Monthly Archives: December 2015

Are Dogs Really Dangerous? Dog Aggression Trainers in Northern Virginia


Northern Virginia Aggressive Dogs

Statistically speaking, though dogs are responsible for human deaths on a very low scale yet they do happen. Pit bulls are associated with almost one third of dog bite related fatalities and half of that can be attributed to Rottweilers. Therefore these two breeds of dogs, more than others, have earned the reputation of being dangerous especially as all headlines about dog bite related human deaths make mention of them too.

If you go into dog history you will realize that these are breeds of dogs that have been trained to be fighter dogs. While dog fighting might be a thing of the past but their instinctive traits as fighters do come to the forefront from time to time. Besides this, they were also trained to bait bulls and bears and guard the house. However after the creation of the Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) Pit bulls Rottweilers and German shepherds are some breeds of dogs, the ownership of which is banned by law.

The most dangerous dogs are not those that you name by breed but those that have not been made dangerous by human beings. Dogs are great companions provided that you have shown them respect, trust and love. No dog can go wrong if it is able to see these traits in their human companions. The fact that Pit bulls, German shepherds, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs were chosen for dog fights turned them into dangerous breeds as that was what human beings trained them to become. These breeds were also selected by drug trafficking gangs to protect their operations and money and this further turned them into being known as dangerous dogs.

The fact of the matter is that almost any breed of dogs, terriers or even Pomeranians could become aggressive and dangerous if they have received that training or lack thereof. The fact that the Therapy Dog of the Year is a docile Pit bull named, Elle, Illustrates that this breed too can be trained to be docile too. These aggressive instincts are now dormant since dogs were domesticated by human beings thousands of years ago. Dogs no longer need to hunt for food and so they do not really have killer instincts either. However, these aggressive instincts can come to the forefront any time, in any breed if they are trained or treated in a way that allows them to witness aggressive behavior.

Dogs can develop behavioral issues depending on the nature of the pack leader. If the environment around them is one of high energy as displayed by the pack leader others will also develop the same energy. If the energy around them is one that encourages docility the dogs will pick up their cue from that. Dogs can be great companions provided we communicate our need for their companionship in a partnership that fosters love and not aggression. All you need to do is direct the dog’s instincts in the right direction.

Do you want more information about working with your aggressive dog? Contact us at or 888-413-0896 or



Dog Behavior Training in Northern Virginia: Are Dogs Like People?

Northern Virginia Dog Behavior


Roger Caras, the famous photographer and writer once said that “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole,” and nothing can be truer than that. They share our lives and have become such an integral part that life without them seems colorless.

Dogs smell you even when you’re yards away from them and cannot see you and it’s a wonderful welcome that you get when you enter your house—jumping on you and licking you as if they haven’t seen you for ages. They give unconditional love and that’s why they’re treated as part of the family.

That being so, is it really surprising that studies suggest that man’s best friend- the dog acts more like human beings do? Researchers in Japan believed that the hormone oxytocin (that triggers maternal caring) is also produced in dog owners and in dogs when pets gazed into their eyes; making such amazing bonding possible.

These animals are by nature very affectionate and they have a natural instinct to bond. In fact they love to be petted and caressed just the way all human beings want to be– at least deep down. During the course of their evolution from wolves to becoming pets, dogs have acquired many human-like- traits. To substantiate that, it has been found that dogs reciprocate human emotions and exhibit anger, happiness and guilt just like human beings do.

When dogs do something that they ought not to have done and they’re caught doing it, they act guilty—they just slink away with the tail in between their legs, droop their ears and sit under  a chair or table, looking at you apologetically. They can even recognize when you’re angry with them and are quick to note the difference in voice, tone and body language of the owner.

Researchers led by Kazuo Fujita, a professor of comparative cognition at Kyoto University, showed that that dogs snub people that are mean to their owners and will even refuse food offered by such people. He proved his point by actually demonstrating how dogs made “social and emotional evaluations of people when it came to their owners.

