Monthly Archives: September 2013

Got Bit While Breaking Up A Dog Fight


At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we hear stories of owners getting bit while breaking up a dog fight on a daily basis.

Once this happens, the owner usually calls us for two reasons:
1) Because their dog got into a fight with another dog and they want to help ensure it doesn’t happen again.
2) Their dog has never bitten them before, and now they are afraid that this will become a problem. They are completely shocked that their loving and friendly dog has caused them to get stitches.

First, your dog being dog aggressive could be a legitimate concern and training could definitely help with that, you can read our blog post training fixing your dog aggressive dog.

Second, chances are that you never have to worry about your dog biting you or someone else again, assuming that this was an isolated incident and the only time he/she has ever done this was while engaged in a dog fight. So, do not let that be a fear of yours.

As I always say at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, “If you have broken up a dog fight and you did NOT get bit, I am far more surprised than if you broke up a dog fight and you DID get bit.”

What I’m saying is that if you break up a dog fight; improperly, by yourself, and without knowledge of “how” to break one up, there is a very good chance you will get bit.

Keep in mind, your dog (or the other dog), has no malice intent towards you; however, it’s the “heat of the moment” type-of-situation. Your dog is engaged in a high intensity fight, and all they do is “react” to something grabbing them from a different direction.

Here’s the analogy I use on a daily basis with at my private dog training sessions in Northern Virginia, in order to help make this thought process easy to understand. I was a US Marine, everyone know’s Marines for: being awesome, drinking, and fighting, right? 🙂

So, imagine you are in the middle of a bar and you get into a knock down, drag out, very heated fight. In the middle of this, someone comes up and grabs you on your arm or back, most people’s instant reflex is to swing around, elbow back, throw a punch that way, etc. Welcome to the world of “Why You Got Bit While Breaking Up A Dog Fight.”

Now, this could have been your best friend, your brother, or your father reaching in to grab you and get you out of there; however, you were in the heat of the moment and just reacted. Your dog simply did the same exact thing, they just reacted without thought.

How Should You Break Up A Dog Fight Properly?

In order to properly break up a dog fight, you really should have two people. If your dog and another dog gets engaged into a dog fight, generally, both owners are present. So, you may have to be calm to instruct the owner of the other dog to do this drill, as well.

First, you both reach in and grab your dog by their hind legs! This is important, do not grab their collar, do not grab their chest, and do not grab their mouth, all of these will probably result in you getting bit. So, grab their hind legs and lift them up as if you are holding your dog in a wheelbarrow position (front legs on the ground, hind legs around your waist to chest level). Each owner does this with their dogs and start pulling apart.

Second, as soon as the dogs release their hold, now you start slowly turning in circles while still holding your dog’s hind legs off of the ground. What this does is it prevents them from redirecting and biting you. Since their legs are off the ground and you are turning, you are forcing them to continuously move their front paws side-to-side in order to prevent from falling on their face.

Do this as you each move your dogs further and further apart. Do not release them, or chances are they will go right back into fight mode. You should continue this wheelbarrow and circular motion while moving the dogs apart until you each have full control over the dogs, or until you are able to put one of the dogs in a safe spot (kennel, car, different room, etc).

Now, it is possible that you could be the only person present and nobody is around. You could be a kennel worker, it was a lone dog that came out after yours, etc.

How To Break Up A Dog Fight Alone:

Loop a leash around the first dog’s hind quarters (stomach area), make a loop with the leash; meaning, thread the end that attaches to the dogs collar through the handle of the leash creating a loop. Put thread this around the dog’s stomach and start pulling him back with it. Pull him back until you can attach the connector (that is in your hand) to something to secure the dog in place (kennel, fence, etc). Now, that first dog is essentially anchored to whatever you attached him to.

Then, go behind the second dog and do the drill described above when two owners are present.

Doing this drill, may take a few more seconds; however, it will help ensure that you do not get bit which is well worth it.


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Killing Your Dog’s Drive Through Obedience Training

At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, I always ensure I warn people about killing their dog’s drive through obedience training.

