Monthly Archives: August 2013

Why You Should Not Attend Group Classes For Dog Training

At our Dog Training Center in Northern Virginia, we get asked about group classes on a daily basis.

Being around almost every style of training program, I have yet to be impressed with group classes or group training sessions.  As I say on a daily basis at our private dog training sessions in Northern Virginia, “I have never seen a dog that impressed me in obedience, that did it through group classes.”

The attractiveness that usually allures people to group classes is that fact that they are much cheaper than private lessons with your dog.  It’s very simple, the trainer is charging 10 people per hour verse 1 person; therefore, the classes are much cheaper. However, saving money on the classes is also effecting the effectiveness of the dog training program, as well.

The first problem with group classes is that one or two trainers are trying to use a “cookie-cutter” approach to training everyone’s dogs.  They are saying, “All of you do this with your dog in order to achieve this goal.”  However, dogs are much like people, they all learn slightly differently, need adaptive training methodology, will have different issues while learning something new, etc.

The second problem with group classes is that you will generally find the most “problematic” dog in the group will get the most attention, leaving the majority of the dogs lacking on full attention because the trainers are devoting the majority of their attention to the dog who needs it the most.

The third problem with group classes is you are trying to teach the dogs while they are highly distracted by other dogs, people, noises (barking), etc.  In my opinion, this is very unfair to the dogs and is not a conducive learning environment whatsoever.  Imagine if you have never played the guitar before, you show up to learn to play for the first time, and there are 8 other people surrounding you: talking, trying to play their guitars, adjusting their volumes, and messing with you while ONE instructor was trying to walk you through the chords.  Sounds impossible, right? Welcome to the world of group classes for dog training.

The dogs are trying to learn, while they are highly distracted. We at our dog training obedience program in Northern Virginia, we do the opposite! We get your dog flawless outside, off-leash, on his/her own, then we slowly phase in distractions.  This is much more effective than trying to “teach” your dog while they are distracted.  Get them to master the commands, then add in the distractions.  This can be read about in our blog on Working Your Dog with Distractions.



How To Make My Dog Healthy, Happy, and Energetic

At our Dog Training Program in Northern Virginia, many people ask “How can I have a healthy, happy, and energetic dog?”

Everyone who’s ever owned a dog, knows that special feeling you get when they welcome you home after a long day. They share their unconditional love with you whether you’ve been gone for five minutes or five days. Unlike humans, they are always there to listen to you and rarely complain. So how do you keep your pet happy and healthy? You nurture their success, and our at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we help owners do just that.

In Northern Virginia sits a building that is home to the best dog training facility in the continental United States. At Off-Leash K9 Training, LLC, we don’t just train your dog, we train your dog and you for continued success.  We help you nurture success in your dog that will literally last a lifetime. Here’s a short list of significant ways you can start that nurturing process on your own to ensure your dog a long, happy, and confident life.

Proper Diet: Most people think that dog food is dog food. You can buy the wet, canned kind or the dry bagged kind because it doesn’t really matter. They’d be wrong. A dog’s diet is as important to their behavior as consequences for their actions. A dog has to eat the proper amount of food and nutrients to be both healthy and happy.

Now it’s easy to get caught up in a debate about everyone’s favorite brand of dog food, however each dog is different and therefore the argument is mute. As long as your dog has a healthy coat, and underlying skin, they are active and playful, and get a passing grade at the vet’s office, most owners can stick with their favorite brand.  Look at your dog’s diet like a diet for a person, every person is different!  Some people eat junk food all day and still stay very skinny, some people eat anything bad for them and they gain weight.  So, monitor your specific dog and adjust his or her eating habits and diet.

