Category Archives: Chicago Dog Advice

Dog owners beware: Anyone can buy a dog training franchise

Lately, more than ever, I am getting inquiries from clients who have already done dog training with “so and so,” or other companies, and were unsatisfied for one reason or another. These people have spent a lot of money in some cases, but didn’t get the results they were looking for. You may imagine this is sometimes the customers fault– and it is… sometimes. But as a pro myself, I can get a pretty good idea what sort of professionally-trained foundation a dog has, or has not had. I hear complaints about other trainers all the time, and I usually take it with a grain of salt, preferring that they focus on what we’re doing now and going forward. Most of these trainers I have never heard of anyway, but clients are more frequently telling me about dog training companies with multiple locations, or in many cases, franchises. These are not the big-box stores like PetSmart and PetCo that are known for their sub-standard version of “training” and wasting peoples time once a week for 150 bucks, these are companies charging a lot of money and promising big results.

To further investigate this concept, I began with a quick Google search, typing in “dog training franchise.” A flurry of results came up. Some of the names: Bark Busters, Fetch Pet Care, Zoom Room, Off Leash K9 Training, Sit Means Sit, Dog Wizard Academy, and many more. It’s not the route I chose to go in my career seven and a half years ago when I started my own business (after years of apprenticing and working for other companies), but apparently this is a popular thing. I have no particular issue with a well-researched individual purchasing into a dog business franchise to run out of their home, but it’s worth a deeper look behind the marketing.

One of the benefits to a franchise is immediate marketing power, and these companies don’t hesitate to tell you that people are willing to pay good money for dog training, and know the brand names. Each brand has something to boast– amazing fast results, guaranteed programs, a special (ultimately meaningless) certification, “featured on tv,” and soforth. But marketing can be misleading. Let’s say the trainers at the headquarters of your franchise had part in a tv episode on “Animal Planet.” Regardless of the fact that they’re not even in the same state, are staffed with completely different trainers, and did the tv spot years before you even joined the company, you can now advertise on your own website: “As Seen on Animal Planet.” That’s positive marketing power. Unfortunately, it can also work in the opposite way. In the past 2 years alone, three Sit Means Sit trainers were charged with animal abuse. Because it’s a franchise, they are independently responsible, but this is caveat emptor to you dog owners: Regardless of the company’s name, know who is training your dog.

What I am also concerned about is the amount of training these freshly minted dog trainers receive.

To see if my concerns were valid, I viewed the websites of four different dog training franchises. They all advertise solving behavior issues, off-leash training, and more. One called “Bark Busters” did not provide any information on length of franchisee training, they ask you to contact them. I have zero respect for Bark Busters as a training company, and I have nothing more to say about them at this time, other than– if you use their services, best of luck to your dog. The other three franchised companies provided more info on their offerings. A company called “Dog Wizard Academy” had a very bright, informative website and offers 12 weeks of hands-on training for new franchisees. However, the topics covered are broad, naturally, and include “aggression,” which in my professional opinion takes much longer than 3 months to even touch upon, let alone become proficient in. In the other 2 cases, companies called “Off Leash K-9 Training” and “Sit Means Sit,” offer 3 weeks of initial hands-on training to the new franchisee. Yes, that’s right– apparently, 3 weeks is all it takes to learn how to be a dog trainer, work with complex behavior issues, and operate a business… Well, that and anywhere from $15,000-$96,400.

A lot of people nowadays want to start their own business and have a career change in life, and that’s great. But dog training is not just something you jump into by hanging a shingle. You will quickly be out-classed. The following is an example of what I found online (I added the bold):

Are you interested in starting  dog training franchise?  Have you always wanted to be a dog trainer? Turn your passion into a dog training business!

As an Off Leash K9 Training trainer, you will spend 21 days at our facility in Northern Virginia, observing and taking part in over 240+ hours of dog training! … At the end of your 21 day training, you will have all the tools, knowledge, and know-how to deal with basic obedience, advanced obedience, and behavioral modification. You will be able to make dogs look like the dogs in our 500+ before/after videos! You will also have a website and everything else you need to get you started in the dog training world!

Let me get this straight. You will have “all the knowledge” and “a website and everything else” in 3 weeks. In my opinion, that’s simply not possible, particularly not the “everything else.” There is no way to master these sort of skills in 240 hours… You’d be about 9,760 hours short of the “10,000 hour rule” of mastery. But even if you do gain an array of positive training and business skills, what about basic math skills? 21 days to become a dog trainer is advertised as “240+ hours of dog training.” I have never heard of such an intensive program that you go 21 days straight for ELEVEN+ hours each day. It doesn’t seem possible, and lends me a degree of skepticism (something I already have a healthy level of).

To be fair, some of these companies do offer continuing education, yearly seminars, and phone support– but what about the dogs these franchisees will be training fresh out of the gate? Do you want your dog to be a guinea pig for a brand new trainer with only a few months of experience under their belt? If you do, that’s fine, but I personally would not pay that kind of money for my dog to be a newer trainers learning experiment.

So how long does it really take to become a dog trainer? I understand everyone wants to jump in and make money, but the reality is, when I have an apprentice trainer who is learning how to train dogs, they are not even allowed to do a private obedience lesson with a customer with less than SIX MONTHS of training under their belt, and more in some cases. The average time to produce a dog trainer is ONE YEAR, for a basic-level trainer, who works with obedience but not more complex behavior issues or aggression. There is no “quick way to rake in the cash,” and you need more than a fancy website, you need more than a well-trained personal dog– you need to provide quality training from a foundation of knowledge and hands-on experience in a variety of venues.

If you want to become a successful dog trainer, buying into a corporate franchise is certainly one of your options, and it does work out well for some people. But it’s certainly not the only option. To be clear, I am not saying all the franchise-owning trainers are bad or sub-standard trainers– absolutely not– it fully depends on the individual person. If they are a driven self-learner, I’m sure they could find a way to compensate for any lack of experience, and work to become a well-versed, competent trainer. In some cases, a franchise trainer may be an already working and adept dog trainer who decided to make a smart business decision and team up with a company. But as a dog owner myself, I don’t want to simply know what “brand” is training my dog, I want to know who is training my dog. What have they accomplished, what’s the scope of their experience, and will they deliver up to the expectations of a big-name company? To know this, you will have to look past the smoke and mirrors of marketing, and learn how to choose a dog trainer.

CONTROVERSIAL QUESTION: Are purebreds “better” than mutts?

Dog breeds are created by humans, through “selective breeding” for phenotypic traits such as size, coat color, structure, and behavior. Most modern dog breeds are the products of the controlled breeding practices of the Victorian era. Therefore, the majority of dog breeds we know are in fact only 100-150 years old or less. So while purebreds have their purposes (and I own purebred dogs myself), the “snobbery” surrounding them seems uncalled for, as they were created from mixed breeds themselves.

The FCI recognizes 400 dog breeds. There are modern breeds, older types (type is more general than breed), and more ancient or primitive breeds. A 2004 study found 13 breeds that were genetically divergent from the modern ones: Basenji, Saluki, Afghan hound, Samoyed, Canaan dog, New Guinea singing dog, dingo, Chow Chow, Chinese Shar Pei, Akita, Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky and American Eskimo dog. These more ancient breeds tend to have different temperament, as they were not all bred to work alongside humans and take human direction. This doesn’t mean they are any less intelligent– intelligence isn’t the same as “trainability.” All dogs can be trained, but some breeds tend to have a higher “trainability” than others.

Neither a purebred or a mixed-breed or cross-breed is “better.” It depends on the individual dog, and the purposes the dog is to fulfill. There are traits and qualities that may be prevalent in certain purebreds, but it’s also important to keep in mind that dogs within one breed do not always have as much in common as one may assume. For example, within Labrador Retrievers, there are dogs who are extremely high-energy and bred for field hunting, and there are Labs who are calm and lazy, and pretty low-key. Anyone who has owned or trained multiple dogs of the same breed can tell you, they are not all the same. If you want a family companion, your choices are wide- think about the traits that are important to you in not only appearance, but temperament aka personality. Don’t get a terrier and be surprised that it has high energy and a tough attitude with other animals. Don’t get a Shepherd and be surprised it acts territorial in the home. Don’t get an English Bulldog if you want an athletic jogging partner. Don’t get any dog just based on looks. As far as health… Nothing is a guarantee. There are purebreds who are unhealthy, and there are mixed-breeds who have health problems as well. Getting a dog from a reputable breeder with health-tested stock is better than purchasing a puppy from an unknown source, but no matter what, there is no “guarantee” on health or lifespan, that’s just the way genetics work. Getting a dog as a puppy and raising it yourself is also no guarantee on behavior, and sometimes adopting an adult dog can be a good fit for a family.

