Positive Reinforcement

Praising the people!! I recently realized I wasn’t praising my people clients enough. I was friendly, engaging and encouraging. I would compliment their dog and joke with them. I would praise specific skills or behaviors I saw them developing. However, I didn’t say too often, “You are doing a good job.” (One reason is that I don’t like to throw out too many vague terms.) But recently that phrase escaped my lips and my clients beamed. These were hard-working clients whose skills were really improving. So now I remember to say that more often. I got an email the other day from a client who first off thanked me for “the reassurance”.




“Thank you”

I worked part-time at a veterinary clinic for two years. I often had to take dogs whose owners were dropping them off for services to the back of the clinic. As you may expect, dogs are are not happy to be at the clinic and don’t want to be separated from their owners. Some may be really afraid and nervous.

The first time a dog growled at me I was startled and said something like “hey” or “knock it off”. As I thought about it later, I realized l that was unfair. A dog’s growl is an early warning system. A dog’s growl is their way of communicating he or she is scared, startled, or hurting. It is how they tell us or other dogs we are doing something they don’t like. (It may also be part of resource guarding, but I am focusing on the nervous growl today.)

scared dog blog

I don’t want to take the growl away from a dog. So I trained myself to say “thank you” calmly when a dog growls at me. First ,this gives me a second or two to assess the next best step. Is this growl a precursor to a lunge or bite? I am genuinely thankful that the dog chose to warn me with a growl rather than bite me. Second, think about when we say “thank you”. Even an automatic sort of thank you means your voice may lower and soften and our body changes and relaxes a bit. Dogs are so incredibly attuned to human body language my change in posture may help them relax a bit.

Sometimes  we may address a growl with redirection or other strategy, but I think the “thank you” lets a dog know we are reading them and just that may help the dog to calm down. A dog who has learned that growling keeps them in charge or lets them use bratty behavior needs to be addressed a different way. Dogs who are extremely fearful may growl a good deal. That situation also calls for different strategies.

Reading our dogs and a growl this way goes back to the my 2018 theme “our bond with our dogs”.  I want us to learn how dogs communicate and honor them that way.  


HAPPY 2018!!

pexels-photo-422220.jpegGreetings to all my YAYDog! friends; I am promising you more blog entries this year!
There won’t be a RANT theme this year, just a THEME: Our BOND with our Dogs.
Because when we get down to it, our bond with our animals is vital. When I am talking to clients and they are so upset and worried they are telling me about behavior issues, the subtext is often,
                   “Why can’t I live happily with my dog?
                    What about my bond with my dog?
                    What is wrong with my dog?”
And sometimes the question should be, “What is wrong with me?” I see my role as your coach and sometimes mediator with you and your dog. I can be clear- headed and constructive when you feel stymied. I will use  knowledge, compassion,honesty, common sense and humor to help you.
So, there’s our theme for this year, along with all my best wishes for you and your animal companions.
                                               Live happily with a dog!

Some Basic Beliefs

I have been thinking this week about my basic beliefs as a dog trainer and I want to share some with you:

  • Every dog, person and situation is different.
  • Treat the dog and AND the people in a kind way.
  • Try to have more than one (or two or three!) training strategies for any situation.
  • Teach people how canines communicate; it’s a rich language worth knowing.
  • Be honest and have the difficult conversations.
  • Deliver excellent customer service.

That’s pretty much it; the YAYDog! core.




‘Tis the Season (of Too Many Natural Disasters)

‘Tis the season for information about pets and disasters. With a crazy-active hurricane season and the wildfire time in the West this year, we need to check out tips for pets and disasters, so here goes:

Sometime when there is not a disaster in your area, make a disaster plan and a disaster kit. Basically, the kits may contain (for each pet in your home):

  • food for 3-5 days.
  • food and water dishes
  • medicines for 7-10 days, in case you cannot get home for some time
  • microchipping and identity tags, but with a quick release collar if possible
  • one of the GPS trackers for pets if possible
  • veterinary records
  • your contact information on or affixed to collar
  • picture of each pet on phone and an actual picture; in case your cell phone is dead and you and the pet are separated
  • blanket or bedding
  • bottled water
  • litter boxes, litter
  • paper towels, dish soap and clean up materials
  • disposable garbage bags.

Have the kit in bags ready to go.

Try to plan as far ahead as possible more than one scenario. Will you stay or go? Will you head to hotel out of town or a shelter with pet accommodations? Will you head to family members?

If you do plan to leave, have crates or carriers ready and know where your pet may like to hide in the house. Your pets will be picking up on your worry, so you may want to crate them early the day you are leaving. Write all your contact information on the carriers.

Of course, there’s an app for this! I like the free app from the ASPCA. It has information to prepare, before a disaster, during and after.

Red Rover.com has very good information and currently has specific information for owners who may be affected by hurricane Irma:


I hope you do some of these early preparation steps and I hope you never need them.



