Sunday, May 22, 2022

I’d Like A Dog With Power Steering, Please

 How much training does your dog need? Well, that’s really up to you. Some just want a dog that they can live with, will Sit, and can go for a walk. Others take their dogs lots of places, or live a busy lifestyle that might include multiple people, places and animals. Then there are those who need even more, maybe because they need their dog to do a job, or to hunt or hike off leash or be a therapy dog.

What I want is a dog with “power steering.” That’s a dog that is now so easy to live with, able to go anywhere, and do anything I need them to do. I want to get to a level where living with them is effortless. I remember years ago driving an old 1950’s pickup truck, we called it “Old Red”, that had been painted with red house paint, had worn out seats, worn out brakes, had a 2 speed stick shift and manual steering. Man, that was a fun truck. It wasn’t safe beyond about 50 mph, and even then it wasn’t really that safe. It was OK for a teenager to drive around neighborhoods, but it wasn’t something you’d really want to rely on. Without power steering, it was almost impossible to turn the front wheels without using a lot of muscle unless the vehicle was rolling. My “real” car was a new Honda. It had power steering. Big difference... [MORE

Thursday, February 17, 2022

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Dog Training Lessons

 There are many approaches to puppy and dog training. Some are very mechanical and impersonal. That’s not how I work or what I recommend. My approach is care based and family centered.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Dog Training And Being The Grey Man

 In the self defense community, there is the concept of being the “grey man”. What is a grey man and how might that apply to you and your dog? Being a grey man is acting and looking in a manner that tends to make you unnoticed. It means to go about in public such that you don’t draw attention to yourself or your dog. How might that be of benefit to you and your dog?

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Dog Training To Remove Uncertainty

I am sometimes asked, “how much training does my dog need?” Here’s my answer in a nutshell: as much as it takes for the situations you anticipate your dog will encounter, until you and your dog can do those skills even under stress, to a level of automaticity. Until you’re at that level, then you and your dog need more lessons, or more practice, or both.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Good Dog Handling Is A Craft

 What does it mean to be a good dog handler/ owner? You are someone who is skilled at managing your dog in any environment that you might reasonably find yourself. You have developed a useful craft, you are skilled at managing your own dog... 

Friday, February 26, 2021



Well, it’s been about a year since COVID-19 popped up out of nowhere. A lot has changed over that period of time. Here are some of my observations…


THE COVID VIRUS: I don’t think science understands this pandemic or disease. We are dealing with it, but it is a very strange thing, weird symptoms, weird outcomes. No big deal for some, deadly for others. A disruptive plague that is reshaping the entire world. I think the best thing you can do is to make sure you do those things that obviously put you in the best position if you get infected: proper sleep, diet, hygiene, habits, exercise, etc. I’m not convinced that the vaccines will be the end of this. We may be living abnormally for a very long time. It will mutate and we don’t know the long term consequences of what we are doing.


ONLINE TRAINING. I have done, and have seen others do, more online dog training over the past year. I did online lessons all through the quarantine. It has it’s place in the dog training world. I can do a lot of things for a student, however, some things are better done in person. Just like you can’t train someone to fly an airplane by watching videos, you can’t train a person and a dog to do everything possible using online lessons. I’d say I was able to do about 75% of the lesson topics using online resources. But the other 25% need me to be there to work directly with the owner and the dog. It was good in the short run, and I am still available to do online lessons, but I prefer to see the dog and students personally. Fortunately, I’ve been working steadily all along.


SOCIALIZATION PROBLEMS: Our society has experienced a traumatic shift in how we relate to other people socially. Even today, parks that used to be filled with families and activities are mostly empty. Dogs aren’t being socialized as much with other dogs or people. People are on edge, I see it in how aggressively people drive around town. Students tell me how their kids are really suffering, and they whisper about how they are hearing about childhood suicides among their kids friends. People are home a lot more. Family members are fighting, and many aren’t talking with one another. The trailheads are packed on the weekends.


