Royal Canin National Championship Dog Show

Largest Dog Show in the United States

Formerly sponsered by Eukanuba, the newly christened Royal Canin AKC National Championship was held this year on December 17-18 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. This show is the largest in the United States, with more than 3,500 dogs competing at the championship and the pre-shows. Most of the dogs entered are competing in conformation, an event where each dog is judged accoridng to how closely they match the breed standard. The national breed club for each breed creates this standard, and judges must know it very closely to be able to discern the smallest of differences between dogs competing in a class. One of the unique aspects to the event at the National Championship is that the year end event for the National Owner-Handled Series is on the agenda. This competition is reserved for people who are handling a dog that they own, thus hopefully preventing any bias toward professional handlers.

Agility is another event that goes on at this show. Agility is a timed obstacle course, in which the dog is not permitted to knock over bars, refuse to take an obstacle, or go over the time limit without incurring penalty points, or faults. The agility event at the AKC National Championship is unique because it features a huge variety of breeds. Only the top 5 dogs in each breed are invited to compete at the AKC Agility Invitational, so you may see some breeds there that you seldom see at a local trial. The winners of the finals this year were very diverse: Portugese Pondengo Pequeno (8″), Pembroke Welsh Corgi (12″), Shetland Sheepdog (16″), Brittany spaniel (20″), and a Belgian Sheepdog (24″).

Obedience is one of the longest running parts of this event, although the competition format has changed in recent years. During competition obedience, a dog and handler must demonstrate high levels of precision and accuracy throughout a series of obedience excercises. Some of these include scent discrimination (finding an item with the handler’s scent) and a signal excercise (the handler must use only hand signals to communicate to the dog). Dogs can qualify for Novice, Open, and Utility by obtaining 3 qualifying scores at their level during the year. In order to qualify for Masters, the best of the best, a dog must also demonstrate that they can play in the big leagues by having scores above 193 out of a possible 200.

Dock Diving is a relatively new addition to the National Championship line-up. The dock diving event is organized by the North America Diving Dogs, an organization that has partnered with the AKC to make dock diving titles recognized on AKC pedigrees. The iconic event in dock diving are the distance jumps, where the dogs run off the dock after their toy, and the longest jump wins the division. Another event in NADD is vertical, where the dogs jump straigt up off the dock to snag a bumper that is suspended as high at 7 feet off the dock. The final event is air retrieve, where the bumper is instead suspended out over the water in the pool, and the dogs have to leap off and snag the bumper before they hit the water. No matter which event is going on, dock diving is always a crowd favorite.

Meet the Breeds is a very popular event for the general public as well as more hard core dog people. Breed clubs will set up booths for their indivudual breeds, decorate them to demonstrate the dog’s heritage, and they will have representatives of their breed there for people to meet and interact with. If you are considering a new puppy, this is a fantastic way to meet a variety of breeds and talk to their breeders and owners.

Shopping is a huge allure for many of the national championship show patrons. There are vendors at the show for just about every dog item imaginable. Some of my favorite vendors are MAX 200, a company that makes fantastic agility and obedience equipment, and Primo Pads, a company that makes the kind of dog beds that I use in all of the crates for both my personal dogs and the training dogs. Other vendors include photographers, dog themed clothing, dog treats, grooming supplies, and custom crates.

Health in purebred dogs is something that has been the subject of much debate, derision, and criticism.  The AKC and breeders everywhere are becoming increasingly comitted to the health of purebred dogs, and a big part of this is making sure that dogs are screened for genetic issues before they are bred, to avoid passing problems to the next generation. Seminars were given at the show on topics such as nutrition and neonatology, and the Canine Health Foundation was in attendance providing education to breeders as well as pet owners. 

Me and My Crew

I was very excited to attend one of the pre-shows on Friday, and then to come back again on Saturday for one of the national championship days. It’s one of the few shows a year that people will travel from all corners of the country to attend, so I was able to spend time with some friends that I only see on rare occasion, if ever. Modoc and Wild both got to attend, and the environment at this show is nearly impossible to replicate in terms of the sheer number of distractions and proofing opportunities.

