Can your dog jump the Mississippi River?

Because mine can!! 😉

Dolcezza had no trouble leaping over the Mighty Mississippi! ;)

Dolcezza had no trouble leaping over the Mighty Mississippi! 😉

Dolcezza and I spent the beautiful, sunny day at the Mud Island River Park in Memphis. The park, located on an island in the Mississippi River, has a scaled down replica of the river starting at Cairo, IL and ending in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a pretty cool place to visit and offers a ton of great training opportunities. The first one for my labs, of course, being all the water!! Cezza was tempted to take a plunge in the replica river water, but she kept her composure and performed like the service dog that she is, perfect!

Cezza chilling out in the scale model of the Mississippi.

Cezza chilling out in the scale model of the Mississippi.

Several training challenges that we found at the park included children running about playing and splashing in the water, crumbs scattered everywhere from their afternoon snacks, strange floating paddle boats, foreign visitors speaking in different languages that weren’t quite up on the current service dog etiquette, and various wildlife such as squirrels and ducks. Dolcezza handled them all with ease.

Remote stay under a bench near the Mississippi River.

Remote stay under a bench near the Mississippi River.

We had the opportunity to work on heel work with distractions, leave it, and remote stays. I also had the chance to introduce her to a few new and interesting things such as the paddle boats and the monorail.

We had a great visit to the park. It was beautiful outside and I can’t imagine anyone better to spend my afternoon with!

Dolcezza and me in front of the Mississippi River Bridge.

Dolcezza and me in front of the Mississippi River Bridge.

Dolcezza and the MS River Bridge

Dolcezza and the MS River Bridge

MS River Park

“Can’t I jump in the water just once?? PLEASE!” -Dolcezza

Keep Calm and Carry On, Part One

Cinder - Impulse Control

Impulse Control, Part One

Diabetic Alert Dog in training, Cinder, helps demonstrate ways to start work on training for impulse control in the video below.

Distractions can be dangerous for a service dog. If they can’t control their excitement and impulsively jump at, chase after, or grab something, bad things can happen. Cool, calm, and collected is the goal for every service dog.

To achieve this puppy “zen” in all situations I start small, in an area without distractions, and I present small, calculated distractions and reward when the dog chooses to focus on me. I wait for eye contact, then click and treat.

As he continues to do well, I continue to increase the difficulty. Take it slow! Don’t rush! I didn’t go as far as to bounce the ball on the first training session and you shouldn’t either! Make sure your dog succeeds at each step before moving to the next.

Behind Closed Doors

Training Tidbits – Teaching Your Dog to Wait Patiently Before Exiting the Crate

Having a dog that understands they can’t barge out the crate door every time it’s opened is precious. It can potentially save their life by giving you the opportunity to put a leash on them and potentially keep them out of the street.

It’s such an easy and quick thing to teach your dog, and there’s an opportunity for training literally every time you get your dog out of the crate.

Here’s the low down:

  1. Open the crate door.
  2. If your dog begins to walk out shut the door before he reaches it. *Try not to slam their little face with the door!
  3. Wait quietly until he sits down then open the door again.
  4. Repeat until the dog waits patiently then release him with your exit cue. I use the word, “out.”
  5. Reward lavishly!

Check out the quick video below to watch Dean learn to wait patiently before exiting and to see Lola and Danner showing how this skill is useful!


Just Leave It

Just Leave It

Teaching Leave It, Part One

Leave it is probably one of the most useful cues you can teach your dog, and definitely one that can save their life. It’s so easy to teach that it’s a serious crime if your dog doesn’t know it!!

Start with these 4 simple steps: (You’ll need your clicker, your treat bag, and a place to sit.)

  1. Put your clicker in one hand and a few treats in the other.
  2. Close your treat hand and place it down in front of your pup.
  3. Wait until your pup stops licking, pawing, and nipping at your hand to get the treats, and click the very moment they look away.
  4. Give them a treat out of your clicker hand.

There you have it. It’s that simple. Once your dog starts to understand that looking away from your hand gets him a reward you can start to build duration by waiting a few seconds before clicking. Then you can add the cue by saying “leave it” as your pup looks away.

