Better Together is Coming Soon

Better Together: the Collected Wisdom of Modern Dog Trainers

Hey, there’s a great new training book hitting the shelves!

Better Together: The Collected Wisdom of Modern Dog Trainers is a comprehensive collection of both practical and inspirational advice from some of the best trainers in the world. Learn the methods of modern dog training through more than 60 articles from 28 experts, specially selected by world-renowned trainer Ken Ramirez. Continue reading

Toes for Treats


I really don’t have time for a blog post today, but this is for everyone who’s been told “dogs just don’t like having their nails clipped” (or going to the vet, or being brushed, or whatever).

Of course they don’t like such things straight out of the womb. Those are unnatural, weird human ideas. But we can condition them to enjoy and participate in all kinds of weird games.

So today I went to the drawer where I keep the nail trimmers, and Penny looked up. (I wasn’t even facing her, much less talking to her.) I picked up the trimmers, and she dropped a bully stick from her mouth and ran to me.

So of course we trimmed nails. And of course she got some treats for quietly holding her paws in my hands, which is what she expected and why she thinks nail trimming is a dumb game but worth the time to play.

Afterward, she went back to her bully stick (a favorite treat) and carried on.

It’s all about how you train this stuff!

Goodbye To Mindy

This entry is part 23 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

sign: "Guide Dogs for the Blind National Headquarters"Today was the day. I delivered Mindy to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Mindy had done several kennel stays locally in the last two months, where I paid for extra playtime and stuffed Kongs and all the good things that would make her love staying in kennels, and indeed she was excited to enter the kennel lobby and trotted happily away with staff without ever looking back. This was important to me because I didn’t want her worrying about being left at GDB.

black Labrador Mindy smiling at camera

Just before turn-in.

It worked: today she sat for the GDB kennel worker to put on her leash, and then she went straight away with her, walking nicely, ears and tail up, sitting on cue. It was about as painless and stress-free as possible for her. (Me? I was doing fine until the GPS countdown hit single digits. Not gonna lie, I cried. But to be fair, I did more prep work for Mindy.)

Continue reading

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival!

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival Today the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival goes live! And today I realize that probably the week before Christmas isn’t the ideal time. I heard from several people that they wanted to participate, but just hadn’t had time to get a post done and submitted.

But you know what? We’re all about accessibility and doing what you’re able here at the ADBC, and so we aren’t judging. If you get your posts to me later today or even later this week, I’ll just add them as they arrive. (And remember, you don’t have to be a service dog trainer or user to participate! All are welcome to share their thoughts and experiences.)

And this might be a good thing, because it lets me spotlight a very honest and thoughtful post from Jeremy Medlock, who is training his own dog to aid him. Service dog work isn’t all romantic key-fetching or traffic-stopping — sometimes it is doing what dogs do best, being quietly supportive and there for us, a bias-free slate. I encourage you to read this from someone who uses a dog for an “invisible” disability and is brave enough to discuss why. Continue reading

The Unseen Fun of a Service Dog’s Life

This entry is part 8 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
I'm not sure I've ever known a puppy who didn't like the chewing texture of wood.

I’m not sure I’ve ever known a puppy who didn’t like the chewing texture of wood. Our rule is, you can sample the pieces in the firewood holder, but not furniture. Seems to be a good deal so far.

Several people have asked me questions about service dogs, whether they’re always “on the job” or could have normal dog lives. A few were under the heartbreaking impression that because one isn’t supposed to pet service dogs while they’re working, that service dogs aren’t ever to be petted, even at home.

Definitely not the case! Continue reading

Shakespeare’s Last Week

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Cancer & the Fight

119-1910_IMGToday a friend bid goodbye to her dog. And today I made the awful appointment to end Shakespeare’s days with us.

I have much to be grateful for. He was given as little as 3 weeks to live when diagnosed, and today marks the 7th week. He’s positively ancient for his breed; if I had his pedigree, he could have received a longevity award nearly 4 years ago, and aside from the cancer he’s physically in better shape than other Dobermans I’ve seen his age. And despite all that I’ve read and heard about the horrid pain of bone cancer, Shakespeare seems to be in fairly little discomfort, which is an answer to prayer.

But that makes it hard, too. He’s not in severe pain. He’s still enjoying his life, chilling on the couch or sunning himself in our early autumn weather. How can I take that away from him? Continue reading

Yellow Journalism & Breed Bias — Again

A friend told me about a dog attack story just released by the Indianapolis Star. “Four pit bulls attacked a fifth dog,” he said. “But, you know, it’s the Star, so they could have been anything at all and if they bit something, they’re pit bulls.” He doesn’t even own dogs, but he’s aware of the paper’s bias.

When I first read the published news story, I was irritated, ranted on Facebook, and wrote a rational-but-angry letter to the editor. Alena has written up our complaints in her own blog, and I am copying her post here. — Laura… Continue reading

Waiting for the Mexican Elevator

Waiting for the Mexican Elevator

Actually, these elevators are in the Empire State Building, not Mexico City, but that’s where the CC-licensed photo was taken. Don’t tell.

As I write this, I am sitting in my hotel in Mexico City, taking a break from teaching clicker training to instructors from all over Mexico and as far as Guatemala and Colombia. It’s been a great time thus far! Saturday Alena and I spoke 8 hours on aggression, and this week we’ve been working on clicker mechanics, foundation work, shaping, etc.

With students of varying levels of clicker experience, we’ve been pulling a lot of everyday examples of operant and classical conditioning at work. There’s a perfect discussion topic waiting in the form of the elevator in our hotel. Continue reading

Storm Watch & Storm Success, Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Storm Watch
Protecting our dogs from storm phobia (and bad Photoshop)

Protecting our dogs from storm phobia (and bad Photoshop)

It’s been a very stormy year across the country, and in the Midwest in particular. Since I have three dogs with three variants of sound/storm phobia or sensitivity, my former love and thrill for dramatic weather has degraded to a dejected, “Oh, more storms?!”

But storm fear or sound phobia doesn’t have to be the end of the world for your pets or the end of sanity for you. There are many options now to help fearful or sensitive dogs (and cats!), and no reason to tolerate unnecessary suffering in animals or humans. In the next few posts, I will share what is working well for us and for others, and you can be the hero in your own household! Continue reading