Exercise:  I tell our clients on a daily basis, “A bored dog is a destructive dog.”  Exercise is imperative to keep your dog physically stimulated, at a proper weight, proper health, and to keep them out of trouble.  As dogs age, their activity level tends to slow down. They no longer jump around constantly like puppies do. And most people don’t think twice about seeing their dog be less active. They chalk it up to old age, and don’t usually give it a second thought. However, if you want your dog to continue to live a happy and fulfilled life, exercise has to be on the “proverbial” menu. Old dogs need exercise on a daily basis just like their younger counterparts. So schedule time every day to take your dog out and do some playtime in the back yard.

If your dog is overweight, or suffers from any other illnesses, you’ll want to discuss with your veterinarian about ways to improve your dogs health.  At Off-Leash K9 Training in Northern Virginia, we can answer any questions you may have about how to increase activity in your pet, ways to actively physically stimulate them, and ways to improve not only your dog’s overall health, but his relationships within the family as well.

Affection:  Clearly plenty of praise, love, attention, and affection are all vital in order to have a happy dog.  Again, dogs are just like people, they need love, attention, and affection to be happy/productive members of society.  So, your dog should be getting plenty of attention and praise from you on a daily basis.

Pack Leadership:  It’s important for dogs to know their place in the back, dogs are much more happy and secure when you are clearly defined as the leader of the pack.  See my blog post on How To Be the Pack Leader.

Mental Stimulation:  This is one of the most underrated things that many people (and trainers) do not consider.  Keep your dog mentally stimulated as well as physically stimulated as mentioned above.   For example, at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we also do nose detection/nose work training.  This is one of the best mentally stimulating things you can do with your pet.  They are searching around, processing literally thousands of odors, and thinking non-stop.  If you are not able to attend nose work sessions, look for other fun games and activities for your dog to do.  As I say, “If you do not give your dog a job, they will become self-employed.  A self-employed dog will always cost the owner money.”

Obedience Training:  Obedience training, discipline, and structure in dogs are all just as important and fundamental as it is in people.   If your dog is having obedience issues, you should contact a dog trainer in your area, such as our program in Northern Virginia.

Confidence:  Confidence in dogs is very important and yet very underrated.  This is something that the vast majority of trainers do not even cover or discuss.  Confidence is very important in order to have a happy dog!  See the blog I wrote on noise desensitization and how to build confidence in my dog.

If you stay on top of all these fundamental principles, I can ensure you and your dog a very long, healthy, happy, and confident life.

How To Stop My Dog From Nipping, Play Biting, or Mouthing

At our Puppy Training Classes in Northern Virginia, we address play biting and nipping a lot.  Many people refer to this behavior as different things such as, play biting, nipping, and mouthing.

Some dogs are more prone to this than other dogs; such as, Malinois, Australian Shepherds,  German Shepherd, Huskies, etc.  These are all what we refer to as “prey driven” “herding” dogs; meaning, they instinctually want to herd and chase things (squirrels, rabbits, etc).

As puppies, these dogs have these natural herding tendencies or nipping at your heels, shoes, hands; however, many inexperienced people have confused this behavior for aggression, which is definitely not the case.  Although your puppy does this with no malice intent, puppy teeth are still sharp and quite frankly, they can hurt!

This is a behavior that you definitely wanted to get nipped in the bud (no pun intended, okay well, maybe).  Why it is important to address this play biting in your puppy now is so it is not an issue when your cute puppy is possibly 1-year old and 85+ pounds.

What Can You Do To Stop or Help Play Biting In Your Dog?

This is a question we answer daily at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia.

First, you must understand what dogs and puppies do during play and you must replicate this same behavior.   When litter mates are playing in their early life (8-weeks and below), they learn something called, “bite inhibition.”  Bite inhibition  simply means that your puppy learns how to control or regulate the force of his/her bite while playing with the other litter mates.

When one litter mate bites another litter mate too harshly, that litter mate will let out a “yelp” and the play terminates.  So, the offending puppy learns, “I used my mouth too hard and now the fun stops.”  You know the famous quote among us humans, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt?”  Well, guess what, puppies and even adult dogs use this same quote, they just speak it in a different language.

