Monthly Archives: November 2015

Does Using Shock Collars Hurt Your Dog?

Will Shock Collar Hurt My Dog?

We always get ask if we do shock collar dog training at our location in Northern Virginia.  We do not like the term “shock collar” and in fact, it’s incorrect.  The collars do not “shock” they provide a very low level contraction of the muscle, just like stim pads that physical therapists use.

Many people have their opinions on different training techniques; however, there have actually been numerous studies on on the usage of training collars and their affects (long term and short term).

Two separate studies on dog behavioral coaching techniques and their positive and negative effects was completed in 2001, both under the name Christiansen e-collar et al study (2001). To differentiate the two studies, one was “2001a” and “2001b”.

In the first study, Christiansen e-collar et al study (2001a) the study looked at three separate breeds of dogs when confronted with domestic sheep. The three breeds of dogs included in this study were Elkhounds, hare hunting dogs and English setters. There were a total of 138 dogs observed and tested in this study. There were two separate tests involved in this test study and in both, electronic collars were used to attempt to deter attacks on the domestic sheep. The first test, defined as a path test, involved observing each individuals’ dogs’ reactions. There were obstacles placed in the way of the path to the sheep, this test was designed to determine how a dogs’ behavior changed when attempting to “hunt” the sheep when confronted with a confusing path. The second part of this test was a “free-roaming” exercise. It was a test to determine that dogs’ reaction to the sheep in order to predict hunting motivation and attack severity. The results of the tests showed that younger dogs showed high amounts of hunting motivation and persisted in more frequent attacks on the sheep than did older dogs. Throughout the duration of this test, shocks were administered not to damage the hunting abilities of the dogs but to determine the learning capacity of the dogs when it came to observing their behavior.

The second study, Christiansen e-collar et al study (2001b) retested many of the same tests that were completed in study one, 2001a. The study also used the same dogs as tested before. In the exact same test to study 2011a, the free running dogs were again fitted with the shock collars to deter them once the test dogs came with one or two meters of the sheep. The results that were recorded showed the learning ability of the dogs over time. Dogs who had been shocked previously in the study of 2001a showed an increased hesitance towards hunting the sheep. This result was recorded numerous times in study 2001b. The study was able to conclude that through learned training with the electronic electronic collars, over the course of two years, researchers were able to significantly alter the observed behavioral patterns of the dogs effectively training them to not hunt the sheep without compromising their natural hunting instincts.

An even more important finding from the two 2001 studies was that there were no real documented effects on that of the dogs. While the corrections did cause cortisol level changes in the dogs, over time as the dogs were conditioned, this halted. The study then was able to accurately claim that electronic collar training is an effective and safe method that can be used to train dogs. However, at the conclusion of the study, the researchers do make note that electronic collar training should be done with care and that only trained and skilled professionals should attempt to have such effects on dog behavior and learning techniques.

If you are interested in making your dog amazing, fixing their behavioral issues, and building their confidence, contact Off Leash K9 Training! or 888-413-0896 or

Off Leash K9 Training

Therapy Dog Certification History: Northern Virginia

Therapy Dog Northern Virginia
While we do a lot of therapy dog training at our facility in Northern Virginia, many do not know the history of the therapy dog.

Dogs have always been man’s best friend. While they may have started out as assistants for early man’s hunting expeditions, they have evolved into being spiritual companions on the journey of life. They are members of the family for humans the world over. Today, their role as family pets has evolved even further as they step into their new role of being therapy dogs.

Therapy dogs are used extensively in many settings within hospices, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, retirement homes, and rehabilitation homes. They offer solace and support to people with varying degrees of physical and emotional needs. They are often also clubbed as assistance or service dogs.

The history of therapy dogs can be traced back to World War II, when a dog named Smoky was found abandoned on a battlefield, adopted by a soldier, and later was allowed in the hospital as a companion to the wounded soldiers and their friends, which he continued doing for 12 long years.

In 1976, the first therapy dog training program was started by a registered nurse, Elaine Smith, who had observed the difference that visiting dogs had on patients in the hospital where she worked. It was not until 1982, that a new program was started to have therapy dogs assist with the severely disabled among children. This was called the Tender Loving Zoo and was started by Nancy Stanley.