In role plays where dog owners needed to either open a box or retrieve some tape from a container, dogs accepted treats from people who helped their owners in the job and refused food from those that didn’t help their owners. Neutral persons that remained in the room were preferred over the non-helpers. Dogs instinctively distinguished between friends and foes of their owners and reacted accordingly.

Jealousy, a trait normally associated with human beings can actually relate to dogs as well. Dogs like attention and if they see their owners being attentive to someone else or another dog, they try to come in-between.

Christine Harris, one of the researchers at the University of California at San Diego’s, noted that even “animals display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.”

Pet experts say that dogs too are grief-stricken at the loss of a favorite person and mourn in their own way when they are separated from their owners for long periods of time. They tend to sleep more, eat less and don’t play as much. They also experience fear like human beings, sadness, and anger and are extremely possessive, just like human beings are.

If you stopped in the middle of a road and looked upwards, you’ll find that many people too will stop and also look up to see what you’re looking at—the same holds true with dogs, especially if they’re in a room with a door. If the owner looks that way, an untrained dog looks at the owner and then at the door, wondering what the owner is looking at. Such behavior is often seen only in humans and chimps, perhaps. A trained dog looks more at the owner’s face rather than at the door because they are trained to retain eye contact with the owner.

Research has shown that with age, short-term memory and logical reasoning skills decline in human beings—dogs too apparently experience the same decline.

Josh Billings said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself,” and even that’s an understatement– there’s really nothing more human and more lovable than a dog. It’s not man’s best friend for nothing. Sometimes it’s more human than even humans.

Do you want more information and training on your dog’s behavior?

Contact Off Leash K9 Training at: or 888-413-0896 or

Can My Aggressive Dog Be Fixed? Dog Aggression Training in Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia Dog Aggression Trainers
Everyday at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we work with aggression in dogs (food aggression, dog aggression, people aggression, etc).

Rehabilitation of any nature, whether it be man or dog has a complicated history. Yes, most dogs and people that tend to show signs of extreme aggression can be rehabilitated. But also no, there are some people and dogs who show signs and behavior that prove that rehabilitation is just simply not possible. The only way to find out for sure if an aggressive dog can be rehabilitated is to try training and attempt to do so.

It’s impossible for us to tell you based off of a phone conversation or really even an eval (generally) where they will be at after training.

To start, try out training and behavior modification lessons along with structured obedience training.  Such training, especially for aggressive dogs is usually only possible or successful through the strict guidance of a canine behavior specialist, a type of dog trainer who is used to behaviors usually exhibited by aggressive dogs. Definitely do not make the mistake of hiring a trainer from a big name pet store, simple training from them will not ever be able to fully change aggressive behavior. Changing aggressive behavior is a two-fold process, one that includes both training and behavior modification and they both include complete dedication by the owner to the rehabilitation of the aggressive dog.

The second part of changing aggressive behavior in dogs in behavior modification and that exists in a variety of steps, different for each dog. This could include but are not limited to, perhaps giving the dog more exercise. Sometimes the aggressive behavior in dogs is due to an uncomfortable living space where an owner is simply neglectful or the dog is under-socialized. Other tools of behavior modification include re-teaching or teaching the dog of their status in the family. Ways to do this include keeping the dog off the furniture, only feeding the dog after the family eats, door manners, obedience training, structure, and consistency.  By doing these things, you cement into the dog that their position in the family falls beneath that of the alpha, the owner.

These are only a few tricks and tools that can be employed by a canine behavior specialist at Off Leash K9 Training to attempt to remodel the behavior of an aggressive dog. But even these tricks and training are far from being fail-safe methods of rehabilitation. Each and every case of aggressive dog behavior is different from the last and each one will require a different amount of training and behavior modification pattern.  However, they all in common a major commitment from the owner.