So, when your puppy starts biting on you, you too can replicate this same behavior that their litter mates have done.  You let out a little “yelp” and then end the play session, you can either put the puppy in a different room or you can go into a different room.  After 20-30 seconds, come back out and resume the play, then repeat.

If you find this is not a deterrent for your mouthy puppy, you can go to any dog store and get something called, “Bitter Apple Spray.”  This a liquid in a spray bottle that was developed specifically for dogs  (safe and effective) and it has a very bitter flavor to it.  So, when your dog starts play biting or mouthing your arm, you can say “NO” and then spray this into their mouth.  Your puppy quickly learns to associate mouthing with this bitter taste in their mouth.

Another thing you can do is anytime your puppy begins tugging/biting on your shoes, shirt, etc, try “replacing” it with something that they CAN have (toy, bone, tug, etc).  So, you are correcting the behavior AND redirecting the behavior.  Essentially you are telling your puppy, “Doing this is not acceptable, however, you can can play with this instead.”  I have a great post on How To Properly Play Tug With Your Dog.

Lastly, try not to wrestle, slap around (in a playful way), or roughhouse with your puppy, this will only instigate him/her play biting, nipping, or mouthing.  Remember, dogs do not have opposable thumbs like we humans do, so often times they investigate things using their teeth and mouth.

If you are still having troubles with your puppy or adult dog play biting, mouthing, or nipping, you should find a qualified trainer in your area to help with these issues.

Why Does My Dog Get Aggressive At Dog Parks?

At our dog training center in Northern Virginia, we always tell people to stay away from dog parks.

Many people wrongly assume that dogs parks are great for socializing, letting their dog burn off energy, and playing; however, more often than not it will eventually end badly.

Do not take your puppy to dog parks for socialization. Yes, you read this correctly, dog parks are a bad idea in my opinion. Again, we receive many e-mails from people whose dogs are now aggressive toward other dogs after being bitten at a dog park. People do not realize that this happens all the time, and they just do not hear about it. Only attacks on people make the news, not attacks on other dogs. The dogs at dog parks come from a wide variety of backgrounds and their owners often know very little about their own dog. Unlike a doggy day-care, in a dog-park environment, there are no trained supervisors walking around, ensuring the play is safe. Also, no evaluations are done in order to accept the dogs into the dog park. Essentially, you are taking a big gamble by exposing your dog to other dogs you know nothing about.

Usually, the dogs in dog parks are of various sizes, backgrounds, and levels of training. Essentially, they are a pack of dogs. Dogs usually consider themselves a pack when there are four or more dogs present. As you know, any time there is a pack, there has to be a pack leader. In order for a dog to become the pack leader, he has to assert his force onto other dogs to show them he is in charge of the pack. The end result is a dog getting bitten. Now, your dog that you have done so great with is now dog-aggressive because he was bitten by another dog at a dog park, and now he associates dogs with being harmed.  You can read my blog post on dealing with a dog aggressive dog here.

There are numerous other ways to socialize your dog without the use of a dog park, such as taking them to a doggy day-care. As I mentioned above, doggy day-cares evaluate dogs before admitting them into their facility, drastically reducing the chances of a dominant dog being there. Additionally, they have trained personnel constantly monitoring the dogs’ behaviors. In the event that a dog does start displaying any dominant characteristics, they are immediately corrected or separated from the group. Another good way to socialize is one-on-one with other known dog-friendly dogs. Or take them to a pet store on the weekends so they can interact with other dogs and people in a controlled environment.

So, my best advice is to avoid dog parks with your dogs, you and your dog will be glad you did.


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How Does Clicker Training Work For Dogs? Why Is Marker Training Better?


clicker training northern virginia


People ask about clicker training everyday at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia. This method is also based solely on positive reinforcement training for dogs. If you are not familiar with clicker training, a clicker is a small mechanical-like device that the owner (handler) holds, and when the thumb presses down on a metal platform it makes an audible “clicking” sound.