Therapy dogs today have had a lot of research to back up the experiential claims of their beneficial effects on humans. Research has shown that therapy dogs increase the levels of dopamine and oxytocin in the brain, which leads to increased satisfaction and bonding. Therapy dogs also help to increase confidence levels in children with learning disabilities. They help provide support and socialization to children with autism. Therapy dogs also provide stress release to school and college students in the United States by visiting them on campus in an event called Therapy Fluffies.

The best part about therapy dogs is that there is no age limit to their appeal. They can just as easily break the ice with a three-year-old as they can with a ninety-year-old. Therapy dogs often do not live with people who need their help, as service dogs do. Therapy dogs often visit different organizations, schools, retirement homes, hospitals, hospices, etc., along with their owners and return with the owners to their own homes at the end of their session. They are not exclusively trained to deal with specific tasks and assignments, as service dogs are.

Any dog can be trained to be a therapy dog (as long as no major behavioral issues), but there are some dogs that are specially preferred as therapy dogs due to their innate nature. An example of such dogs would be the Golden Retriever, which is very popular as therapy dogs the world over. This is due to the fact that they are very easy going, affectionate, and loving. They are very patient with children and have a light-hearted demeanor that makes them the perfect therapy dog!

Are you interested in having your dog become a certified therapy dog? If so, contact Off Leash K9 Training!

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Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

What Are The Requirements To Have A Service Dog In Virginia?

Service Dogs in Virginia

We get asked service dog questions a lot at our facility in Northern Virginia.

ADA (American Disabilities Act) is the governing body for these regulations.

The American Disabilities Act has certain regulations in place regarding the definition and purpose of service dogs. This has been revised several times, with the latest revision being on March 15, 2011. There were several additional provisions added to the latest revisions regarding service dogs.

Service dogs are specially trained to assist people with special needs in certain activities of daily living, such as helping them to walk with stability, helping retrieve items (if they are in a wheelchair), helping them know if someone is coming from behind (if there is hearing loss), preventing a child from wandering away from safety (if autistic), etc.

According to the American Disabilities Act, both local and state government agencies, non-profit organizations, retail merchants, restaurants, and other businesses, have to make “reasonable modifications” in order to accommodate the needs of disabled people. Even places that have a policy of “no pets” have to make room for service dogs in their premises.

It is to be noted that the ADA defines only dogs as service animals. According to the ADA, the dog must be trained to perform tasks that are specifically related to the disability faced by the person. This involves training the dog to take certain actions that are very specific to the disability, such as alerting a diabetic person that his blood sugar levels are low. Other tasks could include reminding the person to take medications on time, detect the onset of a seizure in an epileptic person and keep him/her safe during the seizure until medical aid arrives. Therapy dogs, or dogs that provide only emotional support and comfort, are not covered in the ambit of service dogs, under the ADA regulations. However, dogs that are trained to offer specific psychiatric support, such as sensing the onset of an anxiety attack and taking action to warn, avoid, or prevent the attack, are covered as service dogs, under ADA regulations.

The ADA also does not “require” professional training for service dogs; however, it is highly preferred. People with disabilities can train the dogs themselves. ADA regulations state that a dog can only be considered a service dog after it is fully trained. A service dog can only be taken to public places after it is fully trained. This means that dogs that are undergoing training should not be taken to public places under ADA regulations. They are not required to wear any special vest, harness, or ID tag. The care of the dog is the responsibility of the handler, and this includes feeding, grooming, exercising, as well as veterinary care.

ADA regulations also state that hotels must not reserve “pet friendly” rooms to people with service animals who want to book an accommodation in the hotel. They must be given rooms that are accessible to other general guests. Hotels must also not charge a separate cleaning fee for these rooms to remove pet hair, etc.  Essentially, a service dog must be given access to any place that a person is.

If you are looking at getting your dog trained and certified to be a service dog, contact Off Leash K9 Training today! or 888-413-0896  or

Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Teaching Dogs Tracking in Northern Virginia

Dog Tracking Classes Northern Virginia

Do you want your dog to do tracking in Northern Virginia? We can help!

While a hunting dog may be motivating factor in breed choices and dog acquisition, there are some natural dog abilities that should be taken into consideration before training begins.  As far as scent training is concerned, dogs are already far ahead of you.  You are  simply reinforcing something they already know.