I have no particular agenda, other than helping people find the best fit for their lifestyle, and helping them train the dog they choose. I support animal rescue and have been volunteering my efforts for many years, however, I don’t subscribe to the “adopt, don’t shop” agenda pushed by animal-rights activists. Why? 1) Because consumers have the right to choose the dog they will be living with for the next 10-15 years, and we all have preferences. You cannot force or guilt people into getting a certain dog, they should have freedom of choice for what is best for them. 2) Statistically, the number of homes in the USA getting a new dog each year far outnumber (by millions) the amount of dogs in shelters, so without purposeful breeding, there would be a huge shortage of dogs, and a lack of purebreds. Nationwide, based on statistics, there is no “overpopulation” of dogs, that is a myth. Demand dictates supply. Many high-volume shelters are successfully lowering euthanasia numbers by transferring dogs out to private rescues, and transporting them to different geographical locations that have a higher demand. In fact, many rescues have imported dogs from other countries, yet some are still claiming “overpopulation” here. Get the dog that is best for you. If getting a purebred from a reputable breeder is good for you, great… if getting a shelter dog is suitable for you, that’s great, too. I can help you select and train the best dog for your family regardless.


Raw Diet for Dogs- Amount, Recipe, and Feeding Instructions

Raw Feeding: Biologically Appropriate Diet for Canines

A general guideline is 3% of your dogs body weight. For a 75lb dog, that would be 2.25 pounds a day. This is just an estimate. Every dog is different so there is no exact amount of what to feed– depends on growth stage (puppies need more, can be weaned onto raw), metabolism, and activity level. You will determine how much to feed your dog by observing their body condition over time. If you notice they are getting too thin, you will feed a little bit more every day. If you notice they’re getting fat, you will cut back. A lazier dog might only eat 2% of his body weight, and a canine athlete might need 4-5%. You can weigh it in the beginning so you learn to eyeball weight. Then from there, just estimate.

Diet is not meant to be exact every single meal, or every single day, but to balance out over time. A diet should be balanced over a week or two. There may be a day when you’re busy, or ran out of a certain ingredient, or have no organ meats, and it’s ok to feed the dog just some chicken for that day, for example.

BENEFITS OF RAW: Health, anti-inflammatory, skin and coat, immune system, dental, digestive, dog waste
A raw diet will improve your dogs dental health, as he crunches chicken bones and tears at flesh. Many owners report better breath, better skin and coat, lessened allergies, overall health improvement, better stamina in canine athletes, and less odor to their dog. Plus, dogs love meat.
Another benefit of a raw diet is about 1/2 the amount of dog waste. They are not getting all those fillers, and will absorb much of what is eaten, and the waste will disintegrate easily, where as kibble-fed dogs poop will stick around for a long time. Know that the more bone they get, the more their stool will look white and crumbly, this will not be an issue with meaty items like chicken thighs, but if you feed a dog a meal of only all bony chicken necks, they are going to be constipated.

This is a PREY MODEL diet, where “extras” like veggies are just that… extras. Dogs only need these 3 items. Dogs are opportunistic carnivores, they “can” eat other foods, but they have no nutritional requirement for carbs, and we avoid starches and grains. If your dog has health conditions or known allergies to certain meats, a diet can be specialized for him. And if this is just all too much for you, feel free to purchase a pre-made raw diet at a pet store, they are ready to feed, just defrost.
Dogs cannot have an “all meat” diet. Nor can they do without organs, although they don’t need them every single day. They can do without bone for a day, but really they should get some calcium every day. Overall, balancing calcium (bone) and phosphorus (in the meat) isn’t difficult, as long as dogs receive plenty of bone. In general, any bone content over 10% is plenty although you shouldn’t often exceed 25% (in a DAY, not in a meal) because dogs need other nutrients too.

ARE BONES SAFE FOR MY DOG TO EAT? Raw chicken bones are safe, cooked bones are hard and brittle and are not healthy for dogs to eat or chew on, as they splinter. Chicken is a bird, and has light bones. I have seen small breeds like Yorkies crunch up raw chicken bones and rabbit bones. Larger bones from pigs or ruminant animals may be avoided, as they are too hard, and can damage teeth. If a dog cannot crunch bone, maybe due to age or dental problems, a ground-up diet can be fed. A ground bone powder can be added to a meat and organ diet.
BACTERIA IN RAW MEAT? Simply put, healthy dogs (who are not immunocompromised) and cats have different GI system than us. They have a more acidic stomach. This is an animal that can eat things we cannot, and can handle bacteria better than we can. Your meat should be fresh. Even commercial pet foods can contain salmonella. Use common sense handling for yourself, including washing your hands and all prep surfaces.

  • The FDA’s Safe Handling Tips for Pet Foods and Treats page recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap right after handling dry pet foods and treats. They also suggest you wash your hands before preparing human food and before eating. They recommend infants stay away from pet food areas and pet feeding stations, and that kids not be allowed to touch or eat pet food. The FDA also recommends washing pet bowls after feeding and sanitizing eating surfaces regularly.

Approximate percentage of bone (from the USDA nutrient database):
Whole chicken: 25%
Leg quarter: 30% (Main part of diet)
Split breast: 20%
Thigh: 15% (Main part of diet)
Drumstick: 30%
Wing: 45% (I don’t feed wings, not enough meat)
Neck: 36%
Back: 45% (would go with boneless beef in the same day)
Feet: 60% (chicken feet are good for dogs joints, give a few at a time)

TURKEY (Not every dog is good at digesting turkey leg bones as they’re bigger)
Drumstick: 20%
Wing: 37%
Neck: 42%
Back: 41%

RAW DIET RECIPE (example given below is for a 70-lb dog, please adjust the amounts for your own dog).
HOW OFTEN TO FEED? Some people feed their adult dog just once a day, some twice. Puppies should be fed 2-3 times a day.

1-2 chicken quarters (depending on size) or 2-3 chicken thighs, with skin. 

The chicken will be the larger meal of the day, about 2 pounds for my large dog. Skin-on, as skinless chicken does not have enough fat and would need to be supplemented with something like beef. I usually feed the dogs in a bowl in their crates. Some people use a mat or towel, or just clean the floor area after their dog eats.

A bit of chicken liver OR beef liver

Both are nutritious, but do more of beef liver. It’s better to feed a little bit every day, or every other day, than to feed a large amount at once. Too much liver at once will give a dog diarrhea. For a large dog, a couple ounces a day approximately.

A couple times a week: Gizzards, chicken hearts (is a muscle and almost no fat), kidney (beef or pork), chicken feet, just to vary things.

Ground beef, stew meat, or any boneless beef
You can feed only chicken for a few days of the week, but 2-4 days a week, beef adds variety. I go for whatever is on sale, and sometimes there are cheaper steaks in the “clearance” section that are about to expire. This is fine as long as you’re feeding it the same day or freezing it. Most large dogs would eat about 1 pound a day of the beef.

Eggs are a great source of easily digestible protein and vitamins, and are inexpensive and easy to feed. A large dog may have 1-2 eggs a day. They can eat the shell, too, crushed up, but it’s not necessary since the dog is getting bone from the chicken.

Other meats: pork, lamb, venison, duck, goat, rabbit, quail, bison, etc.
Variety is healthy and should be encouraged. Some dogs will show preferences for certain meats, and may dislike others. When feeding pork, I choose boneless pieces of meat, and feed it along with a bony meat such as chicken necks. Rabbit is a very healthy food for dogs, and is similar to what they would eat “in the wild,” so to say. However, it may be cost-prohibitive to feed more expensive meats frequently. This is why I feed primarily chicken, I get it for .49 cents a pound. Try to find sources for good quality meats and organs so you can feed a wider variety.

Should I be feeding organic?
Organic meat is obviously great, but for most people, unless they have a good local option, it’s cost-prohibitive. None of the meats in commercial pet foods are organic. A conventional meat raw diet is not perfect. Not everyone can procure whole rabbits, green tripe, and free-range meats. But it’s still superior to commercially produced kibble, where the meat is processed, usually of unknown origin, plus it’s full of carbs.

