Watch Me, Walk With Me: Loose Leash Dog Walking 101

Loose Leash Dog WalkingDiscover Loose Leash Dog Walking Tips

Everyone knows you walk with your feet (or paws, depending on your species), but did you know that the secret to successful loose leash dog walking begins with a mutual connection that comes from the head and the heart?

With any DIY dog training, you have to start with an understanding of inquisitive canine behavior. Put your pup on a leash, and s/he’s not going to stop doing what s/he’s wired to do: sniff, explore and investigate. The pull to examine everything that catches your dog’s eye is powerful… literally.

This is why so often we see dogs walking their owners, and not the other way around.

As a certified dog trainer, I appreciate when inquisitive canines trust their humans enough to be able to look longingly into their eyes. I also love to see dogs and pet parents trotting along, side-by-side, enjoying a leisurely walk. These two activities are not mutually exclusive; in fact, building trust through a loving gaze is the first step to training your dog to walk on a leash.

Here are step-by-step instructions to get your pup prepped to be the perfect walking companion:

“Watch Me” ~ Establish Trust
AcademyDog-DalmatianThe first step is to get your dog to learn how to meet and hold your gaze. Eye contact is not “normal” doggy behavior so if your pup takes a while to warm up to this, don’t worry. The following instructions that start with the tiniest glances and increase from there is a process called “shaping.”

  • Have your treats and clicker ready. (To brush up on the magic of clickers and how to establish a Click-Treat [C/T] pattern, click here).
  • Your dog may be sitting, standing or lying down, with as few distractions around as possible.
  • Begin to C/T the moment your dog makes any eye contact with you at all.
  • If your dog doesn’t catch on right away, make kissy noises to prompt him or her or show a treat and then hold it up next to your eyes. As soon as your dog glances up, go ahead and C/T.
  • Shape their behavior by C/T — go from the baby steps of glancing near your face to looking into your eyes.
  • Gradually increase the time your dog looks at you before you C/T.
  • Remember: Once your dog makes eye contact with you, complete each step at least ten (10) times before making it more difficult, such as adding in distractions or asking for a longer time of eye contact.
  • It will be up to you if you want to use the cue word “Watch” or your dog’s name.
  • If your dog seems bored or distracted, lower the bar of what you want and raise the rate of C/T. You can also try using a different kind of treat.

Once you’ve built that trust and your dog is looking to you for more information, you’re ready to move from watching to walking!

“Let’s Go For a Walk!” ~ Loose Leash Dog Walking (LLW)

Taking your dog for a walk should be fun and enjoyable for everyone. Loose leash dog walking means your dog is on leash and calmly proceeding near you, within the length of the leash without pulling, tugging or lunging.

As we all know, this can be challenging for many dogs, especially where there are lots of new places to go, people to meet and other dogs to sniff. It can be challenging for us if we have a dog that enjoys pulling (either to get somewhere or to prevent from leaving a specific location).

With time, patience and consistency, dogs can learn how to walk nicely on leash, making it more pleasant for both of you.

Prep Work

  • Begin by holding the leash with one hand at your belly button – like an ice cream cone – with your arms relaxed. This allows you to use your center of gravity as an anchor to help from being pulled over and to help prevent from pulling back on the leash accidentally.
  • Next, prompt your dog to come to your side. Use a food lure, a happy voice, a verbal and/or visual cue. Say yes, then give a treat.
  • Keep in mind that the leash is used as a safety line, not for controlling your dog. Try not to pull or tug at your dog. Also, it’s best not to wrap the leash around your hand or wrist (prevents injury if your dog does pull).
  • Be sure you’re using appropriate and safe walking equipment, including a front-clip harness.