The clicker is used in conjunction with something that the dog is highly motivated by: treat, ball, tug, favorite toy, etc.

A clicker and the reward is used in the “learning phase” of a dog’s training program. When you are trying to teach a dog to sit for example, they will try a bunch of stuff (jumping up, laying down, moving around, etc), and when they finally “sit” you mark the behavior with the audible click and then immediately give the dog the desired reward.

So essentially, the clicker helps the dog quickly identify the precise behavior that you are trying to achieve. So, when you say “down” and your dog goes through all the different motions, as soon as he drops down and hears that audible click, he knows, “Whatever I JUST NOW did, that’s what he/she wanted me to do in order to release the reward.”

There are also many shortfalls to clicker and treat training which I discuss here in “What are the best dog training methods?”

Unarguably, the “marker” training definitely helps expedite the dog’s learning process; however, I tell people on a daily basis that the “clicker” in its’ self is kind of a scam and unnecessary. If it works, and it works well, why is it a scam? It is a scam because the inventors of the clicker took an old dog-training secret and turned it into a way to make money. We use what we refer to as “marker training.” A clicker marks the behavior with a distinct click. Marker training marks the behavior with a verbal command. The marker word we use at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia is “Yes” (said excitedly).

Why is marker training better than clicker training? To be honest, clicker training has no advantages whatsoever over a verbal marker. The clicker trainer does have many shortfalls to it, though. Some of the shortfalls to clicker training is that you have to carry this little plastic device everywhere you go in order to mark the behavior, another shortfall is that they are small, so if you lose it, you have to buy another one. The biggest shortfall of the clicker (in my opinion) is that it’s something else you have to hold in your hand while trying to teach the dog something, while also holding a treat in your other hand. It can become very complicated to juggle everything at once. The verbal marker training is free, you can do it anywhere, and you never have to fumble with anything extra.

How does marker training work? It works exactly the same as clicker training. First, let me explain how clicker training works. First you must charge the verbal marker. Start by getting your dog to associate getting a treat every time he hears your verbal marker (we will use the word “yes”). So, in order to teach your dog that the word “yes” means something good, start by saying the dog’s name. When he looks at you, immediately say yes (excitedly) and give a treat. Repeat this drill. The treat should come immediately after the verbal command is given—literally after one second or less. Tell the dog to sit (assuming he knows the sit command). As soon as his bottom hits the floor, say “yes” and immediately give the treat. Remember, use small pieces of treats when doing the training, that way, your dog will not fill up as fast and will be more motivated to perform for a longer period of time. Also, it helps if you do these training sessions before your dog has eaten, increasing motivation for the food reward. If he knows more commands, give those commands, and say “yes” and immediately give another treat each time a command is obeyed. This is what we call “charging the marker.” This gets the dog in the routine of knowing that the word “yes” means something good is immediately going to follow it.

Once you start expanding and go on to teach your dog new tricks that you have learned in books, on television or the Internet, start applying the verbal marker when teaching new tricks. It will vastly decrease the time it takes to learn the new command. If you want to teach your dog to down (lie down), move him into the position and as soon as he is in position, mark with a “yes,” then immediately give a treat. Your dog learns, “Whatever I did right then is exactly what was wanted of me.” That is how it really expedites their learning process.

Marker training is a very fast, easy, effective, and cheap way to train your dog in obedience and you can teach them some pretty neat tricks. When using marker and treat training, be as creative as possible when it comes to thinking of new things to teach the dog. Remember, a bored dog is a destructive dog; this is a great way to keep him entertained. You would be amazed at the number of things they can learn using this training method.

At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we only use marker and treat training for our puppy training program; however, with dogs 5+ months we start our obedience training program using the electronic collar.

You can read about the electronic collar in my blogs:
-What are the best dog training methods?

-Will the electronic collar harm my dog?

