Category: Tips & tricks

Camping with Dogs

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, enjoy camping and have a dog you likely want to include your dog in these outings. Some dogs will be suitable and some won’t, often depending on where you go and the type of camping you do.

If you’d like things to go as smoothly as possible, here are some tips to help.

1.    Start Early

When you bring home a puppy, the socialization window is the best time to introduce things into their life that you may like to include your dog in such as camping. The socialization window closes anywhere from 12-18 weeks. Introducing your puppy to a tent or camping trailer is best done by making positive associations through gradual exposure and something the dog already likes, such as treats. If you have an adult dog, you will still want to follow these tips. Your dog doesn’t have to “do” anything with associative learning; we need exposures to be positive for the animal and go at their pace. Play some fun games in the tent or trailer, feed meals, practice going in and out of the trailer and utilize sounds that may be associated with camping such as blowing up inflatable toys. Since this is all new to your dog, it’s important to take the time to work on this with them.

Some other things to consider gradually exposing your dog to and making positive associations:

• quads and dirt bikes
• loud trucks
• chainsaws, cutting wood with an axe

2.    When You Arrive

Go on a walk around the camping area immediately. Ensure your dog stays on leash since this may be a new place for them, even if it isn’t most sites require dogs to remain on leash.  Always have rewards with you so that you can make positive associations when doing a walk through. 

3.    Crate & Exercise Pen

A crate can be a safe space for your dog as well as a management tool. Preparing meals isn’t the best time for your dog to be underfoot so crate time can be helpful. You’ll want to make sure you have already crate trained ahead of time otherwise it would be unfair to use a crate without making positive associations.

An exercise pen can give your dog more freedom vs a crate and has the ability for us to block sightlines by draping material over panels to help dogs that may bark or react at anyone passing by your campsite.

4.    Mental Stimulation Exercises

Preparation and organization are essential. Bring several Kongs, food dispensing toys, bully sticks/chews and bones. Bring items to stuff Kongs such as nut butters, banana, canned dog food, or whatever your dog likes. Find stuffing ideas here:

5.    Long Lines

Most campgrounds require dogs are not off leash. Keeping your dog inside your site will mean using a long line. If your dog has not been on one in the past, do some work before you go on the trip. Spend time with the long line on in your yard or at a park and work on some basic training exercises using rewards to make positive associations. Avoid leaving your dog tethered without supervision. If a stranger approaches your dog while he/she is tethered, this is a chance they will feel defensive and bite. If dogs approach your dog or campsite, your dog can become defensive in this case as well, so keep supervision constant. 

6.    Mat Training

Use a yoga mat at home and start working on a stay on the mat cue. Always reward your dog for staying on that mat. A detailed training plan that is incremental should be used and is something we teach in our classes If you have worked on this in a class or with a trainer then transfer from a bed to a yoga mat. They are durable and great for outside use.

I hope these tips will help you prepare and enjoy your upcoming camping trips with your dogs.

Managing Holiday Stress With Pets

Managing Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a joyous… and stressful time of year. With multiple to-do lists, guests, parties and emptied wallets the last thing we can think of is how to prepare when it comes to our pets.

Depending on the age of your dog, and their energy level, here are some tips to keep the holidays running smoothly:


Planning ahead of time can take tremendous stress off your plate. Keeping your dog busy is always your best bet when having guests over or if they are constantly chewing at presents under the tree. A few ideas would be:

  • Keep some Kongs stuffed and ready to go in the fridge. Great recipe ideas via the Kong website.
  • Yak Milk chews are full of flavour and long lasting, we like local company Churpi Durka
  • Antlers, naturally shed. These are for hard-core chewers so not suitable for puppies.


Constantly getting after your dog for pawing at decorations or lifting their leg on the Christmas tree can be tiring. After all, our dogs are animals and often don’t know any better.

  • Gate off the Christmas Tree, take a look at the images to your right for ideas
  • Place decorations out of reach
  • Avoid giving your dog attention if he does get into something, remove the item and redirect your dog to something to keep him busy


It’s really important to continue with your regular routine when on holidays otherwise your dog may become restless (and destructive!). A bored dog is one that will seek things to chew and become rambunctious if they haven’t had their regular dose of exercise. Time a long walk to precede guests coming over!  Remember, your dog has needs and if you don’t fulfill them it will only cause havoc in the household.

Prevention and preparation are key!

Top 10 Behaviour Myths via Jean Donaldson

The dog training industry is rife with opinions and theories, very few of them are actually truth. Scientific evidence is something we should strive for when working with animals; outlandish fiction muddies the water for everyone.

1) Dogs are naturally pack animals with a clear social order.

