June 2015 clients

June came and went quickly, particularly since we had more Day Training/Walk & Train clients this month than any other previous month! It was fun working one-on-one with more client dogs. It’s also a great way for me to practice my actual dog training skills, as coaching programs tend to be more coaching people than the dogs, at times. Thank you so much for all the fun, and for your continued support to entrust me to help you with ALL your training needs!

Click on the below photo icons to go to our June slideshow of client photos, by then clicking on the slideshow button on that webpage. 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. It’s great to be able to share how cute and smart all our clients are, as well as share other great items, on Facebook and other social sites.

Charlie and Olive Mickey Quinn and Finn Mattie Tillie Jasper and Nash Finn Matilda Bella and Ruger Moose Bogey Finley Knox Ziggy Ellie Lola and Betty Beau and Gus Ruby Mae Harper Bandit Darari Kai Nox

A reminder: I will be out of town July 1 – 6, and will return all inquiries after my return. I appreciate your patience!

Thank you, and have a safe and happy Fourth!

Client spotlight: Charlie, Olive and Mickey

Congratulations and a big thank you to our June client spotlight, Charlie the Staffordshire terrier, Olive the cattle dog and Mickey the beagle!

Charlie, Olive and Mickey: Happy Pups! :)

Charlie, Olive and Mickey: Happy Pups! :)

This trio and their parents are pretty awesome. The dedication their parents have to working with each of their unique personalities is a testament to what makes a family a family: lots of love! Each one of these pups is a rescue with a unique background and way of viewing the world. Charlie has had to overcome a few different situations in life, and had a few medical issues that needed clearing up, so he’s getting adjusted to being in a new home here in Denver. Olive was a foster puppy from a rescue group that just had to stay with the family! And Mick was a stray, but has been with the family the longest at 7 years, compared to Olive’s five months and Charlie’s three months.

Juggling a house with two dogs, let alone three, is challenging for anyone, even a trainer at times! The different needs and personalities are all varied and there is a great deal of adjusting when it comes to figuring out how to properly care for all of them. We are still getting to know Olive and Charlie, especially Charlie, as he is older and has been through more experiences than the other two. Charlie finds the world at times overwhelming, and can get very excited and therefore loses focus on his handler at times. He’s been getting a combination of relaxation techniques, appropriate outlets and training in impulse control, and gradual desensitization and counterconditioning to stimuli in his world. In addition to our coaching together, he is also doing some work through our Day Training/Walk & Train program.

Olive is a sassy cattle dog puppy who catches on to just about everything quickly. She is exuberant, to say the least, and loves to nibble on your ears gently! The most important thing Olive has been learning is just to be a little more calm, and understanding how to have good manners in all the basic obedience cues. She brings a lot of fun to each session, and never lets us forget to laugh and enjoy ourselves!

Mickey, the old man of the group, doesn’t need a ton of training but it has been an adjustment to share his home. He’s doing a great job! And who can resist a sweet, happy beagle face? Mick is excelling at socializing with his two new mates.

These three dogs are so much fun to work with, and their parents are likewise a pleasure. Their willingness to do as much as they can to ensure heir wonderful trio is happy and healthy really makes a job like this so much more fulfilling. Thank you for entrusting Delightful Doggies to assist you with your training needs!

Happy Training!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

How to teach your dog to walk politely on leash, part three: working outside and with more distractions

In our third and final installment of teaching a dog how to walk politely on leash, we are going to discuss working with more distractions. We have gone over the basics in part one with talking about how to begin, and working without distractions in your home, and how to get out the door calmly in part two, but now we’re going to discuss what happens once we get out that door!

Our walk & train client, Bogey, is rocking loose leash walking!

Our walk & train client, Bogey, is rocking loose leash walking!

The same basics apply outdoors as they do indoors: you will want to click and treat for eye contact, following beside you, taking turns with you, and being in the standard heel position. If your dog is highly distracted, I will spend time just working on eye contact/attention, and interacting with the dog, before I start moving. I use a TON of praise and feedback. I am always talking to the dog as she is following me, telling her how good she is.