Vegetable mix (OPTIONAL)
In a food processor or blender, mix things like leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, spinach, parsley), broccoli and carrots. You don’t have to have it all in there at once. It’s the leafy greens that may have health benefits and fiber, just make sure they are totally pulverized, or they are indigestible. You can blend this once or twice a week, or freeze it. You could feed this with beef, so it blends in and the dog eats it. If you want the dog to eat vegetable mix without meat, put a bit of liver into the blend.

Feeding fruit to dogs
Keep in mind that fruit is high in sugar, which is not good for dogs. All fruits should be considered a treat. An occasional apple is fine, just don’t feed the core with the seeds. Pineapple is ok in small amounts as a treat. No grapes, no seeds, no fruits like peaches with pits, and most dogs dislike citrus.

ADDITIONAL FOODS (not every day, but sometimes, or can substitute either AM or PM meal)

Sardines or salmon
Tins of sardines packed in water are a very healthy addition to any dogs diet. 1-4 tins a week for a larger dog, or occasionally feed. Smaller fish do not have mercury levels like larger fish such as tuna. Another healthy food is cooked canned salmon. 

Plain Greek yogurt. There is whole fat, 2%, and 0% fat free. I usually get 2%. Cottage cheese can also be substituted. Greek yogurt is high in protein. One way to feed it is to freeze it inside Kongs, and give it as a treat.

Green Tripe
A smelly, but very healthy food for your dog.

Sweet potato, squash, pumpkin (all cooked) (OPTIONAL)
I do not feed my dogs any carbs, however, some people choose to feed these in moderate amounts. Make sure they are cooked all the way. These are the only carbs a dog should be getting. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates. Quinoa is ok. No white potatoes. Olive oil is fine for dogs if you’ve cooked these for yourself, too.

SUPPLEMENTS FOR RAW DIET (the first 2 are the most important, the rest are optional)

1. Fish oil
Do not get any fish oils meant for dogs, they’re garbage. Human-grade, and should be sealed in capsules. I get large bottle at Costco. Add the capsules to either yogurt or the ground beef mix. For a large dog, 2-4 a day.

2. Probiotics
This is very good for overall health and digestion, and will make your dog have a stronger system. The best is VetriScience Probiotics for Dogs, available on It has special strains for dogs. Ones for humans are ok, too, but may not be as effective.

Kelp powder
Green powder with health benefits and antioxidants, also said to give dogs better coat pigment.

Foods and Supplements you do NOT need:
-Grains (no pasta, rice, wheat, breads, etc.) Dogs have zero dietary requirement for carbs! Canine athletes cannot “carb load” like people do, they draw from fat for their energy.
-You want to balance a diet, and avoid feeding things that are “too much” of anything– bags of chicken skins may be cheaply available from your butcher, but they are mostly fat. Chicken backs are mostly just bone. Balance them with by pairing them with other items.
-Dog treats like biscuits, Milk Bone, Beggin Strips (all grains and flour, artificial coloring, sugar). Your training treats should be compatible with a raw diet. For training, we recommend any freeze-dried meat. A good one is Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Raw diet, they are patties that can be broken up.
-Antibiotics, unless necessary. If your dog gets a minor cut or bite, some vets will give you antibiotics because obviously they can’t just say “It will probably be fine” and then be blamed if it did get infected. Dogs typically heal from minor scrapes very well if they are cleaned out, and the dog is healthy. I would not give my dogs antibiotics unless they truly need them. So I ask my vet to be conservative of the use of antibiotics for my dog. Likewise, I do not take antibiotics unless my doctor insists.
-Flea and tick medications, be careful. Only use this if you have to, and if you go to areas with ticks, then consider Frontline or similar, as recommended by your vet. Never “over the counter” flea/tick meds, they are not as safe. Avoid Hartz, Adams, or any brand you buy at a pet store, and only give what your veterinarian recommends and sells.
-Enzyme powders (unless a dog is deficient, they already have their own digestive enzymes)
-Coconut oil (this is fine for your dog in small amounts, but may be too much fat. Fish oil is better)
-Flax seed oil (any vegetable oil is inferior in absorption to animal-based oils)
-Be skeptical of any supplements meant for pets, they can be low quality and overpriced, and do nothing. The best animal supplement brand is VetriScience.

Travelling with a raw-fed dog?
You have 3 options:
1. Bring a cooler for your dogs food, use cold packs
2. Stop at a store and buy meat along the way
3. Bring a freeze-dried raw diet, available online or at pet stores. Just add water to it. It’s very light, and travels well.


Dynamic Dogs offers temperament evaluations for animal shelters and rescues

A few days ago, it was reported that a pit bull dog “recently adopted from a shelter” had escaped the owners home and mauled a sleeping baby in a stroller. Unfortunately, news like this is too common. It has spurred the continued discussion about evaluating shelter dogs, temperament testing, and what (if any) culpability does a shelter or rescue group have when a dog they’ve adopted out causes harm?

NUTLEY, NW— An 11-month-old girl is lucky to be alive after a dog bolted out of its owner’s home and viciously mauled the baby in her stroller, police said. The nightmare scenario played out March 25 when the girl’s mother was taking her infant for a walk. Police said the dog, reportedly a pit bull that was recently rescued from a shelter, escaped from a home on Walnut Street and attacked the stroller. A neighbor rushed to pull the dog away from the baby but it wasn’t until police arrived that the dog was separated from the girl and locked in the back seat of a police cruiser, police said. The baby girl was rushed to an area hospital, where she had to remain for three days to receive 70 stitches and undergo plastic surgery, Nutley police spokesman Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari said Thursday.

Of course this is an extreme example of a shelter dog causing severe harm to a human, but we feel cases like this could be better prevented by temperament testing dogs prior to adoption.

Our dog selection services can help you choose a dog based on finding the best fit:

  • What is your lifestyle?
  • What are the traits that are important to you?
  • What activities do you hope to enjoy with your dog?
  • Are their children or other pets in the family?We also test shelter dogs who are being transferred to other rescues, in the Chicagoland area.

Some of the items we test shelter dogs for:

  • Sociability
    • Affinity for people
    • Attitude towards strangers
    • Attitude towards other dogs
    • (Note, we cannot typically test for reaction towards cats in shelter settings)
  • Trainability
    • Motivation and drive
    • Interest in interacting
    • Speed of learning
    • Ability to problem-solve
  • Sensitivities
    • Environment
    • Handling, physical touch, and grooming
  • Aggression
    • Possessiveness
  • Reaction to correction or verbal scolding
  •  Fear
  • Recovery period after being startled
  • Working aptitude for jobs
  • Placement in a foster-based rescue

For more information on temperament testing and evaluation of rescue dogs in the Chicagoland area for your rescue group or shelter, contact us at:

Trainer’s top 5 favorite dog products, and 5 TERRIBLE products to avoid

As professional dog trainers, as well as dog owners ourselves, we get to try out many products. Some make life much easier and we want to share that with you. Others are garbage, buyer beware. Here’s our top picks!

Our favorite products…

  1. E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator mini
    E-collars are the cutting edge of technology in modern dog training. Remote collars allow you to communicate with your dog effectively and at a distance. The Mini Educator is an entry-level e-collar with an affordable price and no lack of features. It has 100 easily-adjustable levels, with blunt-stimulation technology, so you can find “just the right level” when training. It features a 1/2 mile range, vibrate (pager) feature, it’s waterproof, and features a built-in light on the collar. Made in the USA, and has a full 2-year warranty. Retail price: $199
  2. Bionic Toys bionic1
    We specifically like the “Bionic Urban Stick.” It’s a great fetch toy. The open ends can also be stuffed with treats. These toys are flexible rubber and won’t harm a dogs teeth. No toy is truly “indestructible,” but these fun orange toys hold up to even tough chewers. Belgian Malinois tested and approved.
  3. Ruff Tough Kennels
    Wire crates are the worst! They are flimsy, cheap and they can easily be bent, escaped from, or become rusty over time. Plastic airline-style crates are safer for car travel as well. If you ever get into a car accident or are rear-ended, these crates are much safer for your dog.
  4. Zoom Groom. If you have a short-haired zoomdog, you know how they shed little short hairs that stick in everything. A Zoom Groom is a rubber curry brush that feels good to the dog and loosens the dead hair. It’s also a must-have for bathing dogs and getting a good scrubbing. Available on
  5. Gun Dog Supply collars with brass nameplate. If you are like me, you cannot stand the sound of a bunch of jingling tags! These collars are great because they are super affordable (even for leather), and come in many varieties– with no extra charge for the custom 4-line nameplate! In the event your dog ever gets lost, tags can become worn out and illegible, or fall off. A nameplate will not fall off. Keep your dogs information updated wnameplateith current numbers and address. This USA company owned by Steve Snell has a huge assortment of great dog items at great prices.