The other facet that comes to the rehabilitation of an aggressive dog, in the hopes of returning it to being a peaceful and loving member of the family is coming to understand that the rehabilitation of an aggressive dog is not an overnight process. Each process will vary, sometimes the owners will see progression towards more loving behavior in a matter of a few days and sometimes, the rehabilitation process will take a few weeks or even a few months. Regardless of the time, not giving up on the rehabilitation hopes of your aggressive dog is the only hope you and your dog have.

If you have an aggressive dog (people aggression, dog aggression, food aggression, etc) and you want to help make him/her better, contact Off Leash K9 Training today! or 888-413-0896 or

-Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Do Dogs Have Emotions Like People? Dog Behavior Training in Northern Virginia

Dog Behavior Training in Northern Virginia

After training a few dogs and scanning them, scientists end result was that dogs too are people! It is just that because dogs can’t talk, scientists have depended on their behavioral interpretationsand come to a conclusion as to what dogs are thinking.  It is indeed a tricky job. You can’t question a dog as to why he did something and you surely can’t ask him how he feels about what he did .The prospect of delving into an animal’s emotions has scared the scientist, because animal research has been a difficult task. It has been only normal to keep aside the questions of animal emotions because the answers are not easy.

By looking into their brains directly and surpassing the behavioral observation, an M.R.I scan informs us about the dogs’inner state. M.R.I.s are done in very noisy and confined areas. People don’t like them as they need to hold still during the process. The normal veterinary procedure would be to put the animal under anesthesia to avoid movement from the animal. But when an animal is anesthetized it makes it difficult to study the functioning of the brain. At least the emotions.

Now to do this scan they had the consent of the owner of the dog and a form filled and signed by him. It was agreed upon that the participation was voluntary and the dog could quit if necessary.  The dog if necessary could leave the M. R. I. scanner similar to a human volunteer.

The dog was taught to walk the steps and follow up that into a tube and rest the head in a custom made chin rest, and also stay still for thirty seconds, and yes it had to learn to put on earmuffs to shield the sensitive hearing from the noise the scanners make.

Months of training on a trial and error basis including at the actual M.R.I scanner, they were handsomely gifted with the mapping of the dog’s brain activity. The first tests were measured with the two hand signals caught on the scanner

In the experiments conducted later they were able to distinguish the odor of familiar and unfamiliar dogs and human beings.  Soon the community for local dogs here got to know of our tests that were conducted on what the dogs were thinking, and in a short span of a year there were a dozen M.R.I certified dogs.

Even though scientists were beginning to answer a few basic questions about a dog’s brain, they can’t ignore the resemblance of the dog’s brain to that of a human’s, especially in the areas of key brains functions.

Abundant in dopamine receptors caudate is placed between the brainstem and cortex. In humans the caudate plays an important role in recognizing the things we enjoy like money, food and love. But can we change this connection around by measuring the caudate actions. This is usually not possible because of the complex working nature of the brain. It is a known fact that the brain is well connected and it’s not possible to nail down one single function or emotion to one particular brain region.

But the caudate could be an exception. Certain parts of the caudate stand apart for their consistent recognition of the things that humans enjoy. Caudate is so active that under the circumstances it can single out our preference for food, beauty and even music.

Among dogs we found that the response in the caudate increased to the response of the hand signal, prompting food. The caudate also responded to the odor of familiar humans.

Are these test proving that dogs love us? Not true, but the same reasons that activate the human caudate which are linked to positive feelings are also activated in a dog caudate. Neuroscientists have termed this functional homology, and this could be an indication of dogs’ emotions.

The capability of experiencing positive emotions, like attachment and love, means that dogs do have a level of sentiments compared to a child. This is something we need to think as to how we treat dogs.

Dogs for long have been treated as property. Even though in 1966 the animal’s welfare act and the laws of the state have questioned the treatment for animals they are of view that they are things- objects which could be disposed of, only when reasonable care is given to control their suffering.

After