Once I feel we do have a connection, I can begin moving. My goal, in the beginning, is not to make it all the way to the park crowded with volleyball players, geese, squirrels, bicyclists, picnic parties and more…that will come in time. At first, I just want to work on my block, or immediate neighborhood. Depending on the dog and how she is feeling and doing that day, I may make it shorter or longer. The key is to know how successful your dog can be, and not push her too far so that you are frustrated or don’t have her attention. It’s better to opt for a five- to ten-minute walk that is training-oriented rather than a 20-minute walk where you have absolutely no connection with your dog!

Walking up and down the block, I can vary my pace and also vary the turns I take, and when I take them. By doing this, I can teach the dog that walking on a loose lead with me is what is expected. Oftentimes I will use higher-quality reinforcement than what I was using inside; real foods can be more potent as well as affordable. Tiny bits of all-natural meats with no additives work very well.

If you have successfully worked on luring techniques with your dog, you can use these as well. Remember, it’s about following your hand, not a treat! If your dog can’t seem to follow your hand, go back to basics by first baiting your hand with a treat, concealing it, and getting your dog’s nose attached to your hand. Move your hand just a few inches to start, keeping your dog’s nose following it, and then click and give the treat. Do this maybe twice more with a baited hand, then do it without a treat baited in your hand. You will want to wean off the food lure as quickly as you can, and reinforce that it is about following your hand, NOT a treat.

Many dogs find other people, dogs, other types of wildlife, cars, bicycles and any other number of real-life things distracting. Some even find them a little frightening. Pay attention to what your dog finds distracting, and why. If your dog is interested or excited about meeting or chasing such things, use that to your advantage. If I know my dog wants to sniff a spot, I will get a behavior I want and then release him to go sniff as his reward. Likewise, he loves to chase squirrels so I have used this as a way to reinforce coming to me, or even just giving me some eye contact first. By pairing what the dog really wants to do with something you want, you are potently reinforcing what you want, and will have success, rather than seeing it as a burdensome distraction.

If your dog is scared of such objects or other animals/people, you can just feed—no clicking required. All we are doing in this case is creating a positive association with what your dog finds scary. When she sees this scary thing, give a high-value treat. Over repetition, she will understand that this object means something good, and her emotions will begin to change from fear to calm, even happiness. Then you can click and treat for actual behaviors you want.

If your dog pulls, stop walking. If you continue walking, your dog will learn that pulling is way to get where she wants. You can stop moving and wait for her to give you slack, or even call her back, and click once you get that slack, and treat once she’s back at your side. You can change directions once you feel that tension is about to happen, and click and treat for the turn. Another option is to pivot away at a 50-degree angle. By doing these and keeping your hand with the leash close to your belly button, you will be able to teach her how to give in to the leash pressure. Remember, you are always clicking for an actionin this case, the slack of the leash, but the reinforcement (treat) is ALWAYS coming from your heel position (on your left, or right if you prefer, side).

If at any point your dog simply cannot walk politely with you, then you have gone too far and/or long with your training. I see leash walking as a gradual expand of territory; I may walk a dog for the first day or two in the house and their yard without distraction to make it very strong before I even try to go out the door, and after I’ve taught her impulse control at the door. Keeping a high rate of reinforcement each time you get farther is important, as well as not grouping too much criteria together. If your dog is new and you take her to a popular park or hiking trail right away, it can be a setup for failure rather than success. Take the time and build your dog’s ability gradually. Above all, be patient and connected with your dog.

We love teaching leash skills and addressing problems like leash reactivity and over-excitement on leash, so contact us for more help!

(And don’t forget to check out parts one and two of this blog series on loose leash walking!)

Thank you and happy training,
Owner, Delightful Doggies

May 2015 clients

We’ve had an awesome May, despite the continued rain. Thank you to all of those who have worked so hard with us on improving your relationships and training goals with your dogs!

Check out May’s client photo slideshow by clicking on the below photo icons and clicking on the slideshow button. You can see even more photos and slideshows on our Flickr site, and don’t forget that we also have a lot more photos and other great content on our Facebook page. We hope to interact with you more there!