Products to AVOID…

  1. Harnesses
    Unless you have a very delicate dog under 5lbs, or you have a Husky pulling a sled, there is no reason to use a harness to walk your dog. Harnesses encourage pulling, and give almost no control. Dogs have been wearing collars for hundreds of years for a reason– the higher on the neck the collar is, the better control you have when teaching the dog direction and placement. Front-clip harnesses are no better. They put pressure on the front shoulder area and can impede a dogs natural gait and movement. Veterinarian and sports medicine expert Dr. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD, DACVP, DACVSMR has this to say about harnesses: “I do not believe that there is a harness on the market that is nonrestrictive and that also helps the dog not to pull… In my opinion the real way to get a dog to stop pulling is to train it.”
  2. Bungee leashes. Cannot. Stand. Stretchy. Leashes. bungeeThey make it almost impossible to control the walk. If your dog is trained to walk politely on-lead, he will not need a stretchy cord to avoid dislocating your shoulder.
  3. Rawhides
    They are made from the layer just under the top hide, which is separated utilizing chemical processes. You do not know how the cow hides were preserved, or what variety of chemicals they have been treated with along the way. As a dog chews the processed hide, it becomes chewy and gummy, and can break off in large pieces and be swallowed. Rawhides are known by veterinarians to be an intestinal obstruction hazard. Even if they do not harm your dog, they provide no nutritional benefit. Try Himalayan dog chews, deer antlers, or digestible bully sticks. And always buy products made in the USA.
  4. Ball toys, especially ones that are too small destroyed-ball
    Every year, dogs die from choking due to a ball becoming lodged in their throat. When a rubber ball goes down a dogs throat, it is an emergency situation. Tennis balls can be not only a choking hazard, pieces of them can break apart, be consumed, and cause intestinal obstruction. Do not allow your dog to play with tennis balls unattended, and make sure all ball toys are solid and jumbo-sized so there’s no risk they could become lodged in your dogs throat.
  5. Name-Brand (but low-quality) dog food
    There are many big name brands, owned by a few large corporations, that have put tons of money into advertising their products to the point they have a household name. Pedigree, Eukanuba, Purina, Science Diet, and soforth. A big name does not mean a quality product. They are often full of cheap byproducts and cereals and starches. The #1 ingredient in Pedigree adult dog food is corn! Do your research and check out how your dog food rates.

Are aggressive dogs the fault of the owner?

They say dogs are a reflection of their owners. But when unwanted aggression becomes a big issue, can we place the entirety of blame on the dogs owners?

“Is it all the owners fault their dog is aggressive?”

First, let’s define “aggressive dog” as a dog who displays aggressive behavior with intent to bite or do harm to a person or animal.

I would not say it’s “always” the humans who have created the issue. Sometimes it is true, sometimes it’s not. There are many cases where a dog begins to show unwanted behavior, and it is not handled properly by the dog owners. They may not know what to do, or fail to get help. Or they may inadvertently be encouraging the unwanted behavior. There are some people who could virtually make a Pug into an aggressive monster (through permissiveness, mixed signals, and being a poor handler themselves), but not always. Most dog owners we work with do acknowledge that they have made some failure or some mistake in handling of their dog, which has led to worsening problems. I appreciate that they do not want to blame the dog, but recognize they are part of the problem, too. Because if they are part of the problem, they will be part of the solution.
There are cases where you could take the biting dog out of the equation and replace it with a number of other more “average” dogs, and the owners would’ve had no problems. Sometimes it is the dog. They got a dog who is a handful. I meet the dog, and I say “WOAH, that is a lot of dog.” Some dogs are just more challenging, and require more time and training than others. Maybe the dog has a lot of drive, power, or maybe has a lot of “edge” to it. Not everyone is equipped to own a more aggressive type of dog. Just like not every parent would be equipped to handle a child with a behavioral disorder. On the other hand, some dog owners choose a higher-intensity dog with more aggression to it, and they don’t mind. It’s when they are not equipped to own the dog they have issues. A strong dog often needs a strong owner who can be consistent and prepared to work out any issues. But some who are not equipped for it get a dog who is predisposed to have certain traits, and they raise it very typically, socialize it, and do their best with what they know. But it still turns out how it turns out. This is because a dogs personality is not “all how you raise it.” You wouldn’t be surprised if you got a terrier that lived to chase down critters, or a hunting dog who followed his nose, or a German Shepherd who was protective of his home. Dogs behavior is strongly influenced by genetics and instinct, as well as early rearing, training, and various experiences. So often a dog turns out with behaviors that are in accordance with its genetic programming. Especially if human owners don’t nip problematic behavior in the bud at once, the first time it rears its head. Many genetic behaviors can be tempered, re-directed, or controlled through training. That’s the work we do every day. But if not immediately addressed properly, aggression issues always get worse.
Sometimes people make uneducated decisions. A lot of times, actually. I had a client who wanted an easy-going family dog, and purchased a Cane Corso, a large powerful dog breed. They chose this breed because they had a friend with one, and that Corso was very social, chill, and almost lazy. But that was just one dog. They decided to search for a breeder, and they found an ad online for Cane Corso puppies for sale. They did not meet the dogs parents first, ask the breeder for references, or research the dogs breeding and lineage. As their new dog matured, he became suspicious of people, and was skittish and reactive, despite attempts to socialize him. He was also strong and difficult to control as he grew. One day when a stranger bent over to pet him, he reacted negatively and lashed out. He bit them in the face, sending them to the hospital for stitches. His owners decided not to give up on him and to seek guidance from a professional trainer. He was young enough to greatly improve with intensive training, and had owners who were committed and did all the follow-up lessons. So in this case, they were able to keep their dog and successfully modify his behavior. Every case is different. Sometimes a dog is genetically cut out to be nervy and sharp, or even unstable. Sometimes they’re normal stable dogs with an edge. Even good dogs do “dog things,” including protecting their territory, and this can often lead to a bite incident. A dog with little guidance can’t tell the difference between a “bad guy” he is supposed to bark at or bite, and Bob the neighbor who comes to the back door to say hi.  This is why dogs who have protective behavior have to be not only trained, but supervised and properly contained, such as a securely fenced yard. To sum it up, a dog who bites may be genetically unstable, or may be totally normal, it depends. Either way, the owners are going to have to change how they handle the dog. They will need to gain obedience control, respect, and learn to read their dog. To resolve behavior issues, they will need to change the way they live with the dog, and zero in on what behaviors they are reinforcing or allowing to continue.

The prognosis for long-term success depends on the dog and the owners. Every cause and type of aggression is different. Remember that you are your dogs leader. He depends on your guidance to navigate the human world he is a part of. Set your dogs up for success.

Most bite incidents could have been avoided, had the following been kept in mind:
1) Know your dog, and protect your dog. You may imagine you need to protect others from your dog, and this is true, but your dog needs to be protected from making poor decisions, too. For example: If you have a protective or nippy dog, and a cable installer is coming over, put your dog in another room. You know your dog might act sketchy, and you know you might be distracted. It is not worth risking your dog making a poor decision. There is no benefit to leaving your dog loose in this scenario, but there is risk. Similarly, if you know your dog can be testy with the vet, use a muzzle. Condition them to wearing it ahead of time. There is no reason to take risks that have no benefits.
2) Train early, train often, and train properly. Don’t wait until your dog has bitten 5 people, get training as soon as you obtain your dog. Even if you adopted an adult rescue dog, begin setting appropriate habits and establishing yourself as the pack leader immediately. It’s not just the obedience commands, it’s learning how to communicate with your dog, and how to handle problems as they pop up. Not all training is equal! Taking a treat-based class at  PetSmart is not equivalent to real-world obedience skills taught by a professional training facility. Dogs need a large amount of positive reinforcement, but they also need discipline. A dog who has no discipline will end up insecure and will often become out of control and unpleasant to deal with. Dogs who have only discipline and no praise will become depressed and sometimes fearful. Dogs must learn what to do (good stuff), and what not to do (unwanted stuff). There has to be a balance. Common sense tells us that ignoring a bad behavior is often not significant enough to make it stop. There are several effective ways to stop bad behaviors: Physical correction or averse response to stop the behavior, take away the benefit of doing the behavior, reinforce incompatible behaviors, or prevent the behavior from happening.
3) Feel free to get a second opinion. When you have a dog who bites, everyone you know seems to have an opinion. Some will say it’s not the dogs fault, some will say the dog has a screw loose and should be put down, and some will say “try this” or “try that.” Take the advice with a grain of salt. Speak to your vet to rule out medical causes and get a full check-up, but know that most vets are not dog trainers and may have limited knowledge of dog behavior training. Some vets may have never even owned a dog. Get opinions from qualified trainers, but feel free to get a second or third opinion. Make sure the trainer has references of similar case and uses fair and humane methods.