You can teach this to any age dog, so you can’t use the excuse that your dog is too old!

That’s part one of leave it. Trust me, it might take a few minutes for your dog to look away the first time, but then they will get it quickly and they’ll love this game! Check out the short video below demonstrating this training.

Practice with your dog and stay tuned for part two, coming soon!

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

Dogs are Social Learners

Allelomimetic behavior is an instinctual inclination hardwired in animals to follow and mimic others in their social group. This tendency is useful when you’re training puppies because they are genetically programmed to copy behaviors of older dogs in their pack, including humans. It becomes useful when introducing puppies to potentially scary objects or situations, when teaching a pup new tricks such as sit and down, and when training a recall. If you have a reliable older dog, use them to your advantage! Let them help train the new kid!

Danner and Dean demonstrate this in the video below. Danner loves the vacuum cleaner and actually wants to be vacuumed himself. This comes in handy because it helps me get some of the hair off of him before he sheds it all over my house. Since it’s a convenient thing for me, and Danner loves it, I want all my dogs to enjoy this activity. Even if you don’t want to vacuum your dog, they don’t need to be afraid and anxious when you vacuum the house, so socialization to the vacuum is essential.

Puppies will not only copy other dogs in their “pack” but also the humans. If your puppy is distracted by something or running away in a direction they shouldn’t go, just grab one of their toys and run the opposite direction while talking to them in a pumped up, excited voice. The puppy won’t want to miss out and will run after you. If you don’t have a toy, just run and look like you’re having a blast. If you can grab a stick, grab one and run while tossing it around. There are a lot of options that can distract your pup and entice them to follow you! Be sure not to say the word you will use for recall until they are actually in the middle of running to you. If you say the word when they’re distracted or still running the other direction they will learn to associate “here” or “come” with running away from you. When you have the pup’s attention and they’re chasing after you, say “here” or whatever word you choose for recall, then reward them graciously when they get to you.

These are just a few examples of how you can take advantage of the social learning tendencies of dogs. Don’t stop there. Be creative! There are tons of things you can do with your new pup that include your old friends, and they’ll be doing a lot of the training for you!



I’m a Yankee Doodle Doggie

Danner, Dean, and Lola are doing their celebrating on July 3rd, before the noisy fireworks begin!

Danner, Dean, and Lola are doing their celebrating on July 3rd, before the noisy fireworks begin!

The Fourth of July is an exciting holiday where family and friends gather to celebrate the day our country declared independence from Great Britain. It’s usually a day spent outdoors enjoying family fun in the summer weather in your back yard or even on the lake. You don’t want to leave your beloved pets out of the celebration; they would enjoy the fun and games, too. But maybe you should.

Our canine companions enjoy every outing we take them on. For all they know, everyday is Independence Day! So on this one day, and maybe even the day after the fourth, just decide to make it the most pleasant that you can for your dog and give them a place in the house where they feel safe to enjoy the holiday.

Dogs experience the world differently than we do. We share the same five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) but dogs perceive the world differently with these senses.

  • While a dog’s brain is just one-tenth the size of a humans, the part that controls smell is 40 times larger. They have about 20 times the amount of smell receptors than humans. According to Alexandra Horowitz in her book Inside of a Dog, while we might notice if our coffee has a teaspoon of sugar in it, a dog can detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools worth. Can you imagine what fireworks smell like to them?
  • Dogs have much better low light vision than humans, but their overall vision is only about 20/75 compared to our 20/20. This means dogs don’t see well at a distance. They are, however, more sensitive to light and motion and many times will see things in the distance before humans. They see shapes, and shades of color, but cannot determine what the objects are in the distance. Can you imagine what fireworks look like to them?
  • Many dogs are fearful of thunderstorms and they know when they’re coming. Dogs can feel the barometric pressure change and it gives them a warning that a storm is coming. Without a pressure change like thunderstorms, the explosive sounds and frightening sights of fireworks suddenly appear out of no where and can cause a rush of adrenaline, increase in stress hormones, and an increased heart rate in your dog. Can you imagine how fireworks make them feel?
  • Some dogs are much more sensitive to sound than others. This usually has something to do with how well the dog was socialized as a puppy. Regardless of this, all dogs hear the world differently than humans. A dog can hear much higher frequencies and at somewhat greater distances than humans (although the hearing at a greater distance is currently up for debate). The construction of their ears allows them to move them to better absorb a sound and determine what it is and where it’s coming from. Dogs then rely on their other senses to decide whether the sound is ok, or if they can’t make that determination, they go into fight or flight mode. Can you imagine what fireworks sound like to them?
  • Taste, obviously, doesn’t apply here. Unless you choose to keep your dog inside during the holiday and give them a tasty Made in the U.S.A. treat to enjoy as their Fourth of July celebration!