This one busts coming out of the gate as free-ranging dogs (pariahs, semi-feral populations, dingoes, etc.) don’t form packs. As someone who spent years solemnly repeating that dogs were pack animals, it was sobering to find out that dogs form loose, amorphous, transitory associations with other dogs.

2) If you let dogs exit doorways ahead of you, you’re letting them be dominant.

There is not only no evidence for this, there is no evidence that the behaviour of going through a doorway has any social significance whatsoever. In order to lend this idea any plausibility, it would need to be ruled out that rapid doorway exit is not simply a function of their motivation to get to whatever is on the other side combined with their higher ambulation speed.

3) In multi-dog households, “support the hierarchy” by giving presumed dominant animals patting, treats, etc., first, before giving the same attention to presumed subordinate animals.

There is no evidence that this has any impact on inter-dog relations, or any type of aggression. In fact, if one dog were roughing up another, the laws governing Pavlovian conditioning would dictate an opposite tack: Teach aggressive dogs that other dogs receiving scarce resources predicts that they are about to receive some. If so practised, the tough dog develops a happy emotional response to other dogs getting stuff – a helpful piece of training, indeed. No valuable conditioning effects are achieved by giving the presumed higher-ranking dog goodies first.

4) Dogs have an innate desire to please. This concept has never been operationally defined, let alone tested.

A vast preponderance of evidence, however, suggests that dogs, like all properly functioning animals, are motivated by food, water, sex, and like many animals, by play and access to bonded relationships, especially after an absence. They’re also, like all animals, motivated by fear and pain, and these are the inevitable tools of those who eschew the use of food, play, etc., however much they cloak their coercion and collar-tightening in desire to please rhetoric.

5) Rewards are bribes and thus compromise relationships.

Related to 4), the idea that behaviour should just, in the words of Susan Friedman, Ph.D., “flow like a fountain” without need of consequences, is opposed by more than 60 years of unequivocal evidence that behaviour is, again to quote Friedman, “a tool to produce consequences.” Another problem is that bribes are given before behaviour, and rewards are given after. And, a mountain of evidence from decades of research in pure and applied settings has demonstrated over and over that positive reinforcement – i.e., rewards – make relationships better, never worse.

6) If you pat your dog when he’s afraid, you’re rewarding the fear.

Fear is an emotional state – a reaction to the presence or anticipation of something highly aversive. It is not an attempt at manipulation. If terrorists enter a bank and order everybody down on the floor, the people will exhibit fearful behaviour. If I then give a bank customer on the floor a compliment, 20 bucks or chocolates, is this going to make them more afraid of terrorists next time? It’s stunningly narcissistic to imagine that a dog’s fearful behaviour is somehow directed at us (along with his enthusiastic door-dashing).

7) Punish dogs for growling or else they’ll become aggressive.

Ian Dunbar calls this “removing the ticker from the time bomb.” Dogs growl because something upsetting them is too close. If you punish them for informing us of this, they are still upset but now not letting us know, thus allowing scary things to get closer and possibly end up bitten. Much better to make the dog comfortable around what he’s growling at so he’s not motivated to make it go away.

8) Playing tug makes dogs aggressive.

There is no evidence that this is so. The only study ever done, by Borchelt and Goodloe, found no correlation between playing tug and the incidence of aggression directed at either family members or strangers. Tug is, in fact, a cooperative behaviour directed at simulated prey: the toy.

9) If you give dogs chew toys, they’ll learn to chew everything.

This is a Pandora’s box type of argument that, once again, has zero evidence to support it. Dogs are excellent discriminators and readily learn with minimal training to distinguish their toys from forbidden items. The argument is also logically flawed as chewing is a ‘hydraulic’ behaviour that waxes and wanes, depending on satiation/deprivation, as does drinking, eating and sex. Dogs without chew objects are like zoo animals in barren cages. Unless there is good compensation with other enrichment activities, there is a welfare issue here.

10) You can’t modify “genetic” behaviour.

All behaviour – and I mean all – is a product of a complex interplay between genes and the environment. And while some behaviours require less learning than others, or no learning at all, their modifiability varies as much as does the modifiability of behaviours that are primarily learned.

Integrating a New Dog Into Your “Pack”

These guidelines should help during that crucial initial stage of integration. Most people rush into introducing the dogs and expect them to “work it out”. Often times this is a stressful scenario and you can start things off on the wrong foot without intending to.  If you follow these guidelines and take your time you can set the dogs up to succeed.

Meet Off Site First
(you will need two handlers, one for each dog)

Always introduce dogs in a neutral place and use lots of positive reinforcement such as treats so that there is a default good association. Introduce both dogs on leash and try to keep the leashes loose for their first few sniffs. Count to three while they first sniff and then move them away with a happy tone of voice and use some treats to reward. You’ll want to repeat a few brief sniffs and then get them moving on a parallel walk.