Mattie Bella Ruger Gretel Louie Tofu Roxy Nash and Jasper Jelly Charlie Mick Olive Harper and Bandit Eleanor Tillie Finn Betty and Lola Quinn and Finn Tucker Porter and KC Ollie

Thank you,
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Client of the month: Mattie the Labrador mix

Mattie looks lovely among the flowers in our Walk & Train session

Mattie looks lovely among the flowers in our Walk & Train session

Congratulations to our May client spotlight, Mattie the Labrador retriever mix!

Mattie is a recent adoptee from the Denver Dumb Friends League. She has been working on learning how to greet without jumping (sitting is proving to be a better option!) as well as how to walk on a loose leash, regardless of distractions, in our Day Training / Walk & Train program. She’s a quick learner and loves to please, which makes training a lot of fun as well as productive!

The most difficult part of Walk & Train sessions is when squirrels show up! They are very exciting and make it challenging for Mattie to remember to check in with her handler. With practice and patience, she is learning how to give better attention, regardless of the distraction, and it helps that cheese is very motivating, too!

Mattie has a very sweet disposition and really enjoys lots of attention, so giving her attention as a reward after getting check-ins on walks has proven to also be very motivating. Allowing sniffs and the ability to go look at the squirrels is also a powerful way to reinforce giving attention and maintaining a loose leash too.

While Mattie still has a bit of work to do before she can master an environment like Washington Park on weekends, she is well on the way to showing how important consistent training is to really enjoy nice walks together. We appreciate her and her father for putting in the time and effort to teach her what she needs to know in order to be successful in her new home. Thank you for choosing Delightful Doggies! We love working with you.

Feel free to be in contact about how our Day Training / Walk & Train program can benefit your training goals,
Owner, Delightful Doggies

How to teach your dog to walk politely on leash, part two: getting out the door calmly

In my first installment on leash manners, I discussed the very basics of how to teach loose leash walking, and practicing this within your home before trying outdoors, where many types of distractions await. Far too often, people expect a great deal from their dogs but get frustrated easily once that long walk to the park with lots of joggers, picnicking parties, other dogs, squirrels, goose poop and more await. By practicing indoors first, you are going to have an easier time instilling the habits you want: proper heel position, eye contact, being able to follow you and take turns, and have slack on the leash.

Once you do have more practice, you will want to eventually get outside to practice, but before even crossing that doorway out, many people who have very distracted or excited dogs will be frustrated immediately because of their dog’s tendency to just bolt out the front door. This has to be addressed, because if your dog is to excited and not paying attention to you from this point, it’s even more difficult to have the attention you want and no pulling on walks as you get out the door with him!

Lola does a great job practicing waiting at the front door with mom

Lola does a great job practicing waiting at the front door with mom

Practicing waiting at the door is super-important. It’s not about “I’m alpha and have to go out the door before you!” It’s really about getting that connection with your dog and having attention, as well as a safe experience. Dogs who bolt out of doors may be able to snap their leash, or may jerky you so that you drop the leash, and then they risk running across the street where they can be hit by a car, or end up lost as they run away. It’s about impulse control and safety, not about dominance!

As with teaching any other cue to your dog, you will want to start this one at an easier level. Starting with the front door, or the door that leads to the backyard or the garage or anywhere else that can signal a fun outing will be far more challenging than practicing at the bathroom, bedroom or other doors inside your home. Using one of these “unexciting” doors, place your dog while on leash in a sit and say, “wait.” Count to five seconds, then click and treat. Repeat this one more time and then start moving your hand toward the door. Click and treat for the wait.

Remember to add a release cue from the sit if you want to take a break at any time during this process, or if your dog seems like he will want to break the sit. You can praise him after you release him so he understands the release cue is his signal for breaking the sit and/or taking a break. A sit, regardless of adding a cue like wait or stay, is important to maintain until you release the dog!