When many people come through our dog obedience training program in Virginia, they are so excited to have their new, listening, well-behaved, and good mannered dog.   With our training sessions, we tell people to practice about 30-40 minutes per day in the week in-between sessions and slowly phase in distractions as the dog and they  (the owner) become better at the concepts.

One mistake that we see people unknowingly make is that they will start killing their dog’s drive by working their dog on obedience while using something the dog is highly motivated by as the distraction.  In my opinion, this is a horrible thing to do.

Let me explain the situation so you can see exactly what I mean.  Let’s say you have a German Shepherd who is highly ball motivated, okay?  So, since you know that the ball is a huge distraction for your German Shepherd (because he LOVES it), you try to make him sit, down, or place as you throw his ball.  Of course, he is going to jump up to go chase it, so doing what you think is right, you correct him back into the sit, down, or place.  This is very bad to do.

Probably within a matter of 10 minutes or less, you will undoubtedly succeed at being able to leave your dog in a command, you throw the ball, and he will not leave that command.  So, you think you have done a great job, right?  You are getting obedience out of him with the presence and excitement of one of his biggest distractions.

However, what this can do is kill your dog’s drive.   At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, I will NEVER use an object that the dog is highly motivated by (ball, tug, etc) as a distraction.  You will see numerous videos on our YouTube Channel where I throw things over their heads, bang on stuff, run around, etc; however, you will never see me using a ball or tug as the distraction.

By doing this drill, you are simply teaching your dog, “Anytime you go after this toy you love, you will get corrected for it.”  So, what does your dog very quickly learn?  “Stop chasing after that toy.”

So, anytime you are working your dog with distractions, never use something as a distraction that your dog is highly motivated for, this is a great way to start killing their drive for this object.

I will always incorporate that object as a REWARD for the obedience, never a DISTRACTION for the obedience. 

For example, I will put them in a sit, down, place (etc), run around, make some noises, and throw stuff around.   After they hold that position, I will release them (we use the word “break”) and then I will throw that tug or ball as their reward for the good obedience.  Doing this helps BUILD their drive for the object, which is what you want.


Dealing With Leash Aggression in Dogs – Northern Virginia

We deal with leash aggression in dogs weekly at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia.

An important study to first reference is one which was recently done on 2000 dogs at Mendel University in the Czech Republic. In 2000 dogs of varying breed, age, and size; researchers noted that dogs who were ON a leash were twice as likely to become aggressive with dogs as dogs who were off leash were.

Now, we must decipher the burning question, “WHY?

-The on leash dogs were restricted by the confines of the leash, which inhibited their ability to circle around the other dog, get a “feel for them,” and give them a proper greeting in order to determine if they were friendly or not. When the dog is not able to determine this, they often times gave a defensive posture since they could not establish the other dog’s intentions.

-Flight or fight. When a dog isn’t sure how to react in a certain situation (just like with people), flight or fight kicks in. By being on a leash, you are restricting your dog’s ability to flight, so he immediately kicks in fight mode with an aggressive response.

It’s also important to note that the 2000 dogs were FOUR times as likely to be aggressive on a leash when a male was walking them as opposed to a female walking them. Many would assume the opposite because many would see the male as more the pack leader and in-charge, but they believe the reasoning is far more simplistic than that.

Women are often more friendly and inviting to passerby’s and their dogs. Meaning, often times when will smile, say hello, and exchange pleasantries with the oncoming person and their dog. They believe the dog picks up on this nice, calm, friendly demeanor from the owner, so they too feel more relaxed and at-ease with the situation. Whereas men are more macho, not as socially friendly, and not as warm greeting with strangers as women; therefore, when someone is approaching, the men often times will just not pay attention to the oncoming person and their dog, avoid eye contact, no smiling (etc) and the dogs can interpret this “avoidance” as a problem and go on the defensive with the oncoming dog.

What Can You Do To Help With Your Dog’s Leash Aggression?

Obedience Training: This is essential, having control over your dog, pack leadership, confidence building, and correction for negative behavior. All of these are things that will undoubtedly help with your dog’s leash aggression.