Does my dog need “obedience” or “behavior modification”?

In my business I work with a large number of clients who contact our trainers because of specific behavioral problems. They often don’t see the link between obedience training and a well-behaved dog. Training is not just about concrete commands (I mean, who cares if your dog can do a fancy heel and tricks if he’s attacking other dogs). But there is much more value in obedience than a dog who “looks” behaved. Obedience and dog training in general is training of the dogs mind, giving them skills, and teaching them to make appropriate choices. We often say obedience training gives your dog a “job.” That “job” is following your direction. Imagine the confidence and security your dog will feel when he knows what’s expected of him!

I often use analogies with children, not because I equate a dog with a child, but because it’s easy for people to understand and relate to. Imagine raising a child…
Some of the traits you would hope to see in school-aged children:

  • Follows direction
  • Respects the authority of adults
  • Gets along well with others
  • Stays on task
  • Behaves appropriately for the situation, i.e. is quiet when required (in class), and plays when is appropriate (in recess)
  • Drive and desire for learning
  • Confident yet respectful of others

All of the above traits are also qualities we would like to see in a dog. These qualities begin in the home, but they are further instilled in a school environment, where children are taught order, self-discipline, and respect for adults. Just like a child, a dogs desire to learn should be encouraged. Our training encourages dogs to put in more effort, and we reward them for the efforts they give us. A task well done is praised, which builds work ethic in the dog. It builds the desire to do right.

School is not just about the actual academics. In school, we learned algebra, reading, history, etc. but we also learned important social lessons: how to behave, how to sit quietly and listen, how to follow direction. We were not given a choice to attend our classes, we were required to attend. In the evening at home, it was not “Would you rather do your homework, or would you rather go play outside?” It was required that we do our homework, and then we could go play outside. Playing outside was the positive reinforcement for completing a task that we would otherwise probably not choose to do. If we did not comply, pressure was put upon us. Mom would put her hands on her hips, stand squarely at us and command “Sit down and do it, now.” And if we still did not comply, privileges were taken away. We knew mom wouldn’t cave, because she never did. So we did not bother with protesting– it got us no results. We did our homework the first time, every time, and got to play outside or watch tv the rest of the evening.

“We knew mom wouldn’t cave, because she never did. So we did not bother with protesting– it got us no results.”

Your dog is the same way. To a child’s young mind, and a dogs ever-young mind, instant gratification is very attractive. The world is full of interesting and fun things. We all want our dogs focus at times when we need it, so you need to be interesting and fun, but also worthy of respect and able to function as a leader. Obedience training is not just about the tangible actions, no more than school is just about learning facts and figures. Virtually nobody calls a trainer to say “You know, the problem with my dog is he just doesn’t do a good sit-stay.” They call because something is bothering them, or bothering their dog. An insecure, troubled dog often lacks leadership and really we must remember, they are dogs. They have to be taught what’s ok and what’s not ok, and in a manner that is clear to them. That’s where a trainer, someone who “speaks dog,” gets a phone call.

Virtually nobody calls a trainer to say “You know, the problem with my dog is he just doesn’t do a good sit-stay.”

Of clients we work with, there are three main categories:
-My dog just needs to learn “the basics”
-My dog has some annoying habits
-My dog has some concerning behavior issues

“The Basics” Dog
When people refer to “the basics,” I will usually assume they mean obedience training. To me, a dog with basic training can walk on a loose leash (no pulling), heel, come when called (around distractions), sit, down, stay, and has manners such as not jumping, barking, or taking things that aren’t theirs. The training instills a key component: self-control. That is all covered in a basic train, and I can almost guarantee you that with proper obedience training, the dog will be a model citizen. The “basics dog” has few ingrained bad habits, and no serious behavioral problems– and because he will get a good foundation, he has a much lower chance of developing any.
One of the common mistakes I see pet owners make is thinking that just any ol’ trainer will do, since it’s just basic stuff. So they go to PetCo or another big box retail store that isn’t a professional training facility, and they waste their time and money while feeling like they did training. In reality, they are lucky if their dogs learned a couple tricks for a treat, but they certainly won’t have any solid or useful obedience skills. Because we are experienced in higher levels of training, I believe we do a better job on the basics, too. If you wanted to learn tennis, you don’t need to hire Venus Williams, but you do need someone who knows 1) how to teach, 2) how to produce good results. Unfortunately, some trainers are more like a dude down the street who took a couple tennis classes and now thinks he’s good enough to advertise as an instructor.

“In reality, they are lucky if their dogs learned a couple tricks for a treat, but they certainly won’t have any solid or useful obedience skills.”

“Annoying Habits” Dog
This dog will probably be lacking in the basics, which is why he has bad habits. The owner may have already done some obedience training, lessons, or classes, but they did not work, either because the methods were not effective, the trainer was not experienced, or they were non-compliant students and did not follow-up with the training themselves. (When your trainer says you need to practice these new habits and routines every day… you need to practice every day. And because I assume you interact with your dog on some level every day, there is no excuse.) Some of the habits will be more ingrained. The “bad habits” dog may think his name is “No, No, Stop-That!”  The relationship between dog and human may have become strained, and people will often express to me “It’s just not fun anymore.” We may see things like barking, stealing food, mass destruction, chewing furniture, nipping, clawing, bolting away when off-leash, or persistent housebreaking trouble. Once the dog learns more positive and productive behaviors, he will not need to be naughty to get attention. Again, I can almost guarantee you that with proper obedience training, most, if not all of these issues will dissipate. For any remaining issues that are more persistent, we have specific creative solutions. The most fulfilling thing about problem-solving behavior is seeing the dog finally gain clarity. “Oh, this is how you want me to behave.” Once the dog is trained, everyone is happier and more content.

“The ‘Bad Habits’ dog may think his name is ‘No, No, Stop-That!”

“Concerning Issues” Dog
This may be a dog who has social issues, aggression, fear or anxiety, or has bitten a person or another dog. They may have already worked with other trainers or hired a veterinary behaviorist. We work with a good number of dogs with severe issues, and we are known for successful rehabilitation. Often the owners of dogs with behavior problems will specify to me “I am not worried about the obedience stuff, I really want to focus on the behavior problem.” I understand exactly what they mean, but that is a huge flaw in thinking. The goal of training is that they can handle their dog, control their dog, and that the dog makes better choices. Choices like “I have a bone I value greatly, but I am now comfortable with you coming near me and I trust the outcome,” or “I see that little yappy dog lunging at me on the sidewalk, and I kinda want to tell him off, but I am going to ignore him and move on because that produces better results for me.” But the problem is– if the dog does not listen to his owners over the small things (like an obedience command, spoken a single time), why should the dog listen to them over the big things (like not biting that random dude on the street)? You have to start somewhere. It is necessary that your dog obey you– the first time, every time. It is not your dogs job to be judge, jury and executioner of perceived “bad guys” on the street. It is not your dogs job to escape confinement that you put him in. He might think it’s his job to tear through the door to come find you when you’ve left, but we have to communicate to him that this behavior is not necessary.

“If the dog does not listen to his owners over the small things, why should the dog listen to them over the big things?”

In order to modify behavior, you need a clear line of communication. There is no magic wand. Despite what you may see on tv, your dogs issues cannot be magically fixed in a day, they cannot be fixed by being in a pack of dogs, or by pills from the vet. It takes changing the way you think, changing the way you interact, and changing the way you handle your dog. And yes, it takes obedience training.

Are you causing your dogs anxiety and over-attachment?

Most often, over-attachment is an issue within the relationship of the dog and the person. It is a problem because it’s very stressful, physically and mentally on a dog. It’s also problematic for people, as the symptoms of the problem are bothersome. If you think your dog may be over-attached or have signs of separation anxiety, you must consider: are you behaving in a way has enabled an unhealthy over-attachment?

Have you noticed these signs of separation issues?

