manners alone, others may delve into behavior modification, particularly for commonplace behavior problems, while others may concentrate on sporting or other activities (agility, herding, gun dog/hunting, nose work or scent detection, etc.). Their level of education and experience can also widely vary. See this information from the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Behaviorists are those who deal with more complex behavior issues, and use fundamental scientific principles to address these problems. Applied animal behaviorists that are certified have usually undergone many years of formal education (usually PhD level), done internships and have undergone many hours of hands-on experience. See this information from the Animal Behavior Society.

I have to admit I have been frustrated numerous times at how overused the term “behaviorist” has become. One of my more recent experiences was especially disheartening; on a networking group, a person had posted about her rescue and as I went to research her site, I saw she claimed herself to be CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed, a certification given by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, or CCPDT) as well as CAAB (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, a certification given by the Animal Behavior Society). There are very few CAABs and I thought I knew of all those within my own state, so I delved more and found her claims to be fraudulent. She didn’t hold–nor had she ever held–certifications to these end. It is very easy to look up these sites and find who is certified. After a phone call from one of the organization’s people in charge, she quickly removed these qualifications from her site, and simply “grew up with dogs and has worked with them all her life…”

It’s maddening to me that people will fraudulently misrepresent themselves on this level, but even if someone doesn’t claim actual certifications, they will still throw around words and labels to market themselves. My purpose in writing this is to help more of the general public understand how easy it is to be misled, especially since there are no regulations. While it is not illegal for anyone to call themselves a behaviorist, I find it highly unethical that people are using this term so loosely.

As a consumer, it’s important to ask questions. Anyone can write marketing material that claims they are “positive reinforcement only” or teach dogs in their own “natural way.” It’s important that consumers ask them what their actual techniques and methods are. How do they address problem behaviors? What equipment will they use or recommend? Does it teach the dog what to do, or does it only punish behavior? What are their qualifications? Do they hold certifications? Have they apprenticed with other trainers?

The more questions are asked, the more you will learn about the trainer and if s/he is the best fit for you and your dog. We always recommend trainers who take a gentle approach to teaching a dog confidence and skills to be happy and make the right decisions, rather than use harsh, punitive-based techniques. This article from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) is great at giving pointers on choosing an adequate trainer.

We are always happy to help you with your training, or provide quality referrals!

Thank you,
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Ditch the food bowl for these awesome toys

Want an easy way to amuse your dog, keep him out of mischief, add more fun to his life, and feed him, all at the same time?

Enrichment and puzzle toys are some of my favorites about which to teach clients. Since I’m a dog geek, I have a ton of these that clients can try out with their own dogs before purchasing. It’s a lot of fun watching how different dogs have their own preferences, and ways of interacting. I advocate using these to feed your dogs instead of a regular bowl! If you use these, you’re not only giving your dog the meals he needs–you’re also giving him an outlet that can prevent many boredom-based problem behaviors! Licking, chewing and sniffing at these toys can also help him relax. The mental energy he will expend will also help tire him out and make him feel overall more calm.

There is no shortage of toys out there on the market, so I’ve compiled a listing of my favorites here. Also, keep in mind these guidelines to ensure safety and fun!

  • Always choose a toy that is appropriate in size and strength for your dog. Some are more avid chewers than others, and some find some toys more interesting to “kill” than others. Stuffed toys can be confusing if you have human children and don’t want the dog to get their toys so it may be best to not give these toys to some dogs. Likewise, these can be destroyed and possibly ingested, as can rope toys or tennis balls. Whenever you give your dog a new toy, ALWAYS supervise him to ensure he won’t get hurt.
  • By and large, choosing toys that are more durable (made of plastics or adequate rubber) are much more safe and harder to tear apart and ingest. Still, some dogs can and will do this. ALWAYS take away these objects if they may cause problems while you are unable to supervise. Better safe than sorry (and no one wants a surgical vet bill)!
  • Too many people give toys to their dogs and don’t engage with them or make it exciting. Before giving your dog a toy, keep it to yourself. Say to him, “What do I have, Fido?” and show him the toy but keep it, engage with it, make it very exciting, and then give it to him. Building excitement can help him engage with the toy.
  • Also, keep in mind the level of your dog’s ability to engage with these toys. Some dogs are less confident in exploring new items in the environment, so choose simpler toys first, and/or make the level of the toy easier when you first give it, as opposed to harder. If it’s too hard, it won’t be fun but frustrating. Help your dog achieve easier levels of play, then harder levels, to build confidence and lessen frustration.

And now, here are some of my favorites!


01Kong Toys02Kong Wobbler  03Kong Genius 04Kong Quest

KONG toys are some of the least-destructible and ALWAYS on the top of our go-to list. You can fill the classic original Kong with a variety of treats and stuffing, freeze them for added duration and to soothe teething puppy teeth. You can even use these to acclimate dogs to their crates; by feeding a string or piece of metal through the large end of the Kong, tie a knot or affix the metal to latch on the small hole end. Then you can stuff, freeze, etc., and then attach it to the back of the crate for the dog to find. Once inside, he will not be able to take it out, and you can gradually close the crate door. The Kong Wobbler is especially fun for those active dogs that love to bat stuff around! The Genius and Quest toys are also great alternatives to change it up.


01WPToppl-dog-treat-toy-group_0 02WPtizzi-dog-toy-group-2 03WPtux_family 04WPhurley_family 05WPbumi-dog-tug-toy-group 06WPjive_family

WestPaw Design Zogoflex Dog Toys are guaranteed durable, and there are many styles from which to choose. If your dog loves retrieving, playing tug, finding treats or any combination thereof, this line offers it all. One of our favorites is the Toppl Treat Toy (top L). There are little fingers inside the toy, as well as a hole on the side, so treats/food can be smeared or placed inside in a variety of ways. The small Toppl also fits into the larger one for added fun challenges!