Practice Walking with Minimal Distractions

  • You may want to do the first few runs indoors, where there are not as many distractions as outside.
  • Give a verbal walking cue, take two or three steps (using a food lure if necessary), stop, have your dog stop (or sit, which is optional), say yes and treat.
  • Continue to practice this step until your dog is offering on his or her own. Then begin to take additional steps, increasing the distance.
  • Add in the “Watch Me” phrase when you stop and also say it intermittently when walking. This teaches your dog to check in with you on a walk and helps remind him or her that you’re out together. This enhances the bond you share.
  • Once your dog understands the concept of loose leash dog walking, increase the pace by walking briskly indoors with him or her on leash If s/he goes to the end of the leash, change direction and keep walking at a quick pace.
  • When s/he comes near you on the side you want her or him to walk, use a cheerful voice to praise. Whenever s/he gets into heel position or puts slack in the leash, say yes and treat. Also, reward for any eye contact.
  • If after a couple minutes you don’t find your dog spending more time at your side or with a slack leash, consider moving to a less distracting area.
  • You may also reward more frequently, delivering the treat in the position you want. The point in doing this is to help motivate your dog to stay interested, as opposed to wandering to the end of the leash, looking for something else to do.

Once you’re comfortable with loose leash dog walking and eye contact, make it more challenging by adding in one distraction at a time.

Before you know it, you’ll be watching your dog walking outside on a loose leash – and best of all, you trained him or her yourself!

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Back to School for Dogs Too – Basic Dog Training Session 2

Basic Dog Training for Your Inquisitive Canine

Hey there inquisitive dog lover! Welcome to session 2 of our Back to School for Dogs Too basic dog training series. If you’re just joining us, check out session 1 for tips and lessons on getting started. If you’re continuing on, we say “Yay!” click-treat, and thank you for participating.

For this specific installment of basic dog training techniques, we will be focusing on “Sit” and “Down.” As a certified trainer, I have come to lump these, along with eye-contact, as the main trifecta of dog behaviors. If your inquisitive canine can master these, then you will not only set yourselves up for success, but will also create a solid foundation for many other behaviors and situations.

Here are basic dog training techniques you can learn from home. Here we go!


  • Wait for your dog to sit. As soon as his or her rump hits the floor/ground, “click and treat” (C/T) or use your marker word, as explained and outlined in Session 1 of our Back-to-School program.
  • If your dog doesn’t sit automatically, hold a treat at the tip of his or her nose and move it up and over his or her head, back towards his or her rear end. Your dogs head should look up while shifting his or her weight back, ending up in a “sit.
  • Once your dog starts sitting reliably every time, you can add in the cue word “sit.” Practice doing this 5-10 times: saying the word “sit,” pause to see if he or she does, if not use the food lure then C/T.
  • Repeat this until you no longer need the food lure.


basic dog training tips for moves like sit and down
Kona practicing his “Down”
  • Begin with a treat in one hand, placing it on the tip of your dogs nose, slowly move it downward towards the ground, guiding him or her into a “down” position. As soon as your dog lies down C/T.
  • Repeat this “lure and reward” technique until your dog does the motion reliably, without pausing. When he or she does the motion reliably, you can begin to add the cue word “down,” before luring.
  • Say the word “down,” pause to see if your dog lies down, if he or she does then C/T, if not, then use the lure-reward technique to move him or her into the position, then C/T.

Repeat the following sequence for both Sit & Down:

  • Say it:        “Sit” or  “Down”
  • Show it:      Lure
  • Pay it:         Click-Treat

As your dog begins offering the behavior reliably, you can begin to fade out the food lure, using only your hand signal as a prompt. Still C/T after your dog lies down, and reward!

Tips & Troubleshooting:

  • Repeat this sequence until your dog is following reliably, then begin to fade out the food lure, using only your hand signal.
  • Practice “Sit” & “Down” in a variety of locations. Even 2-3 times a day for 2-3 minutes can be very helpful.If your dog jumps up to get the treat, lure him or her back into the down position before giving it to him. (You don’t need to “click” again.)
  • If your dog is having trouble lying down, try starting him or her from the sitting position. An alternative is to C/T for smaller, baby-steps towards the final down position – head focused downward, elbows bent, chest on ground, etc.
  • Remember to use the cue only once!
  • Wanna advance your skills? Use only the verbal or visual cue in different locations with different distractions. To “test” if your dog understands, ask a stranger to give the cue!