Get your dog ready for tracking  with commands and games geared towards what you will be doing out in the real terrain.  The commands need to be simple and clear.  Trying to teach too many different commands will get confusing.  Think through what actions you would like your dog to complete and narrow down the amount of commands.  Common specifics include differentiating between things like the dogs own items such as toys, and human or animal scents.

Games start at home with fun.  Dogs love attention from their favorite humans.  Simply playing repetitive games with your dog will help with scent training.  You can start with a basic game using your closed fists to hold different items.  Teach your dog the name associated with the scents and help him learn to smell each of your hands to find the item. Take care to choose an alert method that will work in all situations and stick with it.  Some common indicators are pawing, scratching, or nudging with nose.  Make sure that your dog knows when he has done a good job by “marking” this behavior verbally (“yes!”).  Kind words and loving attention go a long way.

After your dog understands he will be looking for and identifying items, a larger scale search can commence.  This will involve hiding items throughout the house.  Follow the dog around the house and reward him when he finds the items.  Treats, toys and playtime, and praise can all be used as rewards. Once this exercise is understood well by your dog, you can try it without the lights on to strengthen use of smell.  Be sure to keep using your chosen word to command your dog to search for and find the targets.

Your dog can also be taught to look for you or other family members.  Be sure to stay quiet in your hiding place to encourage use of scent instead of hearing.  Another family member may need to hold the dog while your find your destination out of site.  Be patient and wait for the dog to find you, let another person guide or give encouragement.  Your dog can also be taught to look for your items when lost.  Start by “accidentally” dropping items on a walk or leaving them around the house.  Make sure to use body language showing your dog that you are looking for something.  He will eventually catch on to help you.  When you near the item, let the dog find it himself and use his indicator signal.

You really don’t have to teach your dog to use scent to search for things, you are basically just speicifiying what you want him to search for and how to tell you when it is found.  Games and exercises are great for getting started with this, as well as for initiating a good bond with the owner.  Both will help when it is time to but the skills to use.

If you want to take your dog’s detection or tracking to the next level, contact us at Off Leash K9 Training!  We offer nose work, detection, diabetic alert dog training, and tracking! or or 888-413-0896

Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Dog Tracking Courses in Virginia

Tracking Dogs in Virginia

Are you interested in a dog tracking course in Virginia? We can help!

A dog with tracking ability can be a great asset to hunters, police,  service dogs, or just for fun!  All dogs use their sense of smell to help them throughout the day.  A simple walk can be a great experience for a dog to learn about the world around them.  They know where other dogs have been even when humans don’t have a clue.  This natural aspect of canine behavior is a great starting point for training your dog for many different things.

Dogs had to find food in the wild before they were ever domesticated.   While many breeds have been influenced by domestic preferences, most still have good natural instincts.  This can be seen by any observant dog owner.  They sniff everything, turn in circles before bed, and protect their families and food sources.  Owners of dogs specifically used for tracking are just working with a dogs natural abilities and fine tuning them to focus on certain activities.

If you desire to track with you canine friend, it may be a good idea to consider this from the moment you pick out your furry buddy.  While all dogs have strong scent detection ability, some breeds are a little better set up for hunting and tracking.  Their natural mentality and physical make-up can make each breed good at different things.  Snout shape and size contribute to ease of tracking.  Dogs with shorter snouts and squished faces may get overheated easily and not be able to stay outside as long.  There is a lot of physical activity involved in tracking activities, as well.  Some dogs have more naturally high energy levels than others.  Prey instincts also have been known to be more prevalent in certain breeds.  Do your research on breeds before deciding on a companion.

As a dog ages, they may be less efficient with tracking as well.  It is also understood that male dogs may have better scent detection abilities than females.  A well trained dog that is well bonded with its owner will do the best job, however.  Dogs usually aim to please and enjoy praise and rewards.   A kind and appreciative owner will add to the dog’s ability and confidence.  Make sure to practice with games and exercises before going out in the field.

Police dogs are usually a specific breed and have professional trainers to prepare dogs for finding things like humans or missing persons.  This is a situation where the trainers are used to working with a specific breed and get to know them very well.  The dog also have to form a trusting relationship with the officer that will be working with it on a regular basis.  This relationship should not be underestimated when considering performance of tracking dogs.

