Dog Training

Honey       Lack of exercise –  barking, jumping and chewing

honey    She was a barking, bouncing, crazy, year old puppy who loved to chew shoes and socks.  In simple terms, a dog lacking proper exercise.   She was just too much for her owner to deal with.  She was tied up in the backyard and her enthusiasm for life was just too great, especially for the small children she kept knocking down!


My two senior dogs at the time, Sasha and Max, were not too pleased with me when she arrived!  Honey really took to Max and she learned so much about being a good K-9.  Some of the best teachers for young dogs can be your older dog(s).   Honey went on quite a few trail rides which really helped to release her energy and curb her bad behaviour.

Honey has some type of “northern breed” in her, as she is quite vocal and can be pushy.  Every now and then she slips into her old ways and uses her paw for affection.  That’s not very polite on her part and not well received, especially when you are wearing shorts in the summer time!  She does need leadership even though she is my pack’s natural K-9 leader.

Watching the pack dynamics is quite fascinating and I continue to learn from it.  When Ringo arrived his energy totally upset the balance, especially with his daily attacks on Honey.  It can take a pack several months to fully accept a new member.  There were many times I doubted that I would ever see Honey and Ringo playing.

Abby        Dominant, assertive, lacking self confidence

abby  Yes, that is her in our logo.  She is our “SPCA special” – our beloved little “rott-hound” (rottweiler and hound cross).   She was my constant companion and training partner for 3 months when we did the professional dog trainer’s program.


She was another one who had way too much energy.   She came from the Parksville/Qualicum SPCA in June 2006. She was about 6 months old and was nothing short of a demon!   Abby was brought home after Honey had to say goodbye to both Sasha and her beloved old Max.  There was many times when Honey would look at me and you could read her look – “what did I do to deserve this? (Abby)”.

Abby really liked white things  –  that nice new white shirt off the clothes line and the down comforter I left out for some fresh air!  Funny now –  not then.   I had not yet realized the full benefits of exercise (and plenty of it), obedience and then affection.

Our first camping trip with our friends did not get off to a good start when Abby woke up everyone at 5:00 AM  – barking.   BARKING IS A GROUP ACTIVITY so the other dogs naturally joined in.  When the humans shouted at the dogs to be quiet, it was even better!

After graduation from training, our friends were all quite amazed that this could even be the same dog.  She had become a dog that could hold a sit, lie down and come blasting across the ball field with only a hand signal and stop inches in front of me in a perfect sit!

Abby has taught me about K-9 body language, timing and manners.  It is rude  for your dog to stare at another dog because it is either a challenge or a threat.  Abby likes to watch other dogs and will quickly pounce when they meet her gaze!  I have learned what to look for as she quite clearly shows it in many ways:  her tail will go up and stop moving, her brows will crease, she locks her eyes, there is a quick freeze of motion in her head and/or her whole body may go stiff.

PULLING BACK on the leash is a HUGE MISTAKE!!  That will just send her right at the other dog.  A touch near the rear of your dog can get her to turn towards you so you can move away.  Even better –  PREVENTION – watch your dog, learn their body language so the second you see that little freeze in motion or they “lock on their target” with their eyes, you can react.

Introducing new dogs nose to nose, pulling on their leash is a great way to start a dog fight.  Walking them side by side is a far more natural way of going.  This is why pack hikes are so effective.  We humanize our dogs – humans greet face to face, dogs greet, well, lets face it, nose to butt.  It’s what dogs do!

Abby taught us all about the sweet and subtle ways that a dog can take over and dominate you without you even realizing it!  How affectionate of your dog to walk up to you and put their paw on your foot….awww, isn’t that cute?    Nope, that is dominant!

Or how about when they lean up against your leg and you lovingly reach down and pet them?   Dominant – YOU are being very well trained!

If they jump on you and you step back?  Wrong again, dogs are all about space – you back away, they just “won the space game” and you happily gave it up to them!   Walk forward and claim the space (do NOT knee your dog) simply take the space away from them in a calm and assertive manner.  That’s what a pack leader does.