For a fun way to practice both “Sit” & “Down” at the same time, try”Puppy Push-Ups”! 

Remember to check back for upcoming Back to School and basic dog training posts (or subscribe to our blog), to keep up with behavior momentum and fluency!

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Harness the Love, for Dogs Everywhere

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The wonderful Academy for Dog Trainers, and my Alma Mater, is at it again! This time it’s #HarnessTheLove, a week long social media campaign to highlight and promote the use of no-pull harnesses. Hope you’ll join in the fun, take away some useful tidbits, and share the knowledge.

Of course the Inquisitive Canine is participating! As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I’m all about force-free training, pawsitive reinforcement, and the use of aversive-free equipment – specifically harnesses that allow for both front-clip and back-clip leash attachment. This special campaign is all about highlighting the use of these types of harnesses, while focusing on educating people what to do, rather than shaming or finger-pointing for choosing other types of equipment.

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Why do I love harnesses? First, they take pressure off your dog’s neck and distribute it across a larger body area, unlike traditional collars, making it more comfortable for your dog. And a comfortable dog is in position to learn better and often more readily. Harnesses also give you a vantage point in communicating with your inquisitive canine, as it is easier to feel movement, any tension, and energy through the leash.

Let’s take a look at loose leash walking, meaning your dog is walking in a relaxed state on a leash while being allowed to explore and sniff within the length of the leash with no pulling, tugging, or lunging. Sound too good to be true? Well, a harness helps makes this possible. Think about the traditional collar and leash from a dog’s perspective. Many dogs experience sharp pains in their neck, feelings of being choked, not being able to breathe, and what can be perceived as feelings of stress and frustration. There’s no reason for that with such a wide variety of harnesses available.


As a matter of fact, I’m so on-board with harness use that I’ve even started my own dog product company called TransPaw Gear™, LLC and am in the process of launching the official TransPaw Gear™ dog harness! A dog-friendly, user-friendly, multi-purpose harness that puts the FUN in FUNctional! Want more info? Check out our TransPaw Gear™ dog harness webpage – And, if you’re so inclined, “Like” us on Facebook!

But, this post, and the #HarnessTheLove campaign isn’t about self-promotion, it is about educating the community on the importance of using force-free methods and equipment with their inquisitive canines! I’ve always said that dog collars are like wallets: they should be used to carry identification and complement an outfit – or fur. So, what products should you use?

There seems to be a wide variety to choose from. And, I  know the importance of shopping around and making an informed decision. With the many options, it’s best to look for features that work best for you. your inquisitive canine, budget, and resources available. In addition to our very own TransPaw Gear™ dog harness, a few others that I’ve had some hands-on, and paws-on, experience with include:

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    The Freedom No-Pull Dog Harness which has front and back clips to discourage pulling. It also has a velvet lining on the strap to prevent chafing behind the legs. Recommended by trainers and inquisitive canines alike.

  • The Tru-Fit Smart Harness has five adjustment points for a great fit plus a chest D-ring. Dogs are assured comfort and protection with its front chest pieces. A great everyday walking harness
  • Softtouch Concepts, Inc. Front-Connection™ harnesses offer a number of sizes, colors, and prices, without the use of restrictive designs. One of Poncho’s favorite.
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My personal and professional opinion is dogs would most likely rather run around naked than wear any type of collar or harness. But, to adapt to our human world, they’ll put up with our requests for sporting an article of clothing – or two. The least we can do is help make them comfortable.