-Be aware of your surroundings. When you see a stranger and their dog approaching, be friendly, polite, warm, and welcoming. This can help you translate your warm and relaxed demeanor onto your dog.

-Do not tense up on the leash when you see another dog. This tension travels down the leash straight to your dog and tells them, “I need to be on edge for something coming up.”

Pack Leadership. Letting your dog know that you are in control of the situation and them controlling the situation is not necessary nor needed.

-Try to give your dog proper space for interaction with the other dog so they do not feel confined and do a proper introduction.

-Watch the other dog’s body language. You may be able to avoid a bad situation just by YOU being observant and see if the other dog appears to have good or bad intentions.


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What Is The Hardest Dog To Train?

At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we always get asked, “What is the hardest breed of dog to train?” Seemingly, this is a very simple question that someone is waiting for us to give them an immediate answer; however, it’s not that simple.

At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we train 7 days per week, 65 dogs per week (not counting board and trains) and one thing I have learned with thousands of dogs experience is that there isn’t one breed that does better or worse than another. Not the answer you were hoping for, right?

For example, we can have a (insert any breed here) German Shepherd that comes for a lesson that is very motivated and excited for training, going with the flow, eager to learn, and a complete joy. The very next lesson that walks in the door can be a German Shepherd of the same age that is growling, going crazy, no manners, etc. Again, just using a German Shepherd as an example, you can literally insert any breed of dog into this paragraph and the same would be true.

Much like people, race doesn’t matter, correct? You can have a 15-year old caucasian male who grows up to be the CEO of a major business, and another 15-year old caucasian grow up and be a serial bank robber.

So, it is literally impossible to give a breed that is the hardest to train or a breed that is the easiest to train. Some of the friendliest and most amazing dogs I’ve ever seen have been Pit Bulls, and the single most aggressive dog my trainers and I have ever seen was a Black Lab.

So, now that we have established all of this, my answer to the question of “What is the hardest breed of dog to train” would simply be: the dog who hasn’t been socialized much, the dog with little confidence, the dog who has never had any obedience, the dog who has had no pack leadership or pack structure asserted in their life. These things are what makes a dog “the hardest to train.” Not any age, not any breed, and not because they came from a breeder or a rescue. Owners who fail to do these fundamental things with their dog, is what makes their dog the hardest to train.

So, if you stumbled upon this blog because you wanted to ensure you didn’t get a stubborn or “hard to train” dog, sorry to disappoint you; however, it doesn’t exist. I would recommend finding a breed that meets your lifestyle and your training objectives, which you can read about in my blog on “Which Is The Best Dog To Pick.”

How To Stop My Dog From Eating His Poop (Feces)

Your dog eating their own stool actually isn’t uncommon, it’s a question we get regularly at our dog training business in Northern Virginia. Many owners are completely appalled and disgusted at this behavior; however, it’s somewhat common and normal for many dogs. The official term for this behavior is Coprophagia.

Four of the most common causes of this behavior we will discuss:

-Lack of Nutrients In Their Diet: You will need to go see a vet to ensure that your dog does not have some underlying issue such as worms or parasites. If your dog has worms or parasites, they can often consume many of the nutrients your dog is eating; therefore, your dog is eating their stool in order to get all of the nutrients they can.

-High Stress: Sometimes high stress situations can cause this behavior in your dog. If you recently adopted a dog or made a major change in your dog’s normal routine, this could also cause this behavior.

-Cleaning Up: Many new mothers do this to “clean up” their area of with their new litter there; however, dogs without litters can do this in an effort to clean up their area, as well.

-Taste: If your dog is eating foods that are rich in fats and proteins, your dog could simply like the taste.

Solutions To This Behavior:

-Obedience Training: With a proper obedience training regime, a qualified trainer can show you how to properly correct and redirect this behavior.

-Keeping A Clean Yard: In case your dog feels like they have to “clean up,” constantly keep your yard clean and free of any fecal matter.