Even I find myself feeling somewhat empty, like something is missing, and I have to remind myself that we are living in strange times. I don’t spend time with friends any more. I have doubled down on some things, such as I now am exercising every day. On the other hand, until about a week ago, I didn’t realize I had let my nutritional intake become unhealthy. I found out after a routine blood test, so I have to get back to what I know is better. The bad eating somehow just slipped in there. I find myself watching a lot more TV and spending even more time on the internet to kill time. To adapt to all of this, I decided around the end of 2020 to focus my mind on work. I don’t get much recreation, and I missed my annual vacation last year. I also find that when I do talk with people, I tend to be too talkative, and I have to make sure that doesn’t happen during my lessons. I also picked up my clarinet and started playing it again. I’m also finding an increased interest in studying outdoor things, such as hiking, plants, animals, nature and such. I find comfort and calmness through regular prayer. God will see us through, will see me through.


THE POPULATION SHIFT: It is amazing me how the major cities across the US are emptying out, and how many are relocating here in Phoenix. I wonder how that is all going to play out. Everyone seems to have gotten a dog, as well. People are moving to the suburbs for a different type of lifestyle. I wonder how that is going to affect our pets. I just don’t know right now. I don’t see more dogs in public, however. It is definitely getting harder to find an apartment to rent with a pet. It is a sellers market. Phoenix is prospering, so that has been good for those who are already here and established. A lot of new money and talent is arriving every day, and that will transform Phoenix into a major power center. I’m glad I’m here. Phoenix isn’t for everyone, but it has been good for me.


THE DEATH OF ANIMAL RESCUE: Animal rescue has been decimated by this pandemic. I hear rumors of things. There’s no money for big ideas. The established rescues are still out there and operating, but I don’t think there are as many pets being saved, and I wonder what we will find when we look back and tally up the damage.


EVERYTHING IS POLITICS: I’m fed up with politics, aren’t you? Social media companies aren’t making things better. They are making things worse. Instead of focusing on what is important, we are all fighting with one another in some kind of cold Cold War. Things are not OK out there. Things are not running smoothly and I think we are all avoiding recognizing what is happening. I think we are all wondering what new plague is coming our way. And you can’t joke about it, since even gallows humor will get you punished by social media. There doesn’t seem to be a safety valve to let off steam socially. I worry about our world, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Dog politics have been put inside the Cone Of Silence. My guess is that bad actors are getting away with bad actions and lips are sealed. I worry about the fate of our nation, there are dark clouds on the horizon.


THE ECONOMY: Our economy isn’t healthy. During the Great Recession, thousands of pets were surrendered to animal control and were slaughtered. They say that the real unemployment rate is 10%, and that 50% of small businesses will have been wiped out over the past year. The government can’t keep printing money and doing business as usual. You can’t escape the laws of economics. The eviction and foreclosure moratoria are about to be lifted, and I wonder if we will see a repeat of the dog holocaust we saw last time. The government is doing everything wrong, exactly the things you shouldn’t be doing during a recession. Instead we are all being focused on politics rather than what really matters. You can’t have successful nation of rich and poor and no middle class.


IN CONCLUSION: No one is coming to save you. You need to make sure you are taking care of you and yours, including your pets. Right now it is time to stick to the basics: faith, fitness, family, finances, friends, and hopefully, some fun. I’ve been extra diligent about everything, and I’ve been using these times to organize things in my own life. I look at this like we are in a season for planting, hopeful that some day in the future we’ll get a harvest for all the hard work we are doing right now. I’m doing the best I can do, and I suggest you do the same.


A QUESTION: How are you doing, and how to you interpret what is going on?

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Online Dog Training Trolls

 Eventually everyone online will encounter Trolls. Online trolls are bullies, and they can be quite irritating, annoying, occupying, and sometimes even threatening. Every online critic these days is an “expert”. They will claim unearned reputation, expertise, wisdom and credentials. 

Online trolls think they are entitled to provoke strife and trouble. Their posts are inflammatory. They want to make you angry or upset. They want to tear you down. And they seek to hijack your legitimate posts and make themselves the center of attention. 