Even getting to the convention center was exciting, with Modoc getting a golf cart ride and Wild getting his first bus ride. Both dogs would certainly have preferred to be competing in agility rather than watching on the sidelines, and hopefully we will qualify to go sometime down the road. Due to the sheer size of the event, it’s unlikely that the National Championship will change venue anytime soon. Orlando is a nice place to be in December, and this will likely become an annual event for us in conjunction with a trip North for the Crown Classic in Cleveland.

Selecting Training Treats

Food rewards are some of the most useful training rewards in a trainer’s toolbox. They are highly motivating, allow for many repetitions, and it’s easy to adjust reward value through type and volume. There are several factors that you should consider when selecting the right type of food to use for training, and making the correct choice can  mean that you can train behaviors quicker and increase the quality of performance for existing behaviors. 

Using Your Dog’s Meals

With young puppies, I almost exclusively use their kibble for all training treats. There are several reasons for this, one of which is simply increasing bonding time with your puppy. When all of his meals come from you and activities with you, it helps build a very strong bond with your new addition, rather than a relationship with a food bowl. Using kibble for training also means that you can be in complete control of nutrition and calories, which can be difficult when you are also using high calorie treats during training sessions. Kibble rewards are also excellent for building and maintaining food drive. On the overall scale of food value, kibble is not a high value reward at all. When your puppy learns from a young age that kibble is a fun reward, you have the whole remainder of the scale to use for jackpots and higher level rewards. Many people get caught in the trap of only using high level treats like hot dogs and commercial training treats, and their puppy may be disinterested in any lower level food rewards.


Hopper working on engagement for his kibble during a private lesson.

Now that’s not to say that higher level food rewards don’t have a place in the toolbox. I use them frequently with dogs that are learning to work with me for the first time, dogs that need a bit more drive for the behavior we are working on, or with dogs that are working through things in new and stimulating environments. One of the easiest types of food to use are food rolls, like those made by Red Barn and Natural Balance. These are complete foods, so you have the same benefit that kibble brings where you do not need to worry about your dog getting extra calories or having an unbalanced diet. One of the downsides to this type of food is that it can get expensive, and you will have to take the time to cut it up. Different brands vary in their ease of use. Natural Balance crumbles quite a bit, Red Barn tends to hold together better, and Happy Howie’s, although the most expensive option, holds together very well. 

Commercial Training Treats

Other commercial types of treats can be useful as well, though this is often the most expensive route to go. Some of my preferred brands are Bil Jac, Zukes, and Pet Botanics, because they are easy for dogs to chew and are already the correct size for a training treat. There are so many different products on the market, and you may find a brand that works perfectly for you and your dog. Things to look for are small size, easy to chew, and of course making sure that your dog finds the treats motivating. There are options for those who want to use all-natural treats, options for dogs with food allergies, and options for dogs who cannot eat too many extra calories. Commercial treats can also be a good route to go if you have your dog on a raw diet. Obviously feeding a raw or other type of homemade diet will not allow you to use your dog’s kibble ration as a training reward. There are, however, several different kinds of freeze dried raw foods that are available. 

Grocery Store Options

​Various kinds of “people food” can also work as training rewards. A popular choice with lots of trainers are hot dogs, because they are cheap, tasty, and easy to cut into appropriately sized pieces. This is also a controversial treat to use, because they are fatty and full of sodium. If you decide to use hot dogs as a training reward, try looking into low sodium options, or lower fat chicken and turkey hot dogs. String cheese is another popular option, and the same low fat selection applies. Baked chicken is a choice that is very healthy for your dog in addition to being tasty, although it does tend to crumble. Another more unique option is one that I picked up from some AKC obedience trainers: cheese puffs. You can buy them in large containers, and they work really well for exercises where your dog is chasing a thrown treat. They show up easily on most floors, and roll when thrown. Another interesting aspect to this treat is that they are mostly air, so you can do multiple repetitions without your dog getting full. Not the healthiest of treats, but it has some unique qualities.

Even if you find a type of reward that works for your dog in training, you may have to mix it up for time to time. My dog Wild is getting several different kinds of food rewards right now. We are working on building his motivation for tracking, and I want him to get high value food rewards when he is tracking. Because he has done most of his past training for his kibble, he finds Red Barn to be highly motivating. I would ideally have something even more valuable than that, but he is eating so much of the food that I want it to be a balanced diet. Simultaneously I am working on building duration places with another dog. I do not need or want a dog to be in a high drive state for that kind of behavior, so he gets rewarded with his kibble. When I am working on snappy position changes with the same dog, he sometimes gets hot dog jackpots to keep his motivation level higher.