If there is snarking upon first sniff don’t throw in the towel! Take both dogs on a parallel walk and use lots of rewards. Then go home in separate cars.  When you arrive home you should have your baby gates set up to keep the dogs separate for a period of time until you’ve made lots of good associations and there have not been any set backs.


I thought we were done with baby gates once we house trained our dog? Nope! These gates are often crucial for multi-dog households. You’ll want to have separate areas for the dogs at least for the first few weeks while you integrate the new dog into your home. This can prevent squabbles, resource guarding and in general stress and anxiety.  Don’t skip this part even if your resident dog is “good”.

Decompression Time

One of the biggest mistakes I see when someone brings a new dog home is that they immerse the dog in their life very quickly. They take them to the pet store, the dog park, over to friends houses and to work… often within the first few days. This can be extremely stressful and overwhelming for a dog. The most stressful time for a newly adopted dog is the first few weeks. They have no point of reference for this new life of theirs so let them settle into your home first and spend the first few weeks slowly introducing them to the different facets of your life. It’s understandable that it’s exciting to welcome your new family member home and you’d like to bring them everywhere, however, you won’t be setting them up for success. Keep their world small for the first few weeks and acclimate them to the new home environment first

Food and Toys

Resource guarding amongst other dogs is a normal behaviour and one that can spike during stressful scenarios or introducing new dogs into your household. Feed dogs separately and keep toys and beds separate. In the home these should be in different areas with the baby gates being used. Dogs often times don’t want to share these items and that’s ok! Don’t assume they will want to share and use preventative measures to avoid problesm.

Walks and Play

Take both dogs on plenty of on leash walks together if the first few days have gone well. Experiment with some off leash time in the yard with supervision and if they end up playing great! Keep play sessions short and sweet and end on a good note. Again, watch toys as they may squabble over those or sticks/balls. Prevention will be key again for the first few weeks and up to a month. It can take 3-6 months in many cases to see some reliable behaviour between the dogs in this new dynamic.

The Opportunity You May Be Missing

Carving out time in our busy schedules to work on training with our canine comradess can be tough. If we want to see results it takes consistency, dedication and time. It’s a challenge when many of us are balancing, family, work and outside interests. Training is an on-going effort we must invest in our dogs in order to keep them motivated and to stay on track. Our dogs are family members and their behaviour can dramatically impact our — and their — quality of life. After all, they add great value to our lives. So how do we fit it in and not compromise the quality of training?

Every walk can be a training session.

Our dogs need daily exercise and chances are you are taking them for at least a 20 minute walk. Here is your opportunity to take advantage of that one on one time and make some focused changes. Not only is it physical exercise for your dog (and you) it is mental exercise. Mental exercise is actually more tiring than physical exercise. We need to engage our dogs with training and mental stimulation sessions daily.

Set an intention.

Before you lace up your shoes and leash up, decide what you’d like to work on. It could be that you are working on pulling so you’d like to reinforce loose leash walking. Perhaps your dog is often distracted and your intention is to engage with them throughout the walk and reinforce when they do. Maybe your dog has reactivity issues and you are keeping your dog at a distance while reinforcing with yummy treats when they notice other dogs and keep their cool. It could be as simple as asking or waiting for a sit before crossing the street or interacting with people on the street. The scenarios are endless. Take it outside and take advantage of your walks.

Keep them close.

Far too many times I have witnessed someone walking their dog on a flexi-leash while they are talking on the phone and not realizing their dog is approaching another dog that may or may not want to interact. We need to be conscious of this and respect other dogs’ space. I like to use a waist leash because I can adjust it to keep my dog close and I can keep my hands free so I can reinforce the behaviour I like with treats.  I call this “connected walking”. I want my dog to be checking in with me with eye contact regularly so that the many outside distractions won’t have me yanked or pulled towards things.

Strengthen your bond.

Many times we slip into feeling like taking the dog for a walk is a chore. We multi-task phone calls and texting with scooping poop. Sometimes a quick walk does have the purpose of just a bathroom break, which is fine, but we have to keep in mind that committing time for training ensures our furry family members are healthy and happy.  Take the time for a focused walking/training session and you will see results in terms of behaviour as well as the bond you share. You will find that your dog is connecting with you more during and after walks; throughout the whole day!

Make it fun!

Benches, concrete walls and stairs are all great opportunities to teach your dog to jump onto things, off of things and around objects. This is all stimulating for their noggins! Hand targeting or luring with treats can encourage them to explore different objects they may not naturally jump on. Get creative and you will see how much they enjoy these new training sessions with you.