  • Excessive stress barking when left alone, sometimes for hours
  • Refusal to eat when left alone
  • Breaking out of enclosures, sometimes causing self-injury
  • Drooling, panting, whining; panicked and frantic behavior
  • Any numerous other stress signs
  • Insecure or nervous personality and/or behavior may predispose a dog to suffering from this
  • Separation issues are a common reason dogs are given up to shelters (because of the destruction that ensues), so we see this issue a lot in rescue dogs particularly. It also has to do with how the dog is introduced to the new home and new owner. If you get a new dog, begin obedience training classes/lessons immediately.

How many of the following signs apply to you and your dog?

  • Do you allow your dog to follow you around all the time?
  • Have you neglected to crate-train or pen-train your dog?
  • Have you considered getting another dog “to keep him company”? (Hint: don’t!)
  • Do you tend to have very emotional greetings?
  • Are you constantly acknowledging and touching the dog?
  • Do you give the dog constant attention?
  • Are you your dogs primary (or only) caretaker?
  • Do you often re-arrange your schedule to satisfy your dog?
  • Have you hand-fed the dog?
  • Do you co-sleep with your dog?
  • Are you often cuddling together?
  • Do you have emotional goodbyes?
  • Are you allowing your dog to get what they want on their own terms without earning anything?
  • Can you handle your dog in basic obedience situations?
    • Do you struggle to get your dog to obey commands the first time you say them?
    • Can you have your dog lie down across the room and simply stay put and be quiet?
      • How much will you struggle if tasked with an “out of sight” down-stay?
    • Are you the type to “give up and give in” when your dog isn’t listening?

Some people do these sort of things all the time, and for most dogs it’s not going to be a big deal, but for a dog prone to over-dependence, it is. A lot of people who present with over-dependent dogs are (coincidentally?) also very in-tune to their dog. But in a way, their dog has trained them, rather than vice versa. So you have to think of all the things a particular dog wants, and how the person behaves in every interaction. Remember, there is no such thing as an “untrained” dog, there is only poorly trained or well trained. Dogs with bad habits have been poorly trained and have adapted to the behaviors they’ve been allowed to practice. All this sort of prior “training” has to be un-done. Imagine you had a brand new dog, and he was extremely standoffish. All he wanted to do was do his own thing, and had no use for you. What would you do to get him to bond to you? Maybe you’d tether him to you (aka “umbilical cording”), or maybe you’d hand feed him and sleep in bed together. Think of all those things, then reverse them for your over-attached dog.

Solutions: Your solutions will depend on your individual case, but here are some general tips.

  • Have designated times where you ignore the dog and go about other activities, and I mean totally ignore. No touch, no talk, no eye contact.
  • You will not allow the dog to jump on you when they return to an area, or when you come home. You will walk right through the dog and go about other activities until the dog is completely settled down, which could take 5 minutes, or an hour.
  • A new person should immediately begin to care for the dog
    • They will provide the food
    • They will provide access to outside, toys, and attention for the dog
    • Time to drop doggie off at a friends house or a trainers house for the weekend. This is a great time for board and train!
  • You will iron-out much of these over-dependence issues in obedience training.
    • Obedience builds a dogs confidence in their job
    • Obedience is a healthier bond, a partnership between dog and human
    • You will practice more control-based exercises, like down-stays, in a calm manner.
    • You will work your dog 6 days a week, for 20-60 minutes a day
    • At the end of basic obedience, you will demonstrate a 5-minute out of sight down-stay
  • Your dog will learn crate manners
    • You will begin by crating your dog randomly while you are home
    • Begin by crating the dog for 30 minutes while you go do the dishes or some other task, just put him in there and close the door
    • You will leave for longer and longer periods of time
    • When you arrive home, you will not let the dog out of the crate first-thing. You will go about another activity for 15 minutes, until the dog is completely settled down.
  • Exercise program will be instated
    • This will include both cardio (like playing fetch), and exercise that uses mental capacity (like obstacles, scent work, games)
    • His down-time will be calm and relaxing… and on his own.
    • Dog will be off-leash trained so it can get proper exercise
  • You will not get another dog “to keep him company”
  • Your dog will earn things and learn a system of training where he works for rewards!

Once this issue is addressed, your dog will be calmer, more relaxed, and you will both be less stressed. Then you can focus on what’s really important: Experiencing the joy of having a good companion.

Is a tired dog really a “good dog”?

You may have heard the saying, “A tired dog is a good dog!”
There’s a common perception among pet owners that exercise is the solution to any and all behavior issues. Like you can take the most unruly dog, and just wear them out and they will be tolerable. Famous dog trainers like Cesar Milan have toted the benefits of exercise for behavior issues. While exercise is essential and highly beneficial to health and well-being, there is more to good behavior than just exercise. Just like children learn which set of behaviors is appropriate for various environments, dogs must learn, too. There are places and times when it’s appropriate to let loose, to run, jump, sniff, pee, and play. But there are also times and places when you must be on your best behavior, and display self-discipline, control, and calmness.

A tired dog is a tired dog. Nothing more, nothing less.

Exercise as a solution to behavior problems
Mary Customer: “My dog is so crazy and ill-behaved!”
Joe Trainer: “He just needs more exercise.”
Mary Customer: “Maybe I should take him on an extra walk, and join an agility class, yes, that’s what I’ll do!”

While the idea of agility and an extra walk are nice, they are not practical solutions. First, I would like to define exactly what the dogs imbalance is, why it is being described as “crazy, ill-behaved,” and what role the owner is playing in it. Agility training is a sport, not a behavioral solution. It is typically a once a week class, for one hour. Realistically, one hour a week will not alter your dogs behavior. It’s the routine things, what we do every day, that has the most effect. Also, in order to do sports like agility, you must have a basic foundation of obedience on the dog, so they take direction when off-leash. It’s best to begin with solid obedience before progressing into hobby sports.

As we increase exercise, we build endurance. A well-conditioned athlete can perform with the minimum effort. So the issue becomes that the 5-mile jog routine you began is no longer producing the same fatigue in your dog. You are only conditioning him to the activity.

When exercise is not enough
It’s not unheard of for a very tired dog to still be able to muster up the energy to freak out when his owners leave him alone in the house. The level of anxiety and mental confusion in that dog was not going to be overcome with a marathon run. Every dog needs boundaries and to learn them, they need feedback on what is ok, and what is not ok. It is not ok for a dog to put human belongings in his mouth, and therefore every time a dog tries that, they need to be consistently corrected and redirected. People tend to like dogs that are appropriate for the situation. In the house, calmness is usually appreciated. There are many cues for excitement, but how can we turn those into cues for calm? Let’s say your dog goes nuts when you pick up their leash. They jump, they run around in circles, and they bark at you. The leash has become a conditioned cue for the excitement of going for a walk. We want to re-condition it for a cue for obedient and calm behavior. Dogs learn by association and repetition. Using that information, we are going to re-structure the entire way our walks are done.

A holistic view of your dog
As trainers, we must view each dog as an individual, with particular needs. One of the needs every dog has is to know what is expected of him. Let’s go back to the case of separation anxiety. How can expectations affect a dog with separation anxiety? If leadership is clear, and a relationship is balanced, the simple act of putting a dog inside a crate and leaving has changed. It becomes “My human put me here, so here I shall remain.” In the case of dogs who are young and destructive, exercise will help taper that, but only because they don’t have the energy to tear the house up. The problem is, life can change, and one week you may be just too busy to give your dog a 5-mile jog every day. The great thing about dogs is they are adaptable. If you are busy one day, ill, or have to work late and don’t have the time to provide the normal level of exercise and stimulation, your dog (ideally) will adjust to that. But they have to be taught what is and is not acceptable behavior.

Behavior Tips:

  • Vary your activities
    • Go for a walk in a new place
    • Try new exercises
    • Utilize the dogs senses, including smell, such as scent detection
  • Include mental exercise
  • Teach a solid foundation of obedience and work it often
  • Teach your dog to follow you
    • Appropriate behavior for the context and situation
  • Only reward behaviors that you want to see continue

Dog training demos for children

We want dogs to be a welcome part of society. Our goal is to educate the future generation on dogs, and how wonderful they really are. Last weekend, a childrens group came to our Chicago canine training facility to learn about dog training. Some of the children had previously been afraid of dogs. Their topic in school was dogs and how they are trained, so they had a lot of questions. My Dalmatian Rockwell helps me show children how fun, smart, and useful dogs really are!