Reliable Obedience: Beagles and Beagle Mixes

Everyone loves a Beagle. They tug on the heartstrings, have an abundance of personality, and Snoopy was modeled after them. They also present some training challenges. That hound nose can carry them far and wide, and tends to cause some selective hearing. That selective hearing certainly does not stop them from being vocal, and the Beagle bay is iconic. Beagles also tend to be pretty big chow hounds, which can help with motivating for training, but can also lead them to counter surf and trash raiding. All of these traits are instinctive in the breed due to their heritage, and as annoying as they can be, they can all be managed through training. The key is to pair reliable obedience training with good outlets for their natural drives and making sure that they are getting the chance to use all of their mental energy.

Scent Distractions and Sniffing

This is one of the biggest challenges with training a Beagle: the super nose. Originally bred as scent hounds to hunt rabbits, beagles retain a very strong sense of smell and a dedication to follow a trail when they locate one. A reliable recall is extremely important with this breed, because that propensity to follow scent trails can lead them into potentially dangerous situations. Starting this training from an early age will prevent bad habits from forming and will teach the puppy from the beginning that her owner is very fun and should be relevant to her. However, even if you missed this window as a puppy, you can still teach a reliable recall command. When teaching the recall, there are some important aspects to keep in mind. Consequences should exist for both good and bad choices, and good recalls should be very heavily rewarded and have high value when introducing them to your dog. It’s also important that you actually be able to catch a dog that you recall, so I like to teach the dog to stay in my “bubble”, do a sit, or do a collar grab after they come back to me. Lastly, do not make the mistake of always recalling your dog out of a stay or in sterile environments. The time when you are really going to need it is when the dog is under heavy distraction, so practice in those environments when you have control over the distraction.


Another thing that frequently shows up in Beagles is a propensity to dig. This nuisance behavior can lead to a dirty dog and a torn up backyard. As with other behaviors, it’s always easier to prevent it from the get go. Make sure that your puppy gets plenty of mental and physical stimulation so that boredom doesn’t lead them to create their own little “jobs”. If you do catch your puppy digging, interrupt them and redirect them to a different activity, like playing fetch or doing some obedience training. With an older dog, a bit more work is required to break an established digging habit. If your dog only digs in certain places, you can try placing something over them, or chicken wire under the hole, to discourage the digging. If you decide to try this, make sure that you keep the dog’s habit is truly broken before removing the management. Digging requires diligence on the part of the owner. Consistency and clarity about the fact that digging is unacceptable behavior will make the process of correcting digging go much faster.

Barking and Baying

The Beagle bay is an iconic sound. I find it to be quite endearing, but it can become a nuisance when the dog gets into the habit of constantly vocalizing. When selecting breeds like the Beagle, people should keep in mind that the dog will have a stronger than average tendency to vocalize. While you should be ready to accept some barking and baying, you should not tolerate excessive levels of it. There are several strategies that you can use to fix excessive vocalization, and the best training plans incorporate several of these strategies. When deciding on a plan to work on this issue, determine the cause of your dog’s behavior. Excessive excitement, noise sensitivity, separation anxiety, and boredom can all lead to excessive barking, but a different strategy has to be implemented to deal with each type of root problem.

​Here are some videos of beagle mixes that I have worked with.

Service Dog Success Story: Willow the Belgian Tervuren

“My dog Willow spent several months living with Sam and working on service dog training this past year. Sam did an amazing job helping willow transition from needing constant direction to be able to work independently. She has an amazing talent and relationship with all the dogs she works with and truly speaks dog. Willow is now able to assist me in ways which she was unable to before. Furthermore, I continue to get support and help from Sam on a constant basis. She is highly recommended.”-Emily G.

Willow came to us all the way from Boston, MA to work on advanced obedience and public access work for her career as a service dog.

Willow is a working line Belgian Tervuren who was about two years old when she came to stay with us for a few months. Willow’s owner, Emily, made the long trek from Boston to Lexington so that we could work on building some advanced behaviors with Willow. Emily did a wonderful job on Willow’s foundation training, but she needed to take it to the next level to ensure that Willow would be a model citizen as a service dog. This meant that we had to teach Willow advanced obedience, tasks to mitigate Emily’s disability, and public access training.