Whatever your choice of dog, be sure to hire a trainer such as Off Leash K9 Training or research the many tried and true methods for focusing your dog’s tracking skills.  Focus on the relationship with your dog from day one.  Take your dog places with you, go for walks, and play with him.  A well trained and bonded dog will offer years of enjoyment and friendship on or off of the hunting field.

Want more information on our tracking courses? or

-Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Training For A Diabetic Alert Dog in Virginia

Diabetic Alert Dog Virginia


Those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes must constantly check glucose levels to check for levels that are too high or too low, as these situations can cause terrible health complications. If they are not aware of these levels that can fluctuate tremendously throughout the day they could faint, experience a seizure, go into a coma or even die. One way to help those living with type 1 diabetes is to have a Diabetic Alert Dog. These dogs are specially trained to alert a diabetic person of high or low glucose levels so that the person can take an insulin shot or eat something high in sugar, etc. There are a number of ways to obtain this special type of dog. Training is extensive.

How they are trained? High and low glucose levels are associated with specific smells that humans can’t detect. Dogs, with their especially keen sense of smell, can be trained to recognize the smells of low and high glucose levels. They are trained through a series of reward systems. Sweat or saliva samples exhibiting these levels are exposed to the dog, and then the dog is rewarded for smelling it with a treat. Then, further training is given so that the dog learns how to alert the diabetic. This could mean placing a paw on their knee, etc. This would indicate to the diabetic that he/she should check their blood sugar and take the necessary action to regulate glucose levels. This gives the person a sense of safety and security while going about their daily life as the most severe cases of dangerous glucose fluctuations can be avoided through early detection by the diabetic alert dog.

Trainer or Program: There are several organizations that offer dogs already trained to be purchased. Usually there is a stage in the program where the diabetic would need to send samples of their specific scents for the dog to train with before being released. A trainer may also be sent with the dog for a few days to help both the dog and owner adapt. Another option is to purchase a dog that is ideal for the job and to hire a trainer such us Off Leash K9 Training to train the dog to be a diabetic alert dog at home.

Skills: The dogs are trained in a number of skills beyond detecting low and high blood glucose levels. Diabetic alert dogs may also be trained to get assistance from a third party, retrieve medication, food, a test kit, or dial 911 using a special device. These abilities can be life-saving for the dog’s owner. As diabetic alert dogs must accompany their owners everywhere and by law are permitted everywhere the owner needs to go, these dogs are also trained in public access and have these certifications. This way dogs are able to accompany their owners without disturbing in places like schools, restaurants, doctor’s offices, etc.

If you are interested in getting your dog trained to be a diabetic alert dog, contact Off Leash K9 Training today! or 888-413-0896 or

-Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Diabetic Alert Dog Training in Northern Virginia


Diabetic Alert Dog Virginia

We offer diabetic alert dog training in Northern Virginia.

For people suffering from diabetes, early detection of low or high blood sugar is crucial to living a safe and healthy life. There are many different ways to detect changes in blood sugar, including insulin monitors, but diabetic alert dogs are a way for those suffering from diabetes to not only feel safe, but also to have companionship. Although service animals are more often associated with other medical conditions such as blindness, they also have important benefits for those with diabetes as well.

Diabetic alert dogs go through intense amounts of training, so that they can detect changes in blood sugar levels. Because dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than humans do, they can actually smell it when the chemicals in our bodies change, and diabetic alert dogs are trained to react and help when a diabetic patient reaches dangerously low or high levels of the chemicals in our bodies related to sugar. These service dogs are matched to you specifically based on needs, lifestyle, and personality, and they complete their training by learning their new companion’s smells and behaviors. In an emergency, they will know exactly what to do and can save your life. For example, if your blood sugar is getting dangerously low, they will smell it and alert you so that you can eat. And if you ever were to lose consciousness, the dog will try to alert someone else to it by running or barking.

Not only will these dogs potentially save your life, but they can also provide a huge sense of security for your loved ones. If you are a diabetic patient that lives or works alone, it can be quite nerve-wracking for those you love, because if something happens to you while you are alone, there isn’t much that they can do about it. Having a dog there will make them feel more comfortable, knowing that you will be taken care of if something happens. Diabetic alert dogs are especially good for children or elderly patients, who may not have the ability to take care of themselves completely on their own.