How Can I Get My Dog To Listen With Distractions – Northern Virginia

Naturally people ask us, “How can I get my dog to listen when he is distracted” like your dogs at your training in Northern Virginia? Many people watch our 400+ videos on our YouTube Channel and they see the dogs we train in Northern Virginia performing flawless obedience: outside, off-leash, with distractions (people, dogs, cars, wild animals, etc).

The first and the most important step that seems like common sense; however, many people easily try to skip over is, “Get your dog’s obedience near perfect without distractions first.” At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, I literally say on a daily basis, “If your dog isn’t almost perfect at obedience without distractions, why try it with distractions?”

So, the first and most important step is to get your dog enrolled in dog obedience training program like ours in Northern Virginia, so you can get your dog’s obedience nearly flawless without being distracted.

Now that your dog can be outside, off leash, and performing obedience very reliably WITHOUT distractions, now you SLOWLY begin phasing distractions in. This is another key step that many people do not understand, they get their dog to listen pretty well, then take them to a dog park and try to practice, that’s not the proper way to do it and it is setting your dog up to fail (and setting yourself up for disappointment).

The analogy I always use with our clients at my dog training facility in Northern Virginia is equate working your dog with distractions like you learning to drive. First, your parents take you to an empty parking lot (no distractions) and get you parking, driving straight, reversing (etc) reliably, right? Once they feel comfortable with you doing this, they let you drive around the store parking lot, then they let you drive in town, then they let you drive on the highway during “off” hours (little traffic), finally they let you drive wherever you want and whenever you want.

Look at working your dog with distractions using this same methodology. Get them perfect on their own first, then get them perfect with 1 or 2 dogs around, then a car or two, then some noises, then more dogs, more cars, and more noises. Then slowly progress the distractions until they can be reliable in any environment.

I literally just wrote an email to a lady yesterday who told me her dog was really good on his own but, not good with distraction. She went on to tell me a story of how as soon as her dog saw another dog he took off running and pulled her down. As I always, I respond and said, “Have you spent time working him around distractions?” She self-admittedly said, “No, not really.” So, I told her what I tell everyone, “Your dog will NEVER be good with distractions if you only try to get them to listen when they just-so-happen to encounter a distraction.” Literally it is impossible, and I have never seen it done in my entire life. All dogs that are flawless with distractions (like the dogs you see on our YouTube Channel) are because we practice with them on a regular basis with dogs, people, and noises, so they quickly become desensitized to them and learn to ignore them.

I’m going to give you the biggest secret in dog training that others will charge you thousands for! Are you ready?!

“-The only way to get your dog good with distractions, is to practice with distractions!”

There it is! That’s the secret!

So, again, the key is get your dog perfect on his own, then SLOWLY phase in one distraction at a time. Do not get your dog great on his own, and then take him to a place with 50 dogs and 50 people (dog parks, etc) and expect them to be just as good, it’s not going to happen.

If you get your dog in a good obedience training program like ours in Northern Virginia with a qualified trainer, they should be performing obedience with distractions in a very short amount of time.

Is It Better To Participate In Training With My Dog, Or Do A Board and Train Program With My Dog?

When many people are looking for an obedience training program in Northern Virginia, they always ask us, “Is it better to participate in the training with my dog, or do your 2-week board and train intensive obedience training program?

I always tell people, when it comes to which dog training program is right, there is no correct answer; however, we can tell you which one would be the most beneficial based off of your lifestyle.

When doing our dog training lessons at our facility in Northern Virginia, the sessions are set-up as one lesson per week for 4-weeks (for basic) and one lesson per week for 8-weeks for basic and advanced. With our lessons, we require a commitment from the owners of practicing at least 30-40 minutes per day (minimum) with their dogs in the week in-between sessions. If based off of your lifestyle, this is a very feasible and realistic training goal, than you would reap great benefits out of our lessons. Then, it’s on you to take your dog out, practice with distractions, etc.