A Strong Base of Obedience

First we had to improve upon Willow’s obedience foundation. We taught her off leash control, as well as building her ability to perform obedience behaviors under high levels of distraction. During this period we also worked on teaching Willow very long duration behaviors. As a service dog, dogs may have to hold a down stay or a place command for as long as a couple of hours at a time, and we were able to teach Willow that she has to hold these positions until we release her, even if that means that she is going to be there for awhile.

Lastly, we taught her some new obedience behaviors that are very important for service dogs to have. These behaviors include “under”, which means that the dog must tuck themselves under a chair or bench to keep out of the way of foot traffic, and “leave it”, a strong food refusal command because service dogs go into places such as restaurants and grocery stores. Below you can see video of her working on this command. I can literally throw food, in this case hamburger buns, and she knows that she is not allowed to take them. This commitment to ignoring distractions is very important in service dogs, and being distracted by things such as food can cause them to miss an important alert cue.

Task Training

Task training was another area that we focused on with Willow. In order for a dog to be legally considered a service dog, they must perform specific tasks or work that mitigates the disability of their handler. We taught Willow some grounding behaviors and showed Emily how to pair these behaviors with scent and behavioral cues to start Willow on independent alerts. Willow also learned some mobility task basics, such as bracing, counterbalance, retrieving dropped objects, and hitting handicap buttons. 

Public Access Work

Public access is the portion of a service dog’s training where they go out into public and get exposed to all of the hustle and bustle of the real world. Before I ever start taking dogs out into public, they first have to meet a certain standard of obedience. Once I’ve established strong obedience, I will take the dogs into dog friendly stores, such as Tractor Supply, Rural King, and Petco. When the dog has shown me in those environments that they are reliable in their obedience, will not disrupt shoppers, and are ignoring distractions, I will start to take them more places that are open only to service dogs.

The difficulty of the environment is slowly increased to make sure that the dog is set up for success. Some examples of places that Willow went with me while in training include: various restaurants, Walmart, Kohls, Home Depot, the Kentucky Horse Park, the Breeder’s Cup World Championship Tailgate, University of Kentucky campus, movie theaters, on public buses, the Newport Aquarium, downtown Lexington, and countless more. 

The Transition

After a few months of staying with me, Willow was reunited with her owner Emily. Emily drove down from Boston and spent a few days learning all of the things that Willow had learned, and practicing with her as a team. Go-home lessons are an extremely important part of all boarding school programs, because they are where the skills transfer over and the dog begins to view their owner in a new role as a leader and a partner to work with. Willow did very well with her go-home lessons, and was able to travel home to Boston with Emily to practice all of their new skills.

Trained Companion Dogs

We will be starting our first class of trained companion dogs in the Spring/Summer of 2020.

We have wanted to start the trained companion dog program for a while, and we are very excited to be able to offer it! We will be partnering with a few breeders in and around Lexington, KY to begin offering people the option of bringing home a fully trained dog. These breeders do an excellent job of raising the puppies through their first 8 weeks of age, and the parents of all the puppies are health tested and have excellent temperaments. By the time the puppies come to stay with us, they have already started their socialization and environmental exposure training, having seen livestock, cats, different people and dogs, and having been introduced to puppy agility equipment and other confidence building environmental obstacles.


Benefits of a Trained Companion Dog

It’s no secret that puppies are a lot of work. House training requires diligence, they need to take lots of field trips to learn about the world, and quality training with a young dog will demand a significant amount of time. When you decide to get a fully trained companion dog, you are taking home the end product of more than a year of devoted training and care. By the time that these puppies are ready to go to their forever homes, they will have received thousands of hours of training. Growing up in the home of a dog trainer, they will have been raised with the utmost care and a dedication to shape them into dogs that will flourish in a family home. 


​We will take care of everything from house training to leash walking, from proper dog play to riding nicely in the car. Another key area of training is dependant on you. If your family is full of boating fanatics, we will make sure that your dog is prepared for being out on the boat. If you guys spend time at the barn riding your horses, we will make sure that your dog is horse safe and trustworthy in the barn. When all of their training is complete and they are ready to go to their new family, we will go with them, providing you with lessons on what the dog knows and how to successfully incorporate your new family member. All of their puppy vaccinations and vet visits are also taken care of by us, and they will be fed a high quality diet that will ensure that they grow into vibrant, healthy adults. 