-Give It A Bad Taste: This is one of the most common and widely used methods to help control this behavior, you can simply make the fecal matter taste horrible; therefore, you are deterring the dog from eating it. Some of the things you can do in order to make it taste bad are: Meat Tenderizer, a product called “For-bid,” or even adding some canned pumpkin (about 1/2-1 cup) to the dog’s food. All of these things taste very good to your dog while they ingest them; however, they make the fecal matter taste horrible when coming out. One last thing you can do is add a hot sauce to their fecal matter, which will clearly leave your dog not wanting anymore; however, it will not hurt nor harm your dog in anyway.

If you stick to these guidelines, you should find a simple solution in no time. As stated above, consult with a licensed veterinarian on your dog’s nutritional intake, as well.

Importance of Mental and Physical Stimulation For Your Dog

We stress mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia. The importance of physical and mental exercise cannot be stressed enough as to what it takes in order to raise a perfect dog. Dogs are like people—they need stimulation, they need to get out, and they need to be challenged both physically and mentally. Dogs who are exercised regularly are much happier and healthier than dogs who are not, and the same can be said for people. I always told my friends, family, and clients that whenever I wrote a book on dog training, I would include in it my favorite quote, so here it is: “If you do not give your dog a job to do, they will become self-employed. A self-employed dog will always cost the owner money.” What does that mean? If you do not keep your dog actively employed through a job (obedience, training, games, etc.) or exercise, he will find something to do as an outlet of for excessive energy (chew your carpet, eat your couch, chew your furniture, etc.).

In order to exercise them physically, first keep in perspective what type of dog you have, their needs, and their age. If you have a puppy, you really shouldn’t be exercising them at all, no more than a simple short walk. A bulldog requires less physical exercise than a boxer or a Lab. So keep in perspective the age and breed of your dog in order to get a good gauge of adequate exercise requirements. What is sufficient for one breed would be too much for another breed, and what is too much for one breed wouldn’t be enough for another breed. Do some research on your particular dog in order to assess what would be sufficient.

It is an unfortunate misconception that, for most dogs, simply taking them for a leisurely walk once or twice per day is enough. Often people say, “I walk them twice a day, I don’t understand why they still have all this excess energy.” Even if you have a dog that is not super high-energy like a boxer or a Malinois, it generally is still not enough to simply walk him. Think about it—you are taking a dog who is born to run for a walk at your pace (which is even slower than the dog’s walking pace), and restricting him to a six- to eight-foot leash while doing so. That is not considered “exercise” to a dog. Do you consider it exercise when you are walking in the mall next to a four-year-old with very short strides? I highly doubt it. However, if you were outside for 30 minutes or more, running around non-stop, catching the ball, and running back and forth, you would get pretty worn out. Again, dogs are just like people, if it wouldn’t be enough to wear you out, it definitely is not enough to wear out your four-legged friend.

I always encourage my clients to take their dogs to an open field near their house, so their dogs can run around off-leash and chase the ball (for which you have built up their drive). Another good place to take your dog for some off-leash freedom is to a school on weekends because generally nobody is there. Not only can you let them run off-leash, but playgrounds generally have some pretty good fixtures to which you can expose your dog (as discussed in the confidence-building section of this book). Obviously, in order for you to be able to have your dog off-leash, you have to have some form of control over him so you can recall him as needed without the fear of him running off (more on this in the training section).

Another good way to get out some excess energy if you cannot yet trust your dog off-leash, it’s cold out, or you do not have time to take him to a park is by the use of a treadmill. Start him off on a low incline at low speeds and at a short distance, then build upon this. Again, only you can decide what would be good for your specific dog. When you put your dog on a treadmill, you can wrap the leash around the hand grips of the treadmill. That way he has enough slack so that it is not pulling on his neck, but there is not enough slack to allow jumping off. Generally, after about a week or two, your dog will start to love the treadmill. When using the treadmill, always supervise your dog while he is using it.

One of the best ways to tire out your dog is through mental stimulation, which works much faster than any form of physical stimulation you could impress upon your dog. Our police and military K9s can run all day, however, if we do a solid hour of obedience or some other form of training with them, they are pretty worn out. Again, comparing dogs to people, what tires you more, walking one or two miles or doing complex math problems for one to two hours straight? With the math problems, your head hurts, you feel drained, you just want to put down the books and shut your eyes. That’s how mental stimulation works with dogs, as well. Constant thinking creates a lot of mental stimulation, which tires the entire body.