So, tell me, how do you and your inquisitive canine #HarnessTheLove? Please share your #HarnessTheLove story. It’s easy on Facebook, Instagram, your own blog, and with friends at the dog park!

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Back to School for Dogs Too – Homeschooling session 1

Welcome! And thank you for checking out the Canine Back to School series. Over here at IC HQs we realize that transition periods between vacations and reality can sometimes impact our canine companions too, so we wanted to help ease everyone back into a schedule that includes some home-schooling, ensuring they develop the life-skills us humans appreciate. 

As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, one of my main goals is to teach you to teach your dog the skills to become a well-behaved family member and companion. We’ll start by setting down some fundamentals. Then, over the coming weeks, we will build upon these initial behaviors in subsequent posts so you can learn how to get your dog to work with you wherever you happen to be. 

We begin our homeschooling program with discovering what drives your inquisitive canine, followed by going over a couple of the basics every dog parent should have in their toolbox. We also share the art of timing, and how important it is to send a clear message of what you want. 



Successful positive reinforcement begins with discovering what motivates your dog. Food, toys, or “Real Life” rewards such as sniffing a favorite tree, all have one thing in common: They encourage learning and participation through things your dog enjoys.

What motivates your inquisitive canine? Take a minute to create a list – chicken bits, liver treats, a scratch behind the ear …  Remember, like us, each dog is an individual and that rewards are based on personal preferences. 

Anything that motivates your dog can be used to reinforce the behaviors you want. In addition to motivation, timing is critical, as dogs “live in the moment.” Behaviors need to be rewarded or punished immediately, otherwise your dog might not associate the behavior with what you were rewarding or punishing. This is where using the Clicker or “Magic Word” comes in handy. The sound tells your dog that what he or she was doing at that exact moment is what you wanted. 


The Clicker or the Magic Word

The purpose of this exercise is to teach your dog that the sound of the Clicker or the “Magic Word” means something wonderful is coming. You will then be able to use this sound to signal to your dog that what he or she did was what you wanted. Settle yourself comfortably with your dog near you. Have an ample amount of yummy treats in an easy to reach place. Kibble works great for this exercise. Now, try the following:

  1. Make a Click* or say the Magic Word; then give your dog a treat.
  2. Click-Treat (C/T) about 20 times in a row, feeding from your hand.
  3. Repeat the C/T another 15-20 times, but feed from different locations, for example toss treat on floor or away from where you are sitting.
  4. Repeat a few more times until you notice your dog orienting when hearing the sound of the Clicker or Magic Word.
  5. Next, repeat the same steps in different locations. You can also have other family members practice the same exercise.
  6. Dogs are individuals and work at different paces. Some pick it up immediately, some take a few sessions. Remember to take it easy and have fun with your dog.

 * If your dog shies away from the click or leaves the area, stop the session. Muffle the Clicker by wrapping it in a towel or similar soft, thick cloth until you can barely hear it and begin again. As your dog begins to respond to the muffled sound by looking for the treat, gradually unwrap the Clicker.

You will know you have completed this process when your dog alerts to the sound, then looks for the treat when he or she hears the click.

Clicker and Magic Word Rules

  1. The click comes first, the reward follows.
  2. Every click must be followed with a reward! Even if you didn’t mean to click.
  3. The clicker is not a remote–it is used to communicate with your dog that what she or he did at a specific moment is what you wanted, it is not used to get his or her attention. 

For additional information on Clicker Training, check out Karen Pryor’s website.


Eye Contact or Watch Me

The idea of the exercise is to teach your dog to make eye contact with you. Once your dog is rewarded for looking at you, he or she will offer this behavior more frequently.

First, prepare a large number of small treats (remember, motivation!). Hold them in your hand or a bait pouch or set them in a container near you. Get your Clicker ready. You can begin this exercise with your dog sitting or lying down or standing. You can sit or stand.  It is easier, though, to have your face and your dog’s face a little closer together.