I’ve encountered several types of Online Dog Training Trolls. Here are some examples.

The Competitor: Late one night, I received an angry email from a dog trainer. I was his target that night. He wanted to provoke a fight over dog training philosophy. At first, he started out with a few challenging statements. I was dumb enough to honestly answer them. I didn’t answer in a hostile manner. But that wasn’t enough, he then escalated the statements into an angry inquisition. I eventually had to just end it. What was the point? What’s his problem? I don’t know, and it wasn’t my job to find out.

With over 20 years of dog training, I’ve had plenty of these types of online encounters. It used to just be either anonymous phone calls or emails. These have now morphed into social media attacks, which brings in a larger audience to feed their nastiness. I’m not the only trainer who has been vomited on by competitors. I’ve had private conversations with them and each has had their share of nastiness.  Sometimes I have researched these trolls, and I usually find out how goofy they really are. Most have questionable credentials. Many have none at all. Many have troubled lives. Many are envious and jealous, and when they find you, they are going to lash out at you. They are losers, and they hate you if you are not a loser. Instead of working to create a true record of success, they attack the successful, somehow thinking that makes them higher in societal ranking. 

I never check out competitors. I really don’t care. I don’t compare myself to others. I study and work to improve for the dogs I’m working with, and for the people who need good advice. That has nothing to do what some other trainer is doing. It is irrelevant what they are doing. What some trainer is doing 500 miles away isn’t going to fix the separation anxiety, pooping, biting, jumping, pulling, etc. issues my new student might be dealing with.

The Fanatic: I have also received attacks from dog training fanatics. These cult-like critics adhere to some extreme dog training philosophy, and often will recruit their other cult members to gang up on you online. I’ve also seen this in the animal welfare community. For example, there is the extremist who believes it is abusive to ever even make physical contact with a dog when training. Seriously. If you won’t exclusively use a clicker and treats, you are a horrible person. For some, even using a leash is abusive. Another type of extremist is the types that turn dog training into some New Age religion. In these cases, they will attack you because you won’t do some kind of spiritual ritual on the dog, owners, and or home. I had a student who had an encounter with one of these types. She said the reason their fearful dog was biting workmen in the home was because their multi-million dollar home was possessed by evil spirits. Her solution was to burn a variety of weeds and then to spread the ashes all over the exterior of their home. The third extremist is the type that thinks that it is acceptable to use as much terror and force on a dog to get it to do what they want the dog to do. They advocate a practical torture chamber of methods and tools. If you don’t do it their way, you are not a “real” dog trainer. Only they are the real deal, you are a phony. 

You aren’t going to convert a cult member. These types are convinced of their righteousness cause, you are the infidel, and they are coming for you.

I’ve never claimed I know it all. I don’t. I don’t think anyone knows everything. There are always new things to learn, and that is what makes working with dogs and people so rewarding. A closed mind won’t discover new knowledge or wisdom. I never want to think I can’t learn new things and that I know it all. Dog training isn’t a religion and shouldn’t be treated as a religion. 

The Unstable: According to statistics, approximately 1% of the population is clinically unstable. These types range from the irritating to seriously disturbed. I know of one case where a “trainer” so intensely spooked some people in the animal rescue community that one woman started sleeping with a gun by her pillow! There are abusive trainers out there, sometimes they will end up in the news. If you read my articles, you’ll see some of the stories. I change the names, etc. just so that they don’t get more business and so the public doesn’t get taken advantage of. There are also fakers, who pretend to be someone and hide behind one or more fake identities. Any abnormal type of behavior can follow. Welcome to the 21st century.

In conclusion, there are online trolls for every person and topic. You pick the person or topic, and someone out there is trolling and wasting everyone’s time. My advice is if you see someone trolling, scroll on by. You might get involved, however, that troll might then try to contact you, too. None of us are here to counsel trolls about their troubled lives. It is the new reality that comes with doing so much communication online. Yes, that phenomenon even pops up in the dog world. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Dogs and Mt Rushmore

 I watched National Treasure: Book of Secrets the other day, and it reminded me of when I was on vacation to Mt Rushmore... of course, I brought my dog along. Part of the purpose of dog training is to be able to have your dog with you, and be prepared for any environment. Now is the time to start training your dog, to prepare for next year's adventures and hikes. Message me to schedule your dog! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

My Dog Has Died What Should I Do?