Some topics we address in demos for children:

  • How to approach a dog to greet it, dog safety
  • Reading dog body language
  • How we train dogs to do the right thing and have manners to live in our families
  • Dogs are USEFUL
    • Rockwell does directed retrieves to specific objects on the floor. He brings me a bottle of water, his food bowl, and a phone
    • Dogs can do many jobs, in addition to being awesome family companions
  • Dogs have FEELINGS
    • Just like you, dogs can be happy, scared, etc. and you should respect their feelings
  • Dogs have NEEDS
    • Dogs require daily care and training, and are fun but also a responsibility
  • Last, but not least… Dogs are FUN

Performance at White Sox “Dog Days”


Twice a year, Dog Day allows fans and their pets to enjoy a White Sox game together at U.S. Cellular Field. Attendees purchase special tickets and are seated in a dog-friendly section. Dynamic Dogs was personally invited by White Sox management to attend as an exhibitor. Aliya and Jennifer were given a table to set up in the dog section of the ballpark. It was a pleasure to meet so many nice people and their dogs!

Jennifer did several obedience and trick demos with her Dalmatian, Rockwell, as crowds gathered around. They were filmed twice– once by MLB, and once for a flawless routine on the big screen at the park, during an inning! People were coming up afterwards and asking to take photos with Rockwell. The Sox also put video footage on Instagram and their website. It was a lot of fun, and we appreciated the opportunity to be invited to this event!

“Dalmatian Dominates Dog Day at the Cell” was the headline on the White Sox website:


My Experience Adopting from Anti-Cruelty Society


I had such a positive experience adopting a dog from the Anti The Anti-Cruelty Society I have to share! The adoption process was seamless and informative.

I wanted a small dog. Both for myself and for my grandma to help care for. She lives alone, and loves having a companion to spoil. I knew it would really cheer her up to have a dog come stay with her since her last one died of old age, and she’s had dogs all her life. She’s a huge dog lover just like me! I tried contacting a couple rescue groups with no response, and I tried Craigslist, no luck. I was feeling a bit irritated, why is this difficult, I work in dog rescue (primarily Belgian Malinois Rescue). Then ACS (Anti Cruelty Society) was recommended to me by a trainer– they offer puppy and adult classes there in their on-site training center.

My criteria was:

  • Small enough for an elderly woman to handle
  • Not too high strung
  • Sticks around naturally, not a bolter, which leads me to the next one…
  • Temperament to follow a human, NOT independent, as I would be training her
  • Very low-shedding
  • Affectionate lap dog
  • Adult, preferably older, no puppies
  • Not going to cost me a huge fee to obtain. I was not interested in spending $500+ on a pedigreed adult. I certainly would never buy from a “backyard breeder” or pet shop who sells mixes anyway. There’s no need to.

I am a dog trainer, what can I say… I know what I want.

It is super important to know what you want. You know, going in, that you WILL have to say “no” to several dogs, no matter how cute they are, until you find the perfect match. I would recommend that any pet owner bring a dog trainer with them to help them select a dog for them. I will not lead my clients wrong, because I listen to their criteria, I ask the right questions, and I know what will be the best dog for them. I also give them transition advice. When I get hired to do “dog selection services” 99% of the time people will be happy with their choice. We take our time, and we look around. We do not grab onto the first dog that we see, and we use logic first, emotion second. Logic says “here are the pros and cons of this particular choice” and emotion gives you the ability to make a connection to love the dog. If you “logic, then emotion” backwards, you might end up with the worst emotion of all: regret.

I found a shaggy little dog on their website (they appear to keep their “adoptables” on the website up to date! I noticed this is rare for rescues). She is a Yorkie X Chihuahua, estimated 4 years old. I went in to see her. I was eager to get the paperwork started since it was almost 6:30, but the shelter manager said “Spend some time with her first.” That is fantastic advice. They have great hours, you have until 7pm to view the adoptable dogs. I walked her around the main room and checked her out– outgoing, tail up, happy go lucky! Perfect. So small. She is only 3.5 pounds. I immediately thought she was sweet and adorable. The picture I posted does not do her justice.

Then I was taken to a counseling room where the manager went over everything. She explained all the vaccines, and when more were due, and went over the vet exam, which detailed she has luxating patellas, common in tiny dogs. This might be an issue if I planned to compete in agility with her, but it is not a big issue for a house pet, and I will keep an eye on it. They also mentioned she has some tartar on her teeth, also not uncommon for small dogs. Then another employee went over the behavioral eval she conducted (THEY ACTUALLY EVALUATE THEIR DOGS TEMPERAMENTS) which included the dogs reactions, behavior around food, and soforth. The behavior eval was detailed. I really respect that they do this and report it honestly.This really helps one find the perfect fit for a person, and for the dog as well. Tiny dogs are not always good with kids– rambunctious kids may accidentally hurt a fragile dog like a Yorkie. They also give the dog a “beginner,” “intermediate,” or “advanced” label, and explain why– so people find the best fit for them. A dog who barks or startles a bit might be “intermediate,” slow to warm up, for example. Of course nothing is a guarantee, these are living animals, but it gives you an idea. Then they went over care– how often to feed her, how to house her best, etc. They knew I was already aware of all this, but they did their job.

The shelter facilities itself was very nice. I liked how some dogs had a cover, like a blanket kennel cover, clipped onto their enclosures. It can be really stressful for a dog to have constant commotion and other dogs walking past their kennel. It seems to help keep stress down. The facilities were bright and clean, and you can see some of the dogs from outside on the street through the window. I picked her up after her spay, at the clinic. When I called to confirm the time, they answered promptly. I saw several people taking advantage of the low-cost spay and neuters there, which is great.

The adoption fee was only $95… here’s what it included (pictured):


  • Adorable dog
  • Spay surgery
  • Microchip
  • Rabies, distemper, parvo, bordatella, heartworm test, Strongid deworming
  • Goodie bag with dog food samples, 3 toys, a rawhide,etc.
  • Leather collar with ID tag, Rabies tag, and microchip tag, dog t-shirt (just for her, I assume 🙂
  • handouts on training, health, and more
  • A DVD on how to begin training your dog, and the number to a behavior hotline

That is quite a deal for $95. And donations go to a good cause. The Anti-Cruelty Society is one of only two open-admission shelters in Chicago. Check them out if you’re looking for your next companion! And if you’d like professional advice, give me a call and I’ll come with to guide you.

Jennifer Hack, of Dynamic Dogs


Even at 3.5lbs, a dog is a dog and needs to socialize and be normal! Here she is running with the friendly big dogs. She is learning some obedience, especially “come when called,” and potty training, which she’s already taken to very well.

Performance: Are Your Dogs Recreational Activities Helping or Hurting?

There are a lot of things people do that they do not notice, or do not consciously spend the time to realize.  Here are some common mistakes handlers and trainers can make:

1.  Provide their dog conditions in which it’s being reinforced for the wrong behaviors.  One example of this is when people allow their dogs to be strongly reinforced by outside things.  Then complain “my dog is too distracted.”  Or is too distractable, too hyper, won’t perform well, or won’t pay attention.

In the case of allowing outside activities to reinforce your dog, this is coming from our basic desire to want to give the dog what it seemingly wants.  I imagine people get pleasure in seeing their dog enjoy things, because don’t we all.  But it has to be a healthy activity.  Dog parks are not always conducive to your dogs training or improved behavior.  You are essentially teaching them that the highlight of their day (or week) is to unload energy with other dogs.  There is play, and there is wrestling that is “too much,” that goes beyond healthy and polite interactions.  If you want your dogs to socialize with others and play, it has to be in a structured environment and with boundaries, and preferably with dogs you are familiar with.  A group of 30 strange dogs is not ideal.  You don’t know what sort of habits (or even diseases) your dog may pick up when you allow them to run loose with a pack of strange dogs.  This can contribute to some dogs becoming very over-stimulated in the presence of other dogs, because the highlight of their life is unloading on other dogs.

Playing a game of “chase” might seem like fun, but it’s not fun when you can’t catch your dog!  Do not engage in games where you are chasing your dog or puppy.  You want them to follow your lead, not the other way around.

I love to see my dog exploring nature, swimming in the lake, I love to see my dog enjoying bitework, and running through a field as I’d imagine she’d be saying “Yiiipeeee!!!”  I enjoy seeing my dogs enjoy things they like, including playing together.  But I can tell when I’m just seeing uncontrolled arousal or frantic excitement, and when I’m seeing joy and fulfillment.  I can also tell when a behavior is healthy or not, and if it’s conducive to my training.  We also enjoy agility, obstacles, and pack walks.  The activities I listed are actually all conducive to my training.  Swimming is a game of fetch, exercising prey drive and retrieves in play, while physically conditioning my dog.  Bitework is not only what my Malinois are bred for, it’s an exciting activity for my dogs and directly involves me as well.  That is the key, that the activities we do always involve me.  Even when they are running loose in a park, at a distance, they are always looking to me every so often, checking to see how far I am, knowing they can only venture off so far before I holler and they trot back.  They will come when called, be praised, and be immediately released.  This is the best way to train this casual but reliable recall, the “check in.”  Make it easy, make it fun, and make it mandatory– and your dogs will do it every time.