Abby and I both continue to learn.  Being a pack leader is a constant job – not just something you do at obedience class.  She has taught me about energy, being calm and assertive and breathing versus being anxious, fearful or worried.  She really showed me how our thoughts and intentions can create exactly what you want or don’t want – a sharp intake of your breath, the tightening of the leash, or even better, worrying about a dog fight.

Ringo        Dog aggression

ringo Ole’ Mexico.  Yes, Ringo is from a beach in Mexico.  He came to Canada in March of 2007 and went to Campbell River.   He became the “less than ideal” K-9 citizen with way too much energy for a city backyard.  Ringo moved in with us in August of 2007.


When he arrived his energy totally upset the balance in the pack, especially with his daily attacks on Honey.   There were many times I doubted they would ever get along.  It can take several months for a pack to accept a new member.

I have learned a lot with him.  He continues to teach me, as all my dogs do.  He was the first dog to really show me how effective body language is.  I was amazed – he got it instantly!  We had worked with a few different trainers and methods for his aggression before we found what worked.

We were going on an off leash hike with U Dog (Rob Kerr) and about 14 other dogs.   As soon he saw all those dogs he transformed into a lunging, snarling, growling beast who weighs less than 40 lbs!   It was a simple body block (metaphorically speaking, he was not touched) by Rob Kerr of U Dog that was the beginning of his rehabilitation.

On that first off leash hike, I learned so much about Ringo and his body language – when to acknowledge him, when to ignore him.  I couldn’t believe that after our 1.5 hour hike, several “block and re-direct” moves by Rob, this dog was off leash, running in that pack and not attacking anymore.  He had taken on a completely different mind set and was burning off energy in a natural way.

We did several hikes with U DOG and continued working with Ringo.  After a few hikes, he even started to help out and correct the rude dogs that were not so well versed in pack manners!

Ringo has definitely come around.  I no longer hold onto the fear that he is going to attack every dog (or any dog) that we meet.  Is he perfect?   Goodness no, he’s a DOG!

And what an amazing dog.  He absolutely LOVES AGILITY.   He is an incredible athlete who loves to run and man is he fast!    It comes down to timing and body language and if my cue is a second too late , he has completely missed the obstacle!  Agility is a really fun (and humbling) way to build your relationship with your best friend.

Starlee      Timid, fearful, not properly socialized

starlee  Our little Starlee has been in the family for about 7 years now.   She is the only purebred in the pack and spent much of her first 5 years being a mom.  We actually found her in the Buy, Sell & Trade, “free to a good home” and snapped her up in an instant!


She was quite fearful of many things and people.  When you moved towards her, she ran away.  She didn’t experience much outside of her role as a mom.  She didn’t play or even show much personality.  She is a prime example of what can happen when your puppy and/or dog is not properly socialized with people, things and other animals.

We started taking her out whenever possible and introducing her to different things including off leash hikes with U DOG.   If your dog is shy or timid and wants to hide behind you in a new situation, let her – don’t pick her up or “coo” in that baby voice and say “it’s okay”.  You are actually rewarding and reinforcing that behaviour and your dog will do it again.  It is your job as the pack leader to be confident and keep her safe so she can explore and try new things.

Don’t underestimate a little dog.  Starlee has been out on a few pack hikes of 6-14 dogs, for up to 1.5 hours.  She is ok getting dirty and she loves being a dog.  She wanders around in the field with the horses and mini donkeys, eats horse cookies, runs through the mud, jumps into the truck and is right with the big dogs to get a treat!

Starlee has taught me about body language – both hers and mine.  She is very good at communicating with the other dogs and letting them know she is not a threat by turning her head or lying down facing away.  My body language and tone with her is “quieter” so she doesn’t get frightened.    She is still a bit uncertain in some cases but overall, she has come almost full circle.  You can see the happiness in her when she plays and especially when she runs up to greet new people.  I take her everywhere I can, mostly off leash and she makes me look brilliant as a dog trainer!    Thank you Starlee.