  1. Say your cue word, such as watch, look, eyes, attention, or his or her name. If your dog looks at you, C/T immediately. If he or she doesn’t, prompt your dog by making kissy noises, when he or she does make eye contact, C/T.
  2. If you still need your dog to orient up to your face, you can lure with a treat. Put the food lure on the tip of your dogs nose, then move it up towards your face. His or her eyes should follow it. When your dog looks up, immediately C/T.
  3. Continue this exercise, asking only for a split second glance. Do not ask for or expect your dog to gaze longingly into your eyes. (That will come later.)
  4. Repeat this activity until your dog responds to the cue word without the lure. Then continue to practice over and over again, in different locations.

With that, we are at the end of the first lesson. Fun, wasn’t it? Betcha your inquisitive canine thinks so too! 

This concludes the first session of our Canine Back to School series. We encourage you to practice a little every day. Even working short 5 minute sessions into your daily life can help you reach your goals. Learning is ongoing, and this is just the start of a relationship between you and your dog that will last many years.  We are thrilled you’ve given us the opportunity to share in your adventure!

Remember to check back for upcoming Back to School posts (or subscribe to our blog), to keep up with behavior momentum and fluency!

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.


Disaster preparedness for your dog, planning ahead

Distaster PreparednessDisasters and emergencies come in a wide variety and there’s no predicting them. In many instances such as fires, flooding, earthquake or hurricane, you may have to evacuate from your home for a short time – a few hours or a day – or maybe for an extended period or even permanently. Also, who knows if you’ll have to shelter in place because there is no access to or from your home.

Being prepared is the best thing you can do for your household, and that includes making sure your inquisitive canine is disaster ready. It may seem like an overwhelming and daunting project, but starting with the basics is the best way to go. How about beginning with the following tasks? Chances are you have a lot of these items in place already.

First, make sure your dog has proper identification. Microchips are the gold standard of pet i.d. Your name, address, and phone number along with your dog’s name should be on its collar, stitched or embroidered on it. Also on its collar should be its license and i.d. tag.

Have an emergency supply kit ready – before disaster strikes. Bare bones items include 5 to 7 days worth of food and water, bowls, can opener, poop bags, toys, leashes, harnesses, carriers and bed (if easily transportable). Keep medications in a waterproof container. Have your veterinarian’s name and contact info handy and up-to-date.

Create a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities in the event of evacuation. Not all shelters for humans accept pets, so be ready. Do not leave your pets behind. If it isn’t safe for you, it definitely isn’t safe for them either. Your veterinarian and local animal shelter can help you research places to bring your pooch. Also, look for lodging (including at friends and relatives) outside of your area that will host you and your pet(s).

Remember, pets get scared, too. When spooked, they can run away in an effort to be safe or become disoriented out of fright. At the first warning of a disaster or emergency, bring them inside.

Disaster Preparedness Planning

The ASPCA has more detailed information on making your pets disaster ready. You may want to check out their rescue alert sticker too. Additionally, your local pet supply store probably has similar stickers for sale.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to face an emergency or disaster. The best way to survive whatever may come your way is to be prepared. Your life, and that of your inquisitive canine’s, may depend on it.

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Searching for a lost dog

animal-tracks-in-sandI can think of only a few things more traumatic than searching for a lost pet. The trauma is most likely a two-way street, as awful for the lost pet as it is for the frantic owner. A lost dog is not a lost cause, however, and the chances of being reunited are pretty good, as least according to the 2012 ASPCA study.

As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I encourage you to take action immediately, should you find your inquisitive canine missing. Be sure to enlist the help of family and friends to ensure as much ground can be covered in the shortest amount of time as possible.  The Humane Society of the United States offers tips to finding pets, and here are some I would find useful.