One of the most basic things you can do to keep your dog mentally stimulated is to practice obedience training with him or her—not only practice stuff already mastered, but find new things to teach. Learning completely new concepts will really wear out your dog fast.

Another fun thing you can do is make your dog really use his nose, like our nose detection training in Northern Virginia. Place three shoeboxes on the floor and hide a treat under one of them. Make your dog sniff out the one with the treat. Once he is sniffing on the right box, make him sit, then lift the box and reward with the treat. This will teach your dog to use his nose. Soon he will sit on his own once he finds where the treat is hidden. Start throwing in a keyword phrase such as “find the treat.” As your dog gets better and better at this game, make it more complex by adding more boxes, different locations, and different treats.

One of the best ways we wear out our dogs is by playing what we refer to as the Tug Game, which you can read more about in my blog on Playing Tug with Your Dog. If your dog is motivated to play tug, we will get the tug and combine obedience with playing tug. We will have them down, sit, heel, etc., then give a verbal marker (as discussed in the marker section of this book) such as “Yes,” and activate playing the Tug Game. Meaning, we will play tug with them for approximately 15 or 20 seconds, have them “out” the tug, give one or two more obedience commands, and once they complete them, we will give another verbal marker that engages the the Tug Game. We will repeat this for about 15 minutes. Doing this combines mental stimulation (obedience training) with physical stimulation (the Tug Game). By combining both forms of stimulation, you really wear down your dog much faster. Keep in mind, you always want to end the Tug Game when he still wants to play more (again, build up that drive). Never end because the dog has given up and no longer wants to play, which indicates an over-trained dog.

Remember, anything can be taught to your dog as a game; you do not have to find training ways to teach, just make them up as you go. You can put a treat in one hand but display both hands in a fist to your dog and try to make them sniff out which hand holds the treat. Take a couple pairs of old shoes and line them up, putting a treat in one of them, and make your dog find which shoe it’s in. These types of drills really make the dogs use their senses extra hard, which is good not only for scent development, but it is good for mental stimulation, as well. Not to mention, it’s a fun game for you and your dog and you will bond while playing it. There are no limits to the things you can come up with to keep your dog stimulated. Also, it keeps you stimulated by making you think of new, fun, and creative things to do.

It cannot be stressed enough that in order to have a happy dog, there must be mental and physical stimulation involved; it’s the amount of stimulation that you must decide.

How To Prevent Submissive Or Excited Urination

We always get questions about owners’ dogs submissively or excitedly urinating during our puppy training classes in Northern Virginia.

What we hear all of the time is, “My puppy does this anytime my husband comes in the room, I swear he has never hit him or did anything to him.” People automatically assume that this is a fear-based response, this is simply not true.

First we will discuss why submissive urination occurs, and what you can do to start fixing or addressing this issue. This generally occurs in puppies, as you all know, dogs are pack animals (read blog on Pack Leadership), and a new puppy generally is viewed as the lowest member of the pack. So, some puppies show their submissiveness to who they view as the higher member of the pack by rolling over onto their backs or submissively urinating. So, don’t be alarmed and automatically assume that it has anything to do with your puppy being afraid of your or fearful of you.

Some of the things that can trigger submissive urination are:
-Scolding a puppy loudly
-A loud noise
-Using body language that intimidates your puppy
-Sometimes, the higher pack member simply walking into the room can trigger this, as well

Generally, this is something that your puppy will outgrow by the age of one. However, there are many things you can start doing with your puppy in order to prevent this sooner:
Confidence Building and Noise Desensitization Drills
-Obedience Training

When submissive urination occurs, try not to scold your puppy for this behavior, this can just increase the problem.

All of those things will help you in having a highly confident, happy, and well adjusted dog that can quickly get you over the submissive urination phase.

The next thing is excited urination, which can both be one in the same; however, a dog can show excited urination without showing submissive urination (and vice verse).