Many dogs aren’t afraid of fireworks and you can work to help your new puppy never develop this fear through socialization to sound. You can even work with an older dog to help them learn to cope with their fear in a more effective way, but that process takes months and months. You shouldn’t put them in the situation for them to be afraid and try to cope until you have worked extensively with them. You can start work on July 5th for New Years Eve fireworks, but don’t start by throwing them out in the yard under a loud fireworks display.

Lola is wearing a Thundershirt and Danner is holding a bottle of Quiet Moments Calming Aid. You can purchase these products at your local pet store.

Lola is wearing a Thundershirt and Danner is holding a bottle of Quiet Moments Calming Aid. You can purchase these products at your local pet store.

There are many products that can help your dog cope with the loud holiday. One of my favorites is the Thundershirt. This shirt wraps around your dog tightly and basically swaddles them like you would a newborn. Humans and canines alike benefit from being held and hugged. Experts believe pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system by releasing calming hormones called endorphins.

Other products include calming sprays called D.A.P. spray, calming treats and tablets, and even room atomizers that are like air fresheners that you just plug into an outlet. D.A.P., dog appeasing pheromone, is a spray that helps alleviate anxiety in dogs during travel, storms, noisy events, confinement, and other situations that cause stress to your dog. Lactating mammals release substances call appeasing pheromones that function to reassure their offspring. D.A.P. spray works in a similar way to reassure your dog that they are safe. You can get the sprays as room atomizers and simply plug them into the wall, or as sprays you can spray directly on the dog or their Thundershirt.

Calming treats and tablets include ingredients known to soothe dogs and humans such as chamomile, passion flower, and tryptophan. Dogs generally love to eat their treat or chewable tablet and never know they’re getting a dose of chill out!

Like I said before, it’s always best to leave your dog in a place they feel safe in your home. According to, more dogs go missing on July 4 and the following days than any other day of the year. Why would you even risk it?

If your dog enjoys relaxing in their crate put their crate in the room furthest from the noise of the fireworks and give them a nice toy or treat to enjoy while they chill out in their “den” for awhile. If they don’t spend time in a crate but have a comfy bed in your bedroom, send them to their bed, give them a treat or toy, and shut your bedroom door. Turning the TV on for some distracting noise can help, too.

Don’t forget about your pooch. Go check on them regularly but remember to act normal. You can pet them, for sure, as petting is one of the most therapeutic things for a dog, but don’t coddle them or go overboard if they are showing fear. This will only justify their fear.

One other thing to note about the holiday is that it’s HOT. Remember that you dog will need a lot of water and frequent breaks in the shade or the house. Heat exhaustion is REAL and it will kill your dog. It’s a super scary thing that I hope no one ever experiences, but unfortunately it happens all the time and can happen to your dog before you know it. Know the warning signs and do everything you can to prevent it from happening to your dog!

Remember, your dog doesn’t know what they’re missing out on. Don’t feel bad that they’re inside while you’re outside enjoying the show. They don’t need to be a part of your fireworks celebration. They will enjoy celebrating in the safety of their bed or crate.

Happy Fourth of July!!!

Sloane is celebrating Independence Day, too!

Sloane is celebrating Independence Day, too!