Helping out at the Tarboro NC shelter after Hurricane Matthew




2017 Manners Rant Alert!

One of the definitions for manners is “good form.” The wonderful high school student who helps me with social media was traveling recently. The family had their adorable poodle with them. She had gone in several shops with them, but when they got to a particular big box store, they asked (good manners) and were told they could not bring her in. Then the friendly clerk said, “She is so cute. You should just go online and order a service dog in training vest for her.” (Cue sound of Clare’s head exploding when my assistant told me.) This sort of action is bad form, bad manners and IMMORAL BEHAVIOR.

This behavior is lying and cheating. It’s cheating because people who need service dogs and who have well-behaved service dogs have issues because of the bad behavior of others. Imagine being challenged or harassed in public because someone thinks your service dog should not be allowed. Then imagine that part of your disability makes it difficult for you to interact with people sometimes; you just want to go quietly to the grocery store and have your dog help you with physical or other issues.

So, manners, people!! Thinking about others as well as just what is fun or easy for you is part of good manners.

(Tank is a service dog-in-training for vetstovetsunited.org and I love working with him!)





First 2017 YAY Dog! Rant

Happy New Year and the 2017 YAY dog! rant is : manners!! Don’t worry, we won’t have to pull out the white gloves yet! Some of the definitions of manners are “rules of conduct” and my favorite, “good form”. I will be talking about dog manners, people manners, leash manners and dog interaction manners. I will also cover topics you mentioned when I asked about ideas back in that old year. And guess what, most of them can come under the Manners rant!

YAY dog! 2016 Rant/Final Days

Another shot at my 2016 rant: Don’t text,listen to devices or talk on the phone regularly when you are walking your dog. Some caveats: of course have the phone with you, and if you think a call is an emergency, take the call, preferably while standing still. Best case scenario your dog has a good place to sniff during the call. Some people say that the multitasking encourages them to walk the dog farther, which is better for the dog. I get that, but I still don’t recommend it. And walking more than one dog in that multitasking mode? Are you kidding me? (Wait, no, you’re not?)

My reasons for this rant are safety, bonding time for you and your dog and stress relief for you!! If you are not paying full attention you could compromise your safety and your dog’s safety. If you are walking by roads or streets, drivers can overlook you or your dog. We know that owning a dog can help us with stress relief. So, enjoy the walk, real time, with your buddy. It will be good for both of you.

Happy holidays and stay tuned for my 2017 rant. What on earth will it be?


Don’t Scam Service Dog System

Warning: rant alert!! This is an excellent article about a simple concept: DON’T CHEAT. Last year the Dept. of Veterans Affairs ruled that service dogs in training could no longer come into VA facilities. VetstoVetsUnited, the service dog group I volunteer with had veterans who were devastated by this ruling. Our dogs had all passed the rigorous Public Access Test, and they would not receive a “service dog in training” vest until that is accomplished. (I know, I do the testing.) The dogs were working on the individual skills need to help their veteran partner. The VA did this ruling because of fake service dogs. Please help people understand how this hurts the people who need service dogs; veterans, people with a “not obvious to the eye” disability, people who genuinely need service dogs. (I realized I had posted this to come up on my dad’s birthday. He has been gone a long time time but he truly taught me the simple concept of: don’t cheat. )

Bringing Home a New Dog

It can be quite easy for us to over-do it when we first bring a dog home. Let’s think about it: we get a puppy who has been in a home or kennel with mom and litter mates. Think of how different our home is. Shelter dog: a very different environment, which may be more structured, and may not look good to us but has been somewhat regular and comforting for the dog.

Here is a common scenario. Someone picks up their new dog from a shelter on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Everyone is so excited and happy. They take the dog home, show it all those great things about its wonderful new life. The person spends every moment with the dog, lavishing affection. Then, Monday morning the person gets up, starts acting in a different way, says “see ya” or often a really high energy “LOVE YOU POOKIE” good-bye and then disappears. For 8-10 hours. This is a method to “build” anxiety and destructive behaviors.

When we first brought our Andy home from the Animal Protection Society of Durham NC, he licked our arms nervously for a few days. He was totally startled by the TV. He was fine about my really loud washing machine. He was super easy to housetrain. He was terrified of the dishwasher (and we have 2/foodie family). He hated getting in my white Honda CRV. I tried to not stack too many changes, but I could have done better. Now people see him as such a confident dog, and he often is. I did keep training to a minimum and immediately praised him when he went to his bed or lay down away from me. (I have joked that foster dogs in my house probably think their name is “Go Lie Down” the first couple of days.) I let him explore and tried to keep my reactions very calm. I sat on the floor and read or watched TV and let him come to whatever distance he wanted. I put up with a couple of days of his rude, ball-obsessed behavior but then that had to change.

When you bring a puppy home, they have a LOT of growing up to do. Let them do just that, before they are given too much formal training or structure. Sure, you want may to start with some manners training, but don’t do too many excursions and activities at first. With a dog from a shelter or rescue, it may take them weeks to become comfortable and have all the parts of their personality show. Think about the transitions a rescue dog may have had: owner surrender,  or out on the street, in a shelter, to a foster home, to you. That may have happened over days or months.

So, congrats for getting that new dog! Now, just take it slowly and enjoy time with your new buddy.