Levels of Training

Every dog that leaves this program will have the following…

  •  House trained
  • Crate trained
  • Name recognition
  • Sit
  • Down
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Heel
  • Place
  • Controlled car load and riding calmly in the car
  • Handling training
  • Play skills (fetch, etc)
  • House manners
  • Dog manners
  • Food refusal
  • Boundary training
  • A few tricks

They will not only able to perform all of these behaviors, they will be able to perform them under high levels of distraction. Many in-kennel programs like this result in dogs that can perform well in a sterile environment, but not out in the real world. The real world is exactly where these dogs are going, and we believe that they should be able to work in all kinds of environments. 

Advanced training is also available. Advanced obedience training is available to all dogs in the program, and therapy and service dog training is available to dogs that meet the more stringent standards that we have for those types of jobs.

  • Advanced off leash obedience
  • Formal obedience (formal recall, focused heel, etc)
  • Formal retrieve
  • Swimming and retrieving in the water
  • Lifestyle training (horse training, boat training, etc)
  • Therapy dog training
  • Service dog training
  • Advanced trick work

But I Would Miss Out on Puppyhood…

For those who get a dog from this program, it can be tough waiting and waiting as that little ball of fur grows into a wonderful family companion. When you reserve a spot in the program, we will send you regular updates and pictures on how your puppy is developing and what they are learning. All of the puppies in the program will also be featured in a training diary series on this blog so that everyone can follow along with their progress. Even though you will be missing out on puppy breath, it will be well worth the wait when your dog comes home. You get to enjoy dog ownership with a dog that received quality training for the crucial first chapters of his life.

Find Out More

If you are interested in a fully trained dog, please contact us so that we can discuss what you are looking for. Our next class of dogs will start their training in the spring/summer of 2020, and we are accepting reservations for those who would like to have one. 

Success Stories: Gracie the German Shepherd

Gracie, a Show Line German Shepherd Dog

Gracie is a young German Shepherd who used to struggle with overarousal issues, especially when people came over to the house. She would jump all over them, mouth and bite at them, and could not settle down. She would also get reactive when she saw people and dogs when out for walks. Some of this reactivity was rooted in fear issues, which also showed up with loud noises and hectic environments. We channeled her drive into games like retrieve and playing tug, and built up her confidence through obedience training. Now Gracie is thriving in her home, and is much easier to manage and a joy to live with.

We see these types of issues quite often in German shepherds. As working dogs, they need a job to channel their energy and drives. If they do not receive a job, German shepherds will seek out a job of their own, and it generally won’t be one you like. By teaching obedience and good manners from an early age, you can help your dog to never even develop bad habits. We were able to eliminate Gracie’s problem behaviors, but it would have been a much simpler process if we could have started working with her as a younger puppy.

You can also avoid some of these issues in the way that you socialize your puppy. Only allow your dog to meet people or dogs that you know will be a good influence. Do not allow your puppy to meet other dogs on leash. Make sure that your puppy understands that you are way more fun than anything else in the environment. Make note of any noises, objects, or environments that make your puppy nervous and discuss these with your trainer.

If your dog is struggling with similar issues, consider one of our board and train programs to achieve the same results.

Meet Our Dogs

Meet the Kentucky Dog Training crew!

I’Modoc Des Loups Roccia Nera RATI RATN CGC “Modoc”

Modoc is a Belgian Tervuren who I imported from France when he was 11 weeks old. Mo went to college with me, has traveled all around the country, and has learned how to do a half dozen dog sports. Mo is from mostly French ring lines, and we spent several years doing lots of mondioring training together. He also loves to do agility, barn hunt, dock diving, and disc dog.

Mo is a really valuable employee of the business! He is a very neutral dog with new dogs, which is very important when we are working on sociability for new dogs in our programs. You may also see him in the background of many of our training videos as a distraction dog.



Psycht’s Temper The Wind At WayOut CGC CD BN RN BH “Temper”

Temper is an Australian Cattle Dog who was bred by Ingrid Rosenquist of Psycht ACDs. I co-own her with Rebecca Elder of WayOut Australian Cattle Dogs. Temper is 7 years old, and competes in competition obedience and rally. She earned her AKC Companion Dog, Beginner Novice, and Rally Novice titles as well as her IPO/Schutzhund BH.