Excited urination is generally an automatic response that younger dogs will give when uncontrollable excitement occurs in the puppy.

Some of the triggers for excited urination can be:
-Owner comes home from being gone for an extended period of time

-New person comes over to the house

-When the puppy is highly excited, someone starts petting or touching them

Just like submissive urination, many of the solutions to addressing the issue are the same.
Confidence Building and Noise Desensitization Drills
Obedience training is important for this, what we like to do at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia is put the excited dog into a sit command and then we will pet them. If they jump up from the sit, we will immediately pull our hand away, put them back in the sit, and then praise. Generally, a dog will not urinate in a sit position, so this is a way we use obedience to control the behavior. Additionally, I would recommend not touching the dog until you have visually seen him/her calm down. If you pet them when they run up excitedly, chances are, they will urinate.

If you stick to these rules in dealing with your dog’s submissive or excited urination, you should see a drastic change in a short amount of time.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Chewing On Things?

Many owners ask, “How do I stop my dog from chewing on things when they are home alone?”  This is an issue we correct on a daily basis at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia.

First, you must realize some of the main reasons that dogs do chew or destroy things:
-Attention Seeking
Separation Anxiety (click for the blog)
-Not Mature Enough (See our Puppy Training Blogs)

One of the most common problems I find when dealing with our clients in our dog obedience program in Northern Virginia is that many people try to leave their dogs out and free in the house way too early. Meaning, they are leaving their 5-7 month old dog out while they are gone at work for 8+ hours and expect them not to get into anything. Doing this, is pretty much setting yourself and your dog up for failure, as I ask, “Would you leave your 5=year old home alone and expect that he/she would not get into anything? If not, why would you with your puppy?”

In my blog on Crate Training Your Dog, I say a good general recommendation is the dogs should be crated or in a safe/controlled environment when home alone until around the age of 1.5 years old. Again, this is a “general” assessment, some dogs may need a little less and some dogs may need a little more.

Second, my famous quote from my book, “Raising the Perfect Dog: The Secrets of Law Enforcement K9 Trainers,” is “If you do not give your dog a job to do, they will become self-employed, a self-employed dog will always cost the owner money.” Essentially, what that simply means is that a bored dog is a destructive dog. If your dog is destroying a lot of things, you could have a lot of pent up energy from lack of physical and/or mental stimulation. So, get your dog proper exercise on a daily basis as well as doing things that are mentally stimulating (obedience, nose detection, etc).

Third, is Separation Anxiety, which I cover in-depth in my blog on Dealing With Separation Anxiety in Dogs.

Fourth is lack of viable options to play with. Anytime you remove something that your puppy (or dog) shouldn’t play with (i.e., shoe, sock, etc) you should always give a firm “No,” and immediately replace it with something that they can play with. This is how your dog learns what is his and what’s acceptable and what’s not his and what’s not acceptable. So, ensure you have toys scattered throughout the house that give them options of things that they can play with.

If your dog has taken interest in a particular object, you can always get sour apple bitter spray from any major dog retail store. This is a bitter tasting spray that can be sprayed on any object; therefore, when your dog goes to chew on that object, they associate it with tasting horrible.

Lastly, obedience training. I always say obedience training in its’ self fixes numerous issues in dogs. I always say, “I have never seen an amazingly obedient dog with a lot of behavioral issues.” So, look into getting your dog into an official obedience training program like ours in Northern Virginia.


Importance of Verbal and Visual Cues In Dog Training

At our dog training program in Northern Virginia, we stress the importance of verbal and visual cues in training our dogs.  Dogs learn mostly through verbal cues, visual cues,  vocal tones, repetition, correction, and praise (just like us humans).

First, we will discuss keeping your commands simplistic! In the Marine Corps, we used the acronym, “KISS” (Keep It Simple Stupid).  I always stress to our clients that their verbal and visual cues  should be as easy as possible, often times one syllable.   Many times clients come to our dog training facility in Northern Virginia and their dogs have learned through commands such as come here, get down, sit down,  lie down, get off the couch, etc.