Eventually in the process you will touch the doorknob, turn it, open the door slightly, and gradually get it all the way open, and even taking a step through it, before releasing your dog to join you. You can vary the difficulty level so it’s just not always getting harder and harder, which will make it less stressful for the dog. Take breaks as you need and make your progress match what your dog is capable of doing.

The entire process is shaping the eventual end behavior: a wait at a door, regardless of it being open or closed, and whether or not you are with your dog or already on the other side, to get a release cue from you to join you. I use “wait” in this scenario instead of a “stay” because a stay means you need to come back to the dog and release him. In this scenario, I am releasing the dog to come join me, or I could even use a loose leash walking cue like “let’s go” if I prefer. A stay should always mean I come back to release you; a wait is more like, pause here a moment and then I’ll either release you or give you another cue.

Once you have practiced at less exciting doors, you can move to the exciting ones. Remember to break it down and reinforce the “wait” at all stages: no advancement to the door, a hand advancing to the doorknob, touching the doorknob, turning the doorknob, gradually opening the door little bits at a time, and then you crossing through the door gradually before releasing. If at any point your dog cannot maintain the stay, try an easier step and build from there, or do an easier step and take a break. You should always end training when the dog is doing well, and shorter sessions are usually better. Don’t be greedy! You don’t want to get frustrated, and you want training to be fun for both of you.

In my next installment, we’ll discuss how to work with walking outdoors and adding more distractions. :)

(And don’t forget to check out part one of this blog series on loose leash walking, if you haven’t already!)

Thank you for reading and happy training!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

April 2015 clients

April was a tricky month with the spring weather but we all made it through! Rain isn’t always conducive to our outdoor sessions but we certainly appreciate everyone’s flexibility in dealing with it, the delays it can bring at times, and having a good attitude about working consistently with the training no matter what happens. We have the best clients! Thank you!

Check out April’s client photo slideshow by clicking on the below photo icons. You can see even more photos and slideshows on our Flickr site, and don’t forget that we also have a lot more photos and other great content on our Facebook page. We hope to interact with you more there!

Louie Hobbes Finn Harper and Bandit Betty Lola Zoey Lamb Sara Lupo Stella Raoul Oliver Zooey and Roxy Luca Moose KC Porter Jane Gruner <Tillie Jelly Gretel and Fitz Ruger and Bella Jasper and Nash Roxy

Also appreciated but not pictured: Charley aka “Chuck Norris” the Labrador retriever.

Thank you,

Client of the month: Louie the cockapoo

Louie poses with his favorite ball

Louie poses with his favorite ball

Congratulations to Louie the cockapoo, our April client spotlight!

Louie is a delightful young gentleman who has learned the value of a nice “sit” and “down.” He has been enjoying our Delightful Doggy Finishing School program, where he and his parents are excelling in the art of clicker training!

Smart as a whip, Louie catches on very quickly to all the cues we’ve covered so far, and enjoys the fun atmosphere positive reinforcement-based training provides. He gets not only delicious treats when he learns new things, but great praise and attention, and awesome playtime. He’s quite the dashing gentleman!

We are so happy to be part of the fun with Louie and his parents, and are so inspired by how much they love and interact with each other. It’s so fulfilling to spend weekly time with them and see how much they learn together.

Thank you for choosing Delightful Doggies to help you along your training path!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

How to teach your dog to walk politely on leash, part one

Leash walking is one the of the most-requested training topics I address with clients. Whether they have a new puppy and it’s a foreign concept, or an older dog who pulls incessantly, it is a very important part of having a great relationship with your dog. If you are frustrated, hurt, or otherwise not having a good time with your dog on walks, it can really impact your quality of life together, so I’ve decided to write a series on it!

Hobbes and his pops practice loose leash walking

Hobbes and his pops practice loose leash walking

When I begin teaching people how to walk their dogs on leash, we always start, as with training any cue, in an environment that has less distractions and where we can have success. Most clients can’t wait to go to fun parks where all kinds of distractions await, or on hiking trails that have such amazing smells, and they then get frustrated because their dog cannot concentrate on them or walking on a loose leash at all. From the start, there is stress and frustration, and a real need to start in a very easy environment, so we begin in the home.