Comb the neighborhood. With a picture of your dog, walk, bike, or drive through familiar routes and to favorite places. Is there a particular dumpster your dog loves to sniff on the morning walk? Check there. Call for your dog with an inviting tone. Sweet talk your dog by squeezing a favored squeak toy, shaking a tempting box of treats or another container that emits a sound your dog is familiar with. Ask your mail-person, neighbors, and delivery people if they have seen your dog? Give your contact information should they find your pet.

Notify the authorities. Contact every shelter within 60 miles of your home. (Or within the distance your inquisitive canine could likely travel on their own). File a report and visit the shelter, if possible. Many shelters post found animals online, but often shelters are understaffed so the postings may have to wait a few days. Contact your veterinarian’s office, notifying them of your pet’s disappearance, as they will be able to track his or her rabies tag number. If your dog is microchipped, contact the microchip company. They will issue a “lost or stolen” alert against that number. If you think your pet has been stolen, contact the police.

Social media can be a lifesaver. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can help spread the word of a lost pet very fast. Post a photo and/or video of your dog while including appropriate hashtags. And, be sure to provide your contact information.

Search the Internet. There are national Web sites that work on local levels. Some are Pet Amber Alert, Center for Lost Pets, and Fido Finder. Also, your community’s is an excellent resource. Your veterinarian’s office and local animal control agency may have other Internet site suggestions.

Post bulletins. Create a notice with your dog’s photo, name, sex, age, weight, breed, color, and special markings. The Humane Society of the United States recommends omitting “one identifying characteristic and asking the person who finds your pet to describe it.” Hang the notices on community bulletin boards, vet offices, grocery stores, pet supply stores, coffee shops, and other gathering locations.

Place a lost and found ad. Use your local newspaper to advertise your lost pet, and remember to check the “found” section, too.

Don’t give up the search. Certainly you’ve heard tales of  dogs and cats returning home after months and years of absence. The Humane Society of the United States shares the story of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) being reunited with her lost dog, Kiwi, who is microchipped, after more than a year.

Just as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, you can be somewhat prepared should you have to face the awfulness of searching for your inquisitive canine one day. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Have your pet microchipped. Remember to keep record of the microchip number, company name and contact information, and notify them should you have a change in contact information.
  • Make sure your dog always wears a collar with its name, your name, address, and telephone number. There should be an ID tag on the collar, too, with the same information.
  • Keep recent photos of your pet accessible.
  • Be acquainted with animal services, such as shelters and veterinarian offices, in your area.
  • Think about why dogs run away. It can be out of loneliness or lack of stimulation, i.e. boredom. Here’s a post on enrichment activities for your inquisitive canine. If a pet is not neutered, it may be searching for a special friend or a night on the town. Maybe they are in a new surrounding and are looking for their former home. Something may have frightened them, such as thunder or a car backfiring. Do what you can to not give your dog reasons to run away.

Lastly, I’m sorry to say, be aware of scams. There are people out there who prey on others during life’s most vulnerable moments. If someone insists you wire or give money before the return of a pet, ask a trusted relative or friend to help you determine if this is legitimate. 

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Wanna join the conversation? Any experience and/or tips for finding a missing inquisitive canine? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Grieving the Loss of a Pet

Our beloved inquisitive canine Poncho the Dog - always remembered, forever loved.
Our beloved inquisitive canine Poncho the Dog – always remembered, forever loved.

Dogs bring pure joy into our lives and homes. The flip side of that is the devastating loss when they leave us. As a certified professional dog trainer and  behavior consultant, and dog mom, I would be remiss if I didn’t post about pet loss and its accompanying grief. The purpose of this installment is to offer some resources and to provide comfort during a very difficult time.

First, intense grief and sadness over the loss of a dog, or any pet, is normal – at least in my opinion. A dog is a family member and a big part of daily life. The human-canine bond can be very strong, and not all humans understand that. Mourning the loss of your dog is a way to deal with the sadness. I can speak firsthand about this matter, as we lost our beloved inquisitive canine Poncho one year ago today.