If you are a busy person, always on the move, and you know that you cannot realistically practice every day, then I would recommend doing our 2-week board and train program in Northern Virginia. With our 2-week board and train program, we train your dog for about 3-4 hours per day, 7 days per week, for 14 days. As you will see in our numerous YouTube Videos, we practice and work your dog with every distraction possible (cars, trucks, people, dogs, noises, etc).

Many people have a huge misconception that when doing a training program where you drop-off your dog, that the dog is only being conditioned to the trainer and will not listen to them when they pick the dog up, this is simply untrue. If you are on our Facebook page, we post screenshots of emails on a daily basis that owners send to us of how amazed they still are with their dog, etc. When a board and train program is properly done with your dog, the trainer should have numerous people doing the training, that way your dog learns that he/she has to listen to everyone, and not “just” focused on a single trainer/person.

Then, when you pick the dogs up, we do a 3 hour turnover with you, explaining in-depth how to control the dog, how to properly correct and praise the dog, and how to maintain the same level of obedience and precision. Then, we have YOU do all the commands outside, off-leash, with distractions numerous times so we both feel comfortable that you know what to do and how to do it.

So, there is not really a right or wrong answer as to which is better, dropping your dog off for training or doing lessons with your dog. It’s really more about what program is best suited for your lifestyle.

If you are a busy person and you know that you don’t have time to invest in training your dog on a daily basis, I would definitely recommend a board and train program similar to ours in Northern Virginia. If you know that you have the time on a daily basis, then I would recommend doing our training lessons.

Hopefully this will help you decide which dog training program is better for your dog, doing dog training lessons or doing a 2-week board and train program with your dog.

How Do I Read My Dog’s Body Language?


Dog Training Northern Virginia


On a daily basis at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we are talking to people about reading their dog’s body language to better help predict their dog’s behavior and make them understand their dog better.

There is a big misconception with people that a wagging tail means a happy dog, that can be true in some cases; however, in some cases this misinterpretation can result in someone getting bit by a dog. This is why it’s important to understand your dog’s body language, a dog can give you all of the warning signs possible, and you misreading them could result in a disaster that was easily preventable.

To illustrate this point, tail wagging can mean: happiness, fear, insecurity, or even issuing a challenge/warning. So, you can see why “if a dog is wagging his tail he is happy,” is simply not true all of the time.

To break this down, there are many factors of the tail that one can look at. For example, a tail at middle-height generally means the dog is relaxed (the look you will see casually hanging out around the house), a tail out and horizontal means the dog is aware and alert (you may see this at night, when the dog hears a noise, or sees an animal in the distance), if the tail is raised up high that can be a dominant signal, and if the tail is very low or tucked, this is generally a submissive or fear based signal.

Now that you have dissected the the actual positioning of the tail, now you can even look at the pace or speed of the tail wag its’ self. A tail with a very wide range of movement (almost a 180) is your stereotypical “I’m very excited and happy” wag, a tail that is wagging without as much range of motion is kind of like your “hello” wag, a slow wagging tail with the tail at a horizontal height is an indifferent or even an insecure wag, and a tail that is vertical while making small fast motions is generally a threatening wag (like a Rattle Snake’s tail before striking).

Look at some these wags much like smiles on a human being:
Dog: When excited they have a huge 180 wag
Human: When excited to see someone you haven’t seen for awhile, you have a huge smile

Dog: When they have a wag with a smaller range of motion it’s more of a “hello.”
Human: When you meet a stranger, you give a quick smile, not the same HUGE smile you give to someone you miss or know.

Dog: When fearful or submissive, the tail is tucked low.
Human: When sad, you frown and your lip curls downward.

Dog: When threatening, the tail makes very small vibration-like movements.
Human: When aggravated or annoyed, people say, “I’m so mad I was shaking!” Hands trembling (small vibration-like movements).

Finally, you must look at which direction the tail is wagging, to the left or to the right? Recently, a neuroscientist Giorgio Vallortigara and two veterinarians Marcello Siniscalchi and Angela Quaranta did a study on what the direction of dog’s tail wags meant. What they found was that the direction the dogs wag their tails can definitely tell you a lot about their current emotion.