Temper is the other half of my neutral dog team. She is great at building confidence for timid puppies, and also helps rowdy dogs learn some manners. You would never know that she was 7 because she has the energy of a much younger dog.

Cattle-dogDog-sleepingAcd-Temper Dog-toy

D’Wildcat 16130 IPO1 “Wild”

Wild is a 3 year old Belgian Malinois who came from Todd Dunlap in Hadley, PA. Wild is a wonderful IPO/IGP dog and I am very excited to have started his competition career. He is off to a great start with nice scores on his IPO1, and plans to finish his titles in 2019 before beginning to compete in bigger trials.

You may see Wild in action as a demo dog, particularly is you are interested in pursuing dog sports with your dog.

Dog-competition-trophies Dog-jumpingBack-on-track

Nuisance Behaviors: Dog Barking

How Do I Stop My Dog From Barking?

Excessive barking is one of the most common issues that we get asked about. This behavior is annoying, obnoxious, and can keep you from enjoying your dog. Your neighbors might take issue with the noise level, and you can’t relax in the evening if your dog is alerting at the window. So how do you stop the behavior of dog barking?

Step One: Find Out The Why

Although it might seem like your pet is barking for no reason, there is always a reason behind the noise. Vocalization can be caused by anxiety, excess energy, aggression, hyperactivity, resource guarding, being territorial, or being scared. Genetics play a big role as well. Some breeds, such as hounds or protection breeds, are more likely to have issues related to barking. Hounds were bred to alert their owner to having found game, and a dog who is protecting his home is most often going to announce himself with a booming bark.

Dogs will often bark when in “protection mode”

A trainer can help you to determine if your dog is barking due to a genetic trait or due to behavioral issues. Quite often we see barking that has been accidentally reinforced and rewarded. For example, if your dog barks at a squirrel, the squirrel runs away and the dog gets excitement from getting the squirrel to move. If your dog dog barks and you pet her to calm her down, she may perceive the petting as you rewarding the barking behavior.

Step 2: Solve the Root Cause

Let’s say that you have determined that your dog barks because of hyperactivity. The barking behavior needs to be corrected, but not before we have tackled the root cause of the issue. If we correct the noise without showing the dog the right way to act, the issues will crop up somewhere else. We can teach the hyperactive dog to do incompatible obedience behaviors, such as place, heel, and stay.

Now we have more tools in our toolbox. When somebody comes to the house, your dog might normally jump and bark at the guest. Now we are going to change the pattern, and assign your dog to a place command on his bed by the front door. If he decided to bark on the place, we can correct him because he did something that isn’t allowed as part of that behavior. We are also giving him a new “job” that allows him to focus his energy better.

We should also make sure that the hyperactive dog is having his needs met in all areas of life. Make sure that you are balancing physical and mental activity for your dog. You may run with your dog or play fetch a lot, but those activities don’t necessarily do anything for your dog’s mental state. Challenge your dog regularly, and teach obedience skills that allow him to channel his energy in a healthy way.

Step 3: The “Enough” Or ” Quiet” Command

Now we need to teach your dog a command that tells her you want her to be quiet. Dog barking is very reinforcing to your dog, and being quiet usually isn’t. We need to turn the tables and make sure that being quiet is just as much fun to your dog as barking is.

Find a situation where your dog gets excited and is likely to bark, such as when you squeak a favorite toy. Squeak the toy and get your dog interested and wait for her to start to vocalize. Once she starts to bark, say your new quiet command and immediately stop squeaking the toy. Mark the second that your dog stops barking with a “good” or a clicker, and give your dog a treat.

A favorite toy might be useful to encourage barking while teaching this command.

Do several sessions where you repeat this, and then once your dog shuts off quickly, start making it harder. Keep squeaking the ball when your dog is given the command. Increase the level of distraction. Start using the command in other areas where your dog would normally bark.

Step 4: Maintain Your Dog Barking Protocol

Congratulations! You and your dog now have a new skill set to manage barking around the house and out in public. These skills will make your dog much more fun to live with and to take places. It is important that you do not allow these new skills to slip. Most careers require continuing education, which makes sure that you stay on top of your game. It is no different for your dog. Keep up the good work, and establish lifelong habits of good behavior with your pet.

If you need help figuring out why your dog is barking and what protocol would be best in your situation, please do not hesitate to email us with your specific dog’s issues.