Grieving is a very individual and personal process. Everyone has their own way. And many of us are creating and finding our ways to grieve as we go along. It’s never easy and sometimes it may be the most difficult thing one faces in life. For myself and my husband, we found solace in attending both individual and group pet grief counseling sessions. Dr. Kathleen Ayl, who hosts these sessions, was our saving grace during what has been a very difficult time.

Animal welfare organizations, veterinarian offices, and other animal-related groups suggest the following to deal with the overwhelming grief pet loss can bring:

A memory table for Shadow, a beloved golden retriever.
A memory table for Shadow, a beloved golden retriever.
  • Give yourself permission to grieve.
  • Reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.
  • Write about your feelings in a poem, story, or essay.
  • Call your veterinarian, local Humane Society, animal advocacy group, or mental health hotline to see if pet-loss support groups are offered in your area.
  • Prepare a memorial for your pet.

For more help on coping with the loss of a furry family member, you may find the Humane Society’s and Rainbow Bridge’s Web sites helpful. Or, a call to the Pet Loss Hotline,  (877) GRIEF-10, may provide comfort, too. Here’s a Web site of a veterinarian I know who specializes in honoring the loss of a pet: Kalee Pasek, D.V.M.

If your emotional loss and pain is unbearable, consider the services of a professional counselor or therapist.

Please know that the Inquisitive Canine family fully understands that the loss of a pet is one of the most difficult experiences. Ever. Our sympathy is with you.

Creating a dog-friendly Fourth of July celebration

Paw-triotic pooches Cooper & MacKenzie enjoying play, while being kept safe by mom and dad!
Paw-triotic pooches Cooper & MacKenzie enjoying play, while being kept safe by mom and dad!

Happy July and here’s to wonderful Fourth of July! It’s a fun and festive time for our country and local communities. While humans are reveling in picnic games, barbecue menus, and colorful theatrics in the sky, the holiday can be a totally un-celebratory experience for our inquisitive canine family and friends.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I know how terrifying a thunderous fireworks display can be for pets or how a quick sniff of meat in hot coals can turn into a painful burn on a cold nose. With some preparation and environmental management, the Fourth of July can be a star spangled holiday for all family members.

Here are a couple of previous patriotic posts that readers have found helpful in making the day a special one for their inquisitive canines.

  • This Doggie Blog post offers a variety of gentle reminders and suggestions to create a stress free holiday for all involved.
  • I offer some management and training tips to help make the Fourth an enjoyable day on this Noozhawk post.
  • This post on Edhat, Pooch Patriotism Means Celebrate Smart, is written from the canine point of view.
  • For those of you who prefer an infographic, check this out on

Here’s to wishing all of us a safe and enjoyable holiday. Let freedom ring – bark, or howl!

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share patriotic pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Understanding Dog Displacement Behavior

Nail biting, hair twirling, and pacing are examples of nervous behavior in humans. In the world of canines, behaviors dogs use to cope, relieve stress, or stave off trouble (rather than deal with it directly) is called displacement behavior.  Called so because the behavior is out of place, or displaced. The behaviors themselves are normal but happen out of context – such as a dog shaking off as wet when dry. 

Displacement behaviorAs a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I know how subtle these behaviors can be, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of  trying to understand what your dog’s body language is communicating. That’s why regular interaction between dog and human is so crucial, so you can tell if a behavior is out of context. When you notice something’s out of the norm, you may be able to prevent unwanted behavior between your dog and other beings.

I’ve seen my fair share of displacement behaviors, which happen because of frustration or conflicting impulses to behave in a manner that is impeded. The displacement behavior also manifests when a dog has conflicting emotions and does not know what to do. Here’s an example: a dog is “caught” sleeping on the couch when its humans come home. She’s happy to see them but fears being punished so she “looks guilty” and kind of slinks to greet them.

Please note that displacement behavior is a personal issue the dog is having. It’s about an individual dog and not about canine social hierarchy, pack mentality, or deference.