What they found is that when a dog wags their tail to THEIR left (your right if you are facing the dog) that means the dog has a negative or avoidance emotion, which means that you should probably avoid making immediate contact with the dog. When a dog wags their tail to THEIR right (your left if you are facing the dog), that means that the dog associates what it is seeing with something positive and happy.

So, an easy way to remember it, if you are FACING a dog (you all are making eye contact, essentially), remember:
Right is WRONG (do not approach)
Left is RIGHT (friendly and happy)

Being able to read these tail wags alone can prevent you from getting bit by a dog that you were thinking about approaching, or it can prevent your dog from biting or snapping at someone that you gave the go-ahead to approach your dog. Simple reasons like this are why it’s imperative to begin learning how to read your dog’s body language.

If your dog has aggression issues, always seek out a qualified dog trainer in your area who assist you with reading your dog’s body language and being fixing their issues.

Also, you can see if the hair on your dog’s back (also referred to “hackles”) is standing up, this is a sign that they can be overly excited, insecure, aggressive, or nervous. So, anytime you see this in your dog, you should immediately look around and analyze the situation to see what’s going on around your dog in order to see what has triggered this response. Much like the tail wagging, this may be another sign your dog is giving you that he/she is not comfortable in the situation you have put him/her in and you can intervene removing them from the situation before it possibly escalates to something more.

Additionally, you can see your dog’s ear positioning! Ears standing up and forward usually means the dog is alert, attentive, and possibly excited. Ears that are generally flattened against the dog’s head indicate that the dog is afraid and/or threatened, ears that are facing backward but not flat against the head is generally telling you that the dog is unhappy or in an uncomfortable situation.

You can also tell a lot about your dog’s bark, this is why it’s important to know YOUR dog. My dog growls a lot when he is playing, and his play grow sounds different than his aggressive growl. Many people have heard his play grown when they were at the house and they got scared thinking he was going to bite them, when really he was trying to engage them in play. So, this is a situation where it’s important to know your dog’s growl, you can tell people “he just wants to play” or you can tell people, “Leave him alone.”

If you really become in-tune with your dog’s body language and start noticing ALL of these signs combined, you can generally put together an “emotion-based profile” of your dog and you will know exactly how your dog feels in any and every situation.

How Can I Stop Food Aggression In My Dog?

We deal with food aggressive dogs at our training facility in Northern Virginia, a lot. So, many of you are probably wondering, “How can I stop food aggression with my dog?”

Click here to see a before/after video of a food aggressive Pit Bull we just recently trained at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia.

Food aggression in dogs can be caused by numerous things, a couple of the main things are poor pack leadership and the dog having to be food aggressive prior (common with shelter or hoarder dogs). Where the dogs “had” to fight over food.

There are a lot of steps you can start taking in order to begin fixing your dog’s food aggression problems. First, I would like to point out the 5-step approach we use that I wrote about in my blog on dog and people aggression .

When working with food aggressive dogs at our training facility in Northern Virginia, I always preach that we do a 5-part approach to this: Obedience, Confidence Building , Positive Association with People, Pack Leadership, and Proper Correction for the Negative Behavior. I have found that this is a fundamental approach that is imperative to start working a dog towards rehabilitation, and all 5 components are necessary to be successful.

First, we focus on obedience and confidence building, as I always say, “You cannot fix any issue in a dog that doesn’t listen to you.” If you cannot get control over your dog, it’s pretty much impossible to fix any issue that your dog is having. Also, obedience naturally bolsters pack leadership for you

Second, start by establishing yourself as the pack leader. There are many things you can do which I cover in the Pack Leadership blog in order to help establish this. Remember, if you watch pack animals such as Lions, when you see them eating a Gazelle the alpha males will always scare off the lower members of the pack so they can eat. This is essentially what your dog is doing to you, generally because he doesn’t see you as the alpha.