How To Get The Most out of Private Lessons

Perfect for the DIY Kind of Person

Private lessons are a great option for people who want to be a big part of their dog’s evolution into a well trained, well behaved pet. Each lesson lasts for somewhere between 1-1.5 hours, and during that time your trainer will go over goals and progress, review already taught behaviors, teach new behaviors and techniques, help you tackle behavioral issues, and give you some homework for the next week. Your trainer will also be available to answer questions during the week, but for the most part you only have access to them for a little over an hour. There are a few things that you can do to maximize your time with the trainer, and to get the most out of your training package.

Pre-Lesson Helpful Tips

Before a lesson, there are some things that you can do to maximize the amount of work that we are able to do with your dog during the lesson itself. Save half or all of your dog’s breakfast so that your dog is hungry and eager to work for the rest of that breakfast during the lesson. Having the dog highly food motivated during the lesson will allow us to cover more during the lesson. The same is true for dogs who we are using toy rewards with. If you have a lesson scheduled, don’t have a big half hour play session in the morning beforehand. We want to save that energy and toy drive for the training session.

We want to utilize your dog’s food drive, so don’t feed them a big meal right before a lesson.

Ask Questions!

Your trainer is there for you and they want to make sure that you are confident in the training. If you have any questions or concerns about any aspect of the training during a session or during your homework, please let your trainer know. One of the very best things about private lessons is that your trainer will get lots of one on one time with you. Take advantage of that, and ask questions as you go through the program. Sometimes an issue might come up in between lessons. If you are a client of mine and you have any question during the training process, you can always contact me by phone, text, or e-mail and I will get back to you as soon as possible to make sure that you are set up to succeed.

The Written Word

Depending on the type of program your dog is in and the issues we are working on, I may give you handouts or a small packet of information, especially for new puppy owners. These handouts are jam packed with information to help you on your training journey. If I give you a handout or packet during one of your private lessons, please don’t just throw it in the never-going-to-do pile or the recycle bin. Read through them, at least once, and apply the information from the handout to your daily training sessions with your dog. Many of these handouts make great “cheat sheets”, which can be useful for going back to later on in your training program.

Realistic Expectations and Being Honest With Your Trainer

This is a big one. As your trainer, I want you and your dog to be successful. Success with private lessons is made during the week in between sessions when you are practicing and working through things with your dog. If you know that you have a very busy work schedule and you will only be able to devote a certain amount of time, be honest with your trainer so that they can progress with you at a rate that is appropriate. If you end up with lots of different things to work on and you do not have time to do them justice, the results will be frustrating for everyone involved. If you let me know that you are on limited free time, I can set up a training schedule that will fit better with your existing schedule, and that will make training more successful and stress-free.

On a related note, if you find that on one week you just ran out of time and did not get to work on as much obedience as you were assigned, please let me know. We can progress according to how much work the dog has actually had, and prevent the dog from being thrown into something new that he may not be ready for. Being honest with your trainer about the amount of work you have been able to do during the week is in the best interest of your dog and will get you the best results.

Dog Breed Selection, Part 2

Let’s take a look at the other four groups.

The AKC (American Kennel Club) has split all of their recognized dog breeds into seven different groups based on their traits. Understanding the traits that these different groups have can give us insight into what areas we should focus on in training, issues that might arise in training, and how much exercise and stimulation a dog might need. In the last blog entry, we covered three dog breed groups: toy dogs, hounds, and terriers. Today we will cover the herding dogs, working dogs, sporting dogs, and non-sporting dogs.

Herding Breeds

From the border collie to the Belgian malinois, the herding group is full of brain power! All of the dogs in this group were originally bred to herd livestock. This requires a high level of intelligence, and herding dogs have a reputation for being too smart for their own good. Because they had to work all day, these breeds also tend to have lots of energy and stamina. This high energy level means that they are best suited for active homes. Intelligent, high energy dogs that become bored can start to create “jobs” that are not appropriate for them to have, such as digging and destructive behavior. These breeds also tend to have very high prey drive, which means that care should be taken when introducing them to small animals. Car chasing is another common manifestation of this in herding breeds.

​All of our dogs are members of the herding group, and we love having dogs that are always ready to go. Their obedience training as well as their physical energy outlets (agility, mondioring, and other dog sports) allow them to have a happy, fulfilled life. 

cattle dog
Temper the Australian Cattle Dog.