2.  What you allow is what will continue.  If your dog has a problem with something, do not allow it to be rehearsed.  Change the behavior first before putting your dog back in that situation.

3.  Here’s another handler mistake– demanding a behavior when the foundation is not yet there.  There is not a full understanding yet.  Why do people go straight to punishment when the dog doesn’t understand the exercise yet?  I suppose the reason is out of frustration, because they are trying to force something too quickly.  You must understand this will not work well.  You cannot punish your dog into learning something he doesn’t fully understand, or can’t yet perform under the particular conditions.


Choose your activities wisely.  Consider how the activities and the way they are structured will impact your dogs behavior and training progress.

Teach the dog and proof behaviors before expecting them to be performed in all environments.

Why your dog is reactive on walks


We deal with this training issue a lot, especially working in the busy neighborhoods of Chicago, where around 6pm, dogs are pouring out of hi-rises, condos, and houses.  “Reactive” can be a somewhat over-used term, and it can range from a dog that is social and friendly but just over-excited, to a dog that intends to bite.  Dictionary definition “reactive” a : readily responsive to a stimulus
b : occurring as a result of stress or emotional upset.

A dogs acting out on a leash can stem from several causes, and may be related to other issues:

  1. Lack of ability to self-regulate and cope with the level of frustration or stimulation… many people feel it’s like their dog is in tunnel vision.
  2. A lack of solid obedience training.  If your dog is barking and lunging, he is not obedient— and therefore needs obedience training.
  3. Often dogs with on-leash aggressive displays are described as low confidence and insecure, often taking the defensive when feeling threatened.
  4. Inappropriate inter-dog social skills.  Not all dogs have equal inter-species communication skills.  Some are more like Tarzan!
  5. Avoidant– if they aren’t reacting, they’re avoiding.
  6. MANY have lack of respect of the handler, and therefore the handler pulling them back and saying “NOOO, stop that!” is ineffective, or just makes it worse by adding high emotion to the situation.
  7. The handlers behavior as another dog is approaching– dog associates “Why is my human so tense and nervous, maybe it’s because of the other dog?”Are you choking up on the leash and changing your pace when you think a dog is nearby?  Or maybe you are giving verbal cues, you are relaxed the whole walk, but when you see another dog down the sidewalk you are whispering “Now stay with me, you better be nice, heel, heel…” and your dog is getting psyched up.  You do not want a negative association with other dogs coming.  You want a neutral or positive response to other dogs, and we reward appropriate behavior.  Your dog looks at another dog, calmly and looks away?  Great, yes them and pay them.
  8. Then there are less common, dogs who present with animal-aggression with the intent to severely fight or kill other animals, not just posture for rank.  These dogs can be a real danger, and require intensive training and behavior modification, as well as common-sense management throughout their lives.  Things like secure fencing, leash, supervision, etc.  A dog who may seriously injure another animal requires a responsible handler, and safety precautions in place.  They may or may not be aggressive towards people.  The handler of such a dog needs to be aware of any propensity for re-directed aggression, which can happen with some dogs.  This refers to when their frustration/aggression level goes high and they re-direct their anger onto the nearest thing.  Dogs who have a tendency towards this can be dangerous to people as well.
  9. Other types of aggression: For example, an in-tact male who typically goes after other males is not “reactive,” he is same-sex aggressive and may ready to fight with teeth for rank.
  10. Some dogs just *do not like* other dogs, or are very selective.   They CAN be taught to behave (through solid obedience and behavior modification) and they can be trained to tolerate, but will never enjoy interacting with certain dogs in close proximity for the sake of interacting itself.  This should be respected as part of the dogs personality, and interaction shouldn’t be forced upon the dog, or they may be negative experiences.  It’s important to address training with a professional so your dog is safe and will respond to you.  Sometimes dogs may begin to be more “grumpy” or non-social with others, due to pain or not feeling well, so make sure your pet has no health issues or body or joint pain.   A trainer who has been training for over 40 years said this to a client who wanted her dog to “be nicer” to the dogs she’d gotten into fights with: “Some dogs will never get along.  Don’t you know people who don’t get along???”  I know some people who you couldn’t just invite to the same dinner party without risking a possible altercation!  Not all dogs are as nice or patient as others.  As a trainer, we have a very good feel for which doggie personalities and energy types will mesh well together, and which will clash.  Sometimes you just have to be selective.
  11. Territorial response. Most of the dogs who are reactive on walks do not look at another animal coming towards them on the street as a “friend,” or as a neutral occurrence, but as something outside their pack that stimulates a territorial response, especially when tethered to their owner, frustration is increased on leash as well.  The look of some dogs on walks is like one of a predator hunting.
  12. They may or may not actually bite another dog… some just put on a big nasty show- that doesn’t mean they won’t get bit themselves though, if they do that display to the wrong dog.
  13. BUT MY DOG PLAYS WITH OTHER DOGS SO WELL! With some excitable types, it does not matter if they have daycare or play-groups 3x a week and are great with dogs there, it’s different when they’re moving & covering ground attached to their owner as a unit, they may begin displays that look aggressive, or are territorial.  Or maybe it’s not aggression-related at all- just barking out of frustration.  That is remedied by obedience training, teaching focus on you.  We train for our dogs to be neutral to other dogs– not overly-interested to the point of losing all focus!
  14. It’s the way you are walking your dog! You are not walking with purpose and with control– by that I mean responsiveness without physically restraining the dog on a tight leash.  A dog that has a respect for how far away he will walk before considering your proximity.  I will only walk a dog that has natural desire to stay with me, and move as a unit, no dragging me or bolting away!  I think a big part of the problem is that people walk their dogs around from the time they get them untrained, and let bad habits develop.  Except for puppies, I WILL NOT walk a dog (yard only, or field on longline) around the city until they are leash trained and not going to cause a ruckus, I dont want to rehearse bad habits.  If any bad habits surface, they are immediately corrected, and not allowed to continue.  Some dogs just like to be bullies… the dog should know aggressive behavior is something that displeases me and it will have swift consequences.

I hope this was informative to you and gave you ideas to think about.  Please visit our Facebook page at and feel free to ask us any questions you might have, or share your experiences in how you were able to train your reactive dog.


Dynamic Dogs Chicago Trainers

Does your dog shed too much?

Tis the season for blowing coats, another way of saying your dog will be shedding.  Spring is coming!  So what are the best options to reduce shedding?

  • Feed a high-quality food
  • Add Omega 3 fatty acids, we sell Salmon oil
  • Regular professional grooming


The proper way to de-shed is to start in the bath tub.  We start with loosening the dead hair with a special rubber brush.  We shampoo your dog twice.  We wash their face with a tearless facial shampoo, scrubbing the entire body and paws.  We use a high-velocity drier that blasts out the dead hair and dries the dog down to the skin. If you give your dog a bath at home, you may notice they seem to shed even more.  This is because the shampooing has loosened all the dead hair, and a high-velocity drier is the best way to blast it out.  Dogs should not air dry, as moisture is trapped against the skin too long.


The Furminator is a brand of de-shedding tool.  It is ONLY for short or medium-haired breeds (Rott, Pug, Boxer, Pit, Terrier…), never for Poodles or curly hair, or it will just rip out the dogs coat.  This process is also known as carding or stripping, it pulls out dead hair, undercoat, and reduces shedding.  Please be careful using this at home because it scratches your dogs skin if too much pressure is used, leading to skin infections.  I have seen clients give their dog bald spots from over-using this tool.  You can only “deshed” to a certain extent, before you begin actually pulling too much of the coat out.   Even if you try this tool on your own head, you will see how it pulls out hair, not just dead hairs.  Properly done, a Furminator tool removes undercoat, and is recommended better than shaving your dog.


If you shave your dog, they will still shed, it will just be shorter hairs.  Many people ask to have Labs, Shepherds, or Golden Retriever shaved.  We can do this if requested, but regular bath and brushing may be an alternative.  If you shave the dog, the coat will not look as nice and takes a long time to come back in.  Your dogs coat keeps them comfortable and protects their skin, we recommend keeping it whenever possible.

See our GROOMING page and book your appointment today!