The following behaviors can signal an internal conflict in an inquisitive canine:

  • Nose licking, the tongue spitting out snake-like
  • Rapid eye blinking
  • Chattering teeth when not cold
  • Scratching
  • Shaking off as if wet, but the dog is dry
  • Being clingy with owner or other humans
  • Drooling (when not related to food)
  • Moist or sweaty paws
  • Whining
  • Panting when not overheated or not after exercise
  • Lowered body or slinking
  • Over the top licking, chewing, or “grooming” that can cause bodily harm
  • Stretching to relax

Displacement behavior often serves as a warning  – “Careful, I’m feeling real uncomfortable right now and I just might start lunging.” Should you notice your inquisitive canine exhibiting displacement behavior, change the environment to make your dog feel safe and comfortable.

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.


#Train4Rewards Blog Party … Reward, Reward, Reward

Woofs and wags to Companion Animal Psychology and its #Train4Rewards Blog Party. You think I’d miss this party? Read on!

As a is certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I’m all about reward, reward, reward. Plus, it’s an extra-special party for me as it’s Poncho’s birthday. So here’s what I’m bringing to the paw-ty: A case study on reward training from Poncho’s column A Pooch’s Perspective.” 

A woman asked Poncho why her inquisitive canine, a 13-year-old lab, would sometimes discreetly pee in her parents house, though the girl dog never had an “accident” at home. Poncho breaks down his answer into four points.Dickens

Know Your Animal – Dogs eliminate when they feel the need, unless they have been taught otherwise. A couple of triggers dogs commonly react to are: texture and scent. For texture, think dirt, grass, tile, cement, and carpet. Oh, about wet grass … do you like a wet toilet seat? For scent, a dog’s world is one big perfume counter. Observing another dog going potty, updating status by “marking” territory, and previous learning are a few triggers that give dogs the urge. Additionally, dogs understand “safe and dangerous” as opposed to “right and wrong.” Maybe the lab had a previous accident and got into trouble, so the lesson she learned was to “go” when no one was around. Please note: 13 years is on the senior side of a canine’s life, so a visit to the vet may be in order to rule out any medical issues.

Communicate Clearly – Humans need to determine what they want from their dogs. Go potty in a specific spot? Or just not indoors? Take the time to teach the wanted behavior and manage environments to help your inquisitive canine to make better choices.

Reward, Reward, Reward – It’s all about the reward. In the lab’s case, upon arrival at the parents’ house, the human should put the lab on a leash, take her to where she should go potty and wait. And wait and wait. If necessary, wait some more until potty victory. Then, celebrate! Give her a big whoo-hoo! Some chin chucks and scratching followed by an edible treat … and the big reward: being allowed inside. Once inside, be sure to keep an eye on her so she can be brought outside immediately should you observe signs she is likely to go.

Should her motivation be marking her territory, then follow basic house-training: keep an eagle eye on her and reward, reward, reward for eliminating outside, along with ignoring areas she likes to claim as her own. Take her to places she’s allowed to mark to provide an outlet to fulfill her doggy needs and wishes, while having fun and bonding together.

Set the Stage for Success – Extra time is needed when bringing the lab to her “grandparents,” who need to be in on the game plan. (They may need a little training themselves.) If the grandparents are distracted easily, they may want to keep their grand-dog on a leash or in a roomy, comfy crate. If allowed to wander at will, something may trigger the lab’s urge to go. Setting her up for success, not failure is key.


Paws and reflect – It’s best to use house-training basics: teach, reward-reward-reward, and manage the situation. Inquisitive canines don’t know the right thing to do by instinct no more than humans do. For example, if someone were to visit your house, you would show them where the bathroom is. If you didn’t they may choose a bathroom on their own and it may not be the one you’d like guests to use. You’d have no one to blame but yourself if they went in the wrong place.

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.