Working Breeds

This group of dogs has quite a bit more variety than the herding group. Newfoundlands for water rescue, Dobermans for protection, Siberian Huskies for sledding, Great Pyrenees for livestock guarding…the working group is quite a diverse bunch! One common trait for all of these breeds is that they need both physical and mental stimulation every day. The energy level that many of these breeds have is relatively high, and they need some type of job to keep their minds busy. This could be anything from daily obedience training to trying out dog sports. Many of the dogs in this group also have very strong instincts that should be taken into consideration when training. Huskies were bred to pull, so they may require some extra time and patience for loose leash walking. Dobermans and Rottweilers were bred to have a strong protection instinct, so socialization is very important.

Me chilling with Nanook, the Siberian Husky!

Another trait that this group shares is that they are all pretty large. While there are some medium sized breeds, such as the Standard Schnauzer and the Portugese Water Dog, this group also contains the largest of all breeds, the Mastiffs and Great Dane. Because these breeds grow so large, it’s even more important to start training at a young age. Jumping up, mouthing, and pulling on the leash can very quickly become major issues when your puppy is 65 pounds and growing, so be sure to teach your puppy manners as soon as he comes home.

Sporting Dogs

This diverse and energetic group of dogs includes the setters, retrievers, and spaniels. Many of the breeds in this group were bred to work long hours in the field, and they tend to have big engines that keep them ready to go long after most dogs would be tired. These breeds often have to work far away from their handlers in the field, and that behavior of moving out and away from the handler can be prevalent in some of these dogs. Other traits that make them excellent bird dogs, such as an eagerness to scent and higher levels of prey drive, will need to be managed in a pet dog. Furthermore, with the retriever breeds, you may notice some overeagerness in the chewing department. They are famous for having a “soft mouth” with birds, but many retrievers have an obsession with having something in their mouth at all times, and this can lead to nuisance chewing if appropriate outlets are not given.

Sansa, a Hungarian Visla.

As a general rule, dogs in the sporting group are very social with dogs and people. They were bred to work in environments where they would work around multiple different people and work in teams with other dogs, and this led to the development of dogs that are generally happy to make friends wherever they go. This doesn’t mean that socialization is not important with these breeds! In fact, it may mean that you need to spend a good bit of time teaching your puppy that you are more interesting and important than meeting and greeting every person or dog that they see.

Non-Sporting Dogs

Last but certainly not least are the non-sporting dogs. This is the most diverse of all the breed groups, and it contains all of the dogs that don’t quite fit into the other categories. Being that these dogs have such varied backgrounds, compared to their non-sporting peers as well as the other groups, it’s important to look at the individual history of your breed of choice. Dalmations were bred as coach dogs, and their job was to run underneath a horse drawn coach to help deter stray dogs and highwaymen. This suggests two things: the breed has high energy demands and they may be reserved with strangers. The Shar Pei has history as a fighting breed, so care should be taken with dog introductions and with socializing young Shar Pei puppies.

Koko and Brody, standard poodles.

Some of the dogs in this group had some very unique original jobs. The Tibetan Spaniel, nicknamed the lion dog, is a small breed that was kept by monks in Tibetan monestaries. They were prized companions, but were also watchdogs, and their alerts would let the Tibetan Mastiffs at the monestary know when they should be on the look out for intruders. This means that owners of this firey little breed should be prepared for having a dog that is fairly vocal. Overall, the breeds of the non-sporting group have a pretty epic history, and deciphering their original jobs can give us insight into what traits a breed might have and what challenges we might face in training.

Talk to Your Breeder or Rescue

When you are looking at getting a new dog, ask some good questions of your breeder or rescue organization.

  • What do they think are the best and worst aspects of the breed? 
  • How would they describe the ideal home for this breed?
  • What are the most demanding aspects of owning the breed?
  • What temperment do the dog’s parents have?
  • How can you set yourself up for success when you take a puppy of this breed home?

Educate yourself as much as you can on your breed of choice. Reputable breeders and rescues will want you to be well informed, as getting a new dog is a 10-15 year commitment. They want both you and your new dog to have a very happy, healthy decade or two as a team. Some good resources also include the local or national chapter of the breed club, local owners of the breed, and trainers who are familiar with the breed and their needs.