Smart IQ Ball

This is my favorite treat-dispensing ball toy. You can unscrew the ball so there are two halves—the bottom half can be filled with treats, and you can then adjust the hole out of which they fall to be easier/more difficult. The top half can also store more treats and has another hole. Two layers of absolute wonderful fun for all puppies who love to chase balls around and get yummies for it!


PS01Barnacle PS02BouncyBone PS03KibbleNibble PS04SquirrelDude PS05TwistNTreat PS06Tug-a-Jug

PetSafe (formerly Premier) makes a lot of treat-dispensing products that make for great enrichment for your pup. There are many varieties; from top left to bottom right: The barnacle has three different holders of treats and you can adjust the difficulty level by taking out some of the inside plastic parts that keep the treats inside. The bouncy bone is one of my dogs’ very favorites—the jerky that fits on either side of the ball can be fitted quite snuggly and takes a while to completely get torn out and consumed. The kibble nibble is somewhat similar to a wobbler/other ball-like toys. The squirrel dude is similar to a regular Kong toy. The tug-a-jug requires the dog pull on the rope to get treats out, and the twist-n-treat can be adjusted in height to release treats more easily or more hard!


Zanies01 Funny Farm Interactive Puzzle Zanies04 Plastic Interactive Puzzle Toy Zanies03 Wood Interactive Puzzle Toy Zanies02 Jack & Ball

Zanies makes a variety of toys, including awesome treat-dispensing toys and puzzles. From L to R above: The funny farm puzzle makes cool noises as your dog moves pieces around to get treats; the jack and ball is also fillable with treats and the ball can actually come off for separate fun. The wood and plastic puzzle toys also offer a variety of fun ways to get treats!


Ottosson Dog Brick Ottosson Dog Casino Ottosson Dog Maze  Ottosson Dog Pyramid Ottosson Dog Tornado  Ottosson Dog Twister Ottosson Dog Miracle

Nina Ottosson makes a variety of puzzle toys ranked in level of difficulty. They come with training DVDs so you can better introduce them to your dog. Start with easier puzzles before moving up to more difficult toys. Some dogs may pick up more quickly than others, and some may need encouragement to continue. Others may need for you to make the toy easier before harder; for instance, the “Dog Miracle Puzzle” (last photo) has a lot of pieces, but in the beginning, you may only want to use one or two to start. Your dog will set the pace!

Have fun!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

September 2015 clients

It’s been an amazing September, and we’re really excited for October! Delightful Doggies continues to grow and we’ll be announcing some new offers and opportunities through the end of this year. Your continued support and word-of-mouth has helped make it happen. Thank you so much for being a Delightful Doggies client!

You can click on the below photo icons to see all the great moments we shared in September, and view it in a slideshow format after clicking on the slideshow button on that webpage (top right computer/play icon). You can see even more photos and slideshows on our Flickr site, as well as a lot more photos and other great content on our Facebook page.

Allie Barbie Huckleberry Sasha Tucker Avery Dieter Jackson Patti Grace Beemer Gracie Oliver Olive and Mickey Charlie Ivory Purdy Tula Sookie Ruffus Kai Yogi Bear Loo Hildy Harley, Ruby and Max Kooka

Thank you, and Happy Training!

September client spotlight: Allie the Bernese Mountain Dog

Allie demonstrates the famous

Allie demonstrates the famous “Berner lean!”

Congratulations to our September client spotlight, Allie the Bernese Mountain Dog!

Before living in her current home, Allie was out in the countryside with a Great Pyrenees, roaming off-leash and without very much human contact. Now that she lives in an urban environment, she’s had a great deal of adjusting to do! It hasn’t been easy but with her mother’s love and commitment to training, she is starting to get better at learning what life is all about.

Allie has been learning how to be more calm and confident in her interactions with new people. Through the power of cheese, we have become great friends and have a base of trust so that we can teach her many wonderful things, like how to do nose work games, playing Look At That, how to walk politely on a loose leash and Freedom harness, and pattern games to refocus on mom when things become overwhelming. Touch exercises and calming tools and protocols are also helping Allie in the process.

We are so happy for the progress Allie and her mother have achieved so far, and looking forward to much more! We’ve gone from full-0n nervous breakdowns when I come over to getting hugs and excited, rather than fearful, barking, in just a few sessions. :) Thank you for entrusting us to help build confidence, trust and skills together that will make life even more beautiful than it is!

Happy Training,
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Join me for the Summerset Festival’s FunDay for Dogs!

I’ll be exhibiting at the 2015 Summerset Festival’s “FunDay for Dogs” on Sunday, September 20 at Littleton’s Clement Park, 10a – 4p. Please come out and have some fun with us!

Jasper and I hope to see you at FunDay for Dogs

Jasper and I hope to see you at FunDay for Dogs

My booth will feature dog enrichment toys and activities, dog training and behavior information, awesome dog treat giveaways, and a chance to win a FREE training consult with me! In addition, I’ll be happy to answer any and all of your dog training and behavior questions. And my wonderful and faithful companion/assistant, Jasper, will be there to say hi!

I hope to see you there!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Group meetup set for Sept. 13

It’s been a long time coming, our first-ever group meetup!11403196_884579748281141_6458530711471922271_n

We’ll be meeting at Rosedale Park in south Denver at 12:30p on Sunday, September 13 to practice loose leash walking skills, and how to deal with distractions and getting your dog’s attention.

Limited space and preregistration is required–don’t miss out on the fun!–for more details, check out our group meetups page and email me at to sign up.

Thanks, and Happy Training!
Owner, Delightful Doggies


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