If you look through our list of verbal and visual cues on our Off-Leash K9 Training website, you will see all of our commands are very basic and cut/dry: come, sit, down, heel, off, place, touch, through, off, etc.  I tell people to look at it the same way you teach a baby or an infant, you use the most basic language possible to get the job accomplished.

Second, the “tone” of your commands.  On a daily basis at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, I have to correct owners for yelling at the dogs. As I say, “If you watch our 400+ videos on our YouTube Channel, you will never hear us raise our voice.”  By raising your voice loudly, the dog (like people) often times interprets this as punishment or consequence which can stress your dog out.  By stressing them out and getting them worked up, you are less likely to get the desired behavior.  When we release the dogs with our “break” command, we get a high pitched and excited voice, allowing the dogs to learn to associate the word “break” with something fun and positive.  However, you will never see us yell or scold the dogs.

Third is incorporating in the visual cue.  Many people ask us if we can also train their dogs with visual or hand-and-arm signals.  Many do not realize, this is not something you necessarily “train” the dogs for, this is something that you incorporate in and they do automatically.

Dogs are master of association, meaning, they quickly learn to associate an action with an outcome.  For instance, if every time you say the word “down,” you always point to the ground, your dog will quickly and automatically learn to associate the hand signal with going into the down position.  If every time you point to an object and then say “place,” your dog will quickly learn that when you point to something using the same gesture, that you want him/her to jump up and sit on that object.

An important thing to point out is ensure that your hand signals for each command is distinctly different.  Meaning, ensure what you do for sit looks completely different than the hand signal you do for down.  If the hand signals look similar, you could find that this could confuse your dog as to what you want him/her to do.

Personally, with over 5000+ dogs experience, I have learned that a well trained dog who was trained utilizing verbal and visual cues will generally pick the visual command over the verbal command.  Meaning, if you point (as if pointing for the down command), but you say “sit,” generally the dogs will down.  This shows me that to the majority of dogs, the visual command is more strong to than the verbal command.

In summary, use simple verbal commands, incorporate distinct visual cues  for each command, and watch your tone.

At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia: you can see many videos where you see all of these factors coming into play.











Private Dog Training Sessions in Northern Virginia Verse Group Classes


Why Group Dog Training Classes are Bad

We only do private dog training sessions at our facility in Northern Virginia, there are many reasons for this.

First, I always say, “I have never seen a dog that impressed me in obedience that did it through group training or group sessions.”   I have said this for years, and to this day, I have NEVER been proven wrong.

As the owner of a major dog training business, we could do group classes and we could charge 10 people per hour verse 1 person per hour, it would be great for business; however, I know that we wouldn’t put out QUALITY dogs by using this approach.  That is why I have always and will always refuse to do group classes.  I would much rather put out quality than quantity.

When doing private dog training lessons, the trainer can actually customize the training to your specific dog, your specific dog’s issues, and tailor the program to how your dog is actually responding to the training.

“Cookie cutter” programs never work really well; meaning, there are 10 dogs in the room and one trainer is saying, “Everyone do it like this.”  Dogs are much like people, they learn differently, at different paces, and learn better with different styles.  So, if you are in a group class and your dog is accelerating, you will be left waiting around for everyone to catch up; however, if your dog is slower, he/she will get left behind because the instructor has to keep the pace of the class.

At our dog obedience training in Northern Virginia, we get your dogs amazing in obedience on their own, and then we add in distractions.  Whereas group classes “try” to get your dogs to learn new things, while they are highly distracted, this is a very unfair approach of training the dogs.

Also, in private training sessions, YOU have the trainer’s undivided attention.  You can ask as many questions as you want, you don’t have to spend an hour “waiting your turn,” and you get a wealth of knowledge about other dog training issues specific to YOUR dog during your private session.

So, if you want your dog to get the most effective training and results, stick to private training sessions over group classes.  Group classes are good for socialization with people and other dogs; however, they are not a conducive learning environment for the dog.

You can read the blog post I wrote on Why Your Dog Should Not Attend Group Training Sessions.

Nick White