So, you can see that while you don’t think you have time to work on training every day, you actually do! Take that morning or evening walk and turn it into an enriching and stimulating training session that you and your pooch can benefit from on a consistent basis.




2 Things You Should Teach Your Dog Today

The foundation for all “good” behaviour is impulse control (patience) and focus and response to handler. Animals are naturally impulsive; it’s up to us to teach them what we DO want them to do instead of constantly reacting negatively to what they are doing that we don’t like. How can we expect them to change their behaviour if we don’t teach what we would like. As always, methods that are non-confrontational and do not involve using fear or punishment has been documented as most effective.

1. “Let’s Go!”

Let’s Go is a great skill to teach your dog that can get you out of sticky situations or prevent incidents from occurring.  Teaching your dog that it’s not safe, nor realistic, for them to pull towards every dog, human or bird they desire is critical. Animals are impulsive; they are animals. If we don’t want them to act on their impulses, it’s up to us to teach them a different skill that pays off as much, or better, than what they’d like access to.

I love Emily Larlham’s of Dogmantics demo of teaching Let’s Go. You can use a marker word “yes” instead of a clicker.

2. Wait…

Impulse control = patience. I like to teach a Wait before giving meals or any time when I think my dog can become too “over the top” and needs to dial things down a bit. Waiting before doors so that your dog doesn’t dash out into the street, waiting before jumping out of a vehicle or flying into the dog park… all good times to practice the patience muscle. I use a marker word “yes” instead of a clicker.

“Why Can’t My Dog Be Normal?”

Some days it can be a real challenge living with a reactive dog or one you find a challenge. They may pull on the leash like a freight train, bark at crows and try to attack them, or they may have more serious issues such as reactivity/fear towards people or other dogs, or guard items or spaces.

We love our dogs; there’s no doubt about that. Regardless of their imperfections, we really want to do best by them. When we face social pressures and judgment from those around us, it only makes things more difficult. Many of us live in shared spaces and close quarter with others. Some of us still live with family members. It may seem sometimes like everyone else has a “normal” dog while you struggle to make minute changes towards the better with your own. How can we cope?

Realize There is No “Normal” Dog

What is the definition of normal? “Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected” (Websters Dictionary)

When it comes to animals and behaviour, there really is no “normal”. It may appear to you from the outside looking in that your neighbor across the street has a very normal and perfect dog. He doesn’t lunge, bark or pull. However, what you might not know is that when he is off leash he indulges in poop-eating and dashes out the front door when not restrained, many times almost being hit by a car. Is this “normal” behaviour?  Absolutely, this behaviour is normal for an animal! But, the dog is not perfect, and it may drive the guardian nuts wishing his dog was “normal”. So these a few things to keep in mind when you feel as though you are fighting an uphill battle.

Recognize Small Successes

It’s human nature for us to focus on imperfections and dismiss the progress we make in life. Give yourself, and your dog, permission to feel good about the progress you are making. If you are not making progress, seek help from a qualified force-free trainer. Keep a log of some of your successes during the day, even if they are small. Give your dog feedback (think snacks and play) when he gets it right, even for the little things. Don’t look for perfection; we want progress.

Ignore the Haters

You’re going to be judged by your dog’s behaviour and you need to get over it. You cannot change others’ reactions to you, but you can develop a thicker skin and remember that you and your dog are a team. Keep your eye on the ball and focus on your dog, the training you are doing and the progress you are making. If a slip-up happens, it’s just a blip on the radar and part of the learning process. If someone in your life is constantly criticizing you or your dog, then have a script that you repeat to them. “We are working on it, no perfect dogs out there but we are making progress with our training.” Don’t let the negativity get you down and find as many situations as possible to set your dog, and you, up for successes you can use as benchmarks.

The Ball Is In Your Court

Remember that it’s up to us to provide training and guidance for our dogs if we are looking to make changes. The learning process for animals isn’t always an easy road; us humans tend to be inconsistent, confusing and we change the rules for our dogs quite often… leaving them to guess what the heck it is that we want from them! Slow and steady, consistent and clear. If training “isn’t working” then you either need a new trainer, need to clean up your own training, or you aren’t giving things enough time for your dog to make the connection.

Connections and Support

Realizing you aren’t in the minority when it comes to your dog and their “abnormal” behaviour can really shed some light onto the subject and reassure you that there are many dogs out there that are misunderstood and perfectly imperfect. If you have a family member or friend that is supportive – lean on them. Ask for help if you need it, find a reactive dog class and make connections so you can meet up when the classes conclude to practice or find an online group that shares accurate information so you can learn more about dogs and their behaviour.

The more we know about animal behaviour and the learning process, the better we can understand why our dogs do what they do. Appreciate your dog for the individual he is, quirks and all.

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