Third, start putting his food on the floor or a mat, this way it prevents your food aggressive dog from having a specific object to guard and try to protect. Just put a little bit of food down (about 7-8 pieces at a time), once he eats that, he will look up at you, put a little bit more down. Repeat this until his normal feeding is complete. This is just another small step to show him that YOU control his food.

Fourth, start having your dog sit or down while you are pouring his or her food (this is why control over your dog is important), once you finish putting his food on the floor or a mat, wait a minute or so and then release him to eat. This is a small drill that teaches your food aggressive dog that YOU are the one that controls when he eats.

Fifth, positive association with you approaching his food. While your dog is eating (on the mat or floor) approach his bowl from about 3-4 feet away (depending on your dog’s tolerance level with his food aggression) and toss a couple pieces of hot dogs (or anything your dog finds as a high-valued reward) near him. As he gets comfortable, slowly move in closer and toss the hot dogs into his food. Progress this until you can stand right next to him and put the hot dogs in his food. What this drill does is it teaches him to associate you approaching his bowl with someone positive! In your food aggressive dog’s mind, they learn, “Anytime this person gets close to me or my bowl, it means something good for me.”

Sixth, PROPER correction for the negative behavior. Again, this is where your dog obedience program comes in, find a qualified trainer to show you how to properly correct this behavior (properly being the key word). There has to be a correction when the dog displays the negative behavior (growling, snarling, snapping, etc). Just like there would be a correction if a lower pack member tried to correct the alpha male of the lion pride. Letting your dog know that there is a consequence for displaying the food aggressive behavior, and letting your dog know there is a reward for not displaying the behavior.

In summary, if you follow these 6-steps, you should be able to drastically help your food aggressive dog and/or completely stop the food aggression in your dog.

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How Do I Keep My Dog From Escaping The Cage or Crate?

The question always comes up, “How do I keep my dog from escaping his or her crate (cage)?” This is a very simple question; however, more of a complex answer. First off, many dogs who are escape artists and are constantly escaping their cage, may have some form of separation anxiety.

There are a couple things you can do in order to keep your dog from escaping his or her crate. You probably have one of the cheaper standard collapsible crates that most people buy because they are the most widely available at all major stores and they are fairly inexpensive. So, if this is the case, my first piece of advice is to try to zip-tie all of the sides of the crate. So, on all 4 corners, have 2 zip ties (one at the top and one at the bottom).

If your dog is still escaping the cage, then I would recommend you upgrade to a much more durable crate which is literally impossible for them to destroy or escape out of. Since I do not promote any specific business or brand, I would advise you to do an internet search on “military working dog crates” and you will see many of the crates I am speaking about. These are VERY durable, sturdy, rugged, and indestructible cages which literally make it impossible for your dog to escape.

Many people balk at the seemingly expensive prices of $400.00-$500.00 for these crates; however. you must keep in mind a few things before you are quick to rule them out. The first thing is that these will literally last YOU a lifetime, not the dog a lifetime, but YOU a lifetime. They are pretty much solid metal and indestructible, so it’s a life-long crate. Second, if you continue using the cheap $80.00 cages that your dog has been escaping, he is likely causing damage in your house (if they have separation anxiety), so a couch, pair of shoes, carpet (etc), can cost you well over $400.00-$500.00 in damages in just one escape. Therefore, you should look at it as a very good investment; meaning, you have it for life and your dog is not able to destroy anything in the house.

So, if you have found that your dog is an escape artist and continues to escape from their crate, try one of these two solutions above! The solution with zip-ties is by far the cheapest solution that works for many dogs; however, if it does not work you should consider making the investment and upgrading.

Lastly, exercise is very important for all breeds of dogs; however, it can drastically help with this issue in many cases, as well. Remember the great saying, “A bored dog is a destructive dog” and “A tired dog is a calm dog.” So, try to ensure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and or mental stimulation whenever possible which can drastically help improve this, as well.