Diabetic alert dogs also provide companionship for those with diabetes. It can be difficult dealing with such a serious illness, but having a dog can help you feel less lonely. Service animals often will develop an extremely deep bond with their owner, and this has plenty of health benefits beyond just caring for your diabetes. Interaction with pets is good for stress relief, which in turn reduces the risk for things like heart and stomach problems. They also can just improve mood overall and have a positive impact on your social life.

Diabetic alert dogs are a wonderful, and often underutilized resource for those with diabetes. The safety, peace of mind, and companionship that they provide is unmatched by anything else. The intense training that diabetic alert dogs undergo prepares them to deal with many emergency situations in ways that other resources could not. If you are diabetic and have not considered an alert dog yet, it might be exactly what you need. We offer training at our facility in Northern Virginia for Diabetic Alert Dogs. or

-Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Stress During Dog Training


Stress in Dog Training Virginia

You know the feeling of stress, which can come on due to everything from misplacing your keys to workplace relationships. When you feel stress you can make changes to alleviate your feelings by meditating, working through a conflict, or speaking to another person, but did you know that dogs often suffer stress in similar ways? Of course, like people, dog personalities can range from neurotic to always relaxed, but unlike people, dogs can have a harder time using ways to alleviate stress.  Although, stress is pretty common in dog training, regardless of the training method that is utilized.  Just like people, anytime you are learning something new, there will be some stress.

Signs of stress

You can help your furry friend relax by recognizing the signs of stress in dogs. Unlike people, your dog can’t tell you when he or she is confused or just plain maxed out, so look for yawning, scratching, rolling, lip licking, eye avoidance, downing, and sniffing as possible clues that Fido isn’t feeling up to snuff. Sometimes dog owners miss the clearest signs of stress or confuse them with disobedience, often leading to discipline that only stresses your dog out more. If a normally obedient dog stops following directions, starts wandering or generally pulling his or her attention away from you, rather than trying discipline, think about what you are asking for, how you are asking for it, and if it’s time for a break and playtime.

Troubles with Training

In general, training can be stressful for your dog (remember those dreaded words in school: pop quiz). To go back to the school scenario, do you think your teacher wasn’t stressed when he or she had to constantly correct students? Training can be stressful for handler and dog alike, so sometimes your stress can be felt by your dog, exacerbating everyone involved. A dog can be stressed in any form of training (treat, ecollar, prong, etc).

Make it fun!

Make training and activities fun will help your dog’s stress and yours! Especially when a dog seems to be showing signs of stress during a training session, it is essential to turn what seems disciplinarian into a party! Check your pup’s eye contact – is he looking away from you or to you? Don’t start getting into difficult exercises until you can literally see the trust in your dog’s eyes by the fact that he is returning your gaze. Remember eye contact goes two ways, so be sure you are not showing displeasure in your stare.

The key things to remember to make yourself and your dog happy during training sessions are the same things that can help you de-stress in your life. Don’t forget to smile and joke with your dog – he may not understand the words but he will get your light-hearted intent. As you would with a small child, provide lots of encouragement in outgoing ways – clap, cheer, and generally show your dog that you are having fun, and he’s sure to want to join in.

Your dog may not be able to tell you when he or she feel stressed, but by keeping an eye on his or her patterns and any changes to behavior, you will be able to modify your activities to ensure a happy pet. Be sure to maintain authority, as you do want your dog to learn something, but this can be accomplished through fun as much as through physical discipline.  Help yourself and your dog relax by learning to recognize signs of stress in your furry friend.

Take A Break!

Remember, many times that if you are getting upset and stressed, it will have a direct impact on your dog getting upset and stressed.  If you find yourself getting frustrated during training, TAKE A BREAK! If you find the dog getting frustrated and stress, GIVE THEM A BREAK!

What many people (and trainers) do not realize is that when you are stressed or frustrated, it impacts the dog.  When the dog is stressed or frustrated, it impacts you (trainer/handler) and training/results will only decline from there. So, if you notice that either party is getting stressed or frustrated, take a break!

-Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training