 When the old dog passes away, take time to make memories and grieve. But, if you are a dog person, you are going to want another dog at some point. The new dog doesn't replace the old dog, but the new dog will fill that hole in your life. Then learn to appreciate the new dog and don't try to make the new dog into the old dog.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Lack Of Understanding And Support In Dog Training

Many years ago, I had hired a dog trainer to assist me with one of my dogs. However, I had to terminate the relationship. Here’s why…

While this trainer had been training dogs for about 10 years, he had never owned a dog for himself. Ever. Thus, dogs were more of a machine to be worked and fixed rather than a pet. That important element made him unable to relate properly to me or my dog. It was a blind spot and he couldn’t see what he was doing wrong with me or my dog. 

A lack of good training and burdensome behavioral problems can significantly disrupt your life. When things get bad enough, and if the trainer can’t provide the necessary answers and support, dogs risk relinquishment, abandonment or euthanasia. Even if the trainer has the skills to fix whatever the dog needs help with, if the trainer can’t sense or listen to the owners to know the severity of the problems, bad results can happen. 

Behavioral problems, especially, can materially and negatively affect your life, especially regarding issues of house training, separation anxiety, aggression, or inability to pleasantly interact with any member of your family or your guests. Pet behavioral problems can put a serious drain on your family, such as taking precious time away from your already busy schedule, financial hardship, quality of life issues, a compromised social life, and can result in you being overwhelmed with feelings of grief, anxiety or depression. It also doesn’t help if your dog isn’t happy, appearing fearful, sad, aggressive or anxious. 

I didn’t start out as an adult wanting to be a professional dog trainer and behaviorist. I started out, like you as someone who just wanted a fun and affectionate dog, just wanting to be a pet owner. I started out as a novice and did a lot of the wrong things… well, maybe not all the wrong things. As a result, I experienced training and behavior problems. For example, yes, I experienced puppy house training accidents in my house, stepping in warm gooey poop in the middle of the night in my bedroom. I could give you a long list of mistakes I made over those early years. Unfortunately, a lot of the dog life lessons I learned had to be earned, and it wasn’t until I figured out I needed to pay for help did I start getting some good answers. Fortunately, I never got involved in some of the horror stories that some pet owners experience, but I did run across some bad training.

I think a significant factor in my success as a professional today is that I have always cared about how dogs affect people. I saw how my dogs issues affected me, so I could relate. Further, sometimes, to get to know the people helps me get a better result with the dogs. For example, the other night, I spent over an hour after my last evening lesson talking to the owner’s son about being a young man and ideas about finding his life path. His mom thanked me when I was about to leave… at 10:37 pm… way too late at that point (I had to be up at 5 am the next day for an early morning lesson). But, he needed to talk, and in that conversation it helped me understand their family and I’ll better be able to dial in their continuing lessons in the coming weeks. 

I have done mostly private lessons my entire dog career, so I’ve seen and been involved in countless home dog ownership situations with almost every type of pet training and behavioral issue you can imagine. I try to get a full picture of the home life of the dog, not just focusing on what the dog is or isn’t doing, but getting to know the owners, so it all fits together. I’ve found that discouraged and frustrated owners need new motivation, encouragement and support. It is hard for many to start on a new path performing new habits. Some people aren’t easy to talk to or reason with, however, I make sure I am easy to talk to and reason with.

I think it is also important for me to be there to cheer on behavioral and training breakthroughs. I do that as well. “Excellent! Super! Great Job! That’s amazing!” Students need encouragement to reach their goals. Almost everyone benefits honestly knowing they are on the right track, doing the right things, making good progress. If it is good, I’ll say it is good. 

In the end, sensitivity is key to proper understanding and support for dog owners. A good trainer and behaviorist provides that.