If the dog is excited from the moment you pick up a leash, we have to also address that excitement first, as it can impact the dog’s ability to be calm and learn how to be on the leash. If the dog bites at the leash and is too playful or excited, it’s best to address these items and reward calm. If your dog knows how to sit, ask him to sit before you put on the leash. If that is too much, start with a calm stand. I wrote a blog a while ago on how to get puppies to stop biting on the leash, which you can read here, and there is a wonderful video from the incomparable Emily Larlham on how to teach puppy to be calm for the leash.

How do you hold your equipment? We advise, if you are walking your dog on the traditional left heel position, to hold your leash handle and clicker in your right hand so you can easily treat your dog with your left hand, as he’s on your left side. You can reverse this if you wish to walk him on the right. It’s your decision but picking one side and sticking with it will help make your experience better, as well as less confusing for the dog. You will be able to take turns easier and won’t have to worry about tripping over your dog if he tends to switch sides. Sometimes using a hands-free leash or attaching your leash to your belt with a carabiner can be a good way, especially if you don’t have a bad back and have a dog that doesn’t pull/isn’t too strong. If you feel it’s too hard to hold a clicker, you can always use a verbal marker, such as “YES” or “GOOD” to mark behavior instead.

When you do get the dog on a leash, I will reward for eye contact and proper position to start. If I want to walk my dog on the left side in a normal heel position, I will either wait for him to come to that side, and click and treat when he does, or I may lure him with a baited hand. By concealing a smelly piece of food or treat in my hand, I get his nose “attached” to it, and then slowly move my hand so he follows it to the correct position, and then click when he gets there, and give him the treat. If you do use luring techniques, be sure to fade the food quickly–it should be about following your hand–so use a treat only a few times, then lure without the treat. Your dog will understand quickly that following your hand is rewarding and this will often be a faster way to get him to follow you.

Before you start moving, ensure you are getting good eye contact by clicking and treating a few times for this. When I am ready to move, I say, “Let’s go,” and take a step forward, clicking and treating for the dog following beside me. I maintain what we call a “high rate of reinforcement” in the beginning: I click and treat every one to two steps. I practice taking turns and I click and treat for every turn the dog makes with me. I also vary my speed and directions of the turns I take. As the dog becomes proficient, I can then click and treat less, and give more praise and other reinforcement, like petting or even tugging on a toy, instead of always using food.

As you practice in the home, you can use hallways as a great way to reinforce a heel position (meaning your dog is walking with his shoulder flank to your thigh–walking right beside you). By positioning your dog between you and a wall, or even a fence or other similar barrier (even the side of a building), he will not be able to get to the end of the leash as easily and you can reinforce that heel position as you move along it.

Now–before you get out the door, we should go over some impulse control about making it out the door, which will be in our next blog. If your dog dashes out the door, you’re not only setting him up for not having the best attention on you, but it can also be a safety concern. Check out how to work on this in part two of this blog series, and then check out part three on going outside and adding more distractions.

Thank you for reading and feel free to contact me with any questions!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Group meetup set for April 26!

Jasper, Jasper and Devon work on giving attention together

Jasper, Jasper and Devon work on giving attention together

We are very excited to announce the first group meetup session, scheduled for April 26 at Rosedale/Harvard Gulch Parks!

We will be meeting at 9:30a and working until approximately 11a in the parks, working on:

  • Loose leash walking skills
  • Giving attention/eye contact
  • Harnessing real-life rewards (squirrels, smells, the walk itself)
  • Working with distractions
  • How to properly greet other dogs on-leash

Please note that this group meetup is for dogs who are comfortable with other dogs and people, and for basic obedience/manners skills, not as a way to modify severe behavior issues.

If you are interested in joining us, preregistration is required! Email laura@delightfuldoggies.com to ensure your space. More details about the meetup are here on our Group Meetups page.

Thank you! I am really looking forward to all the fun we will have together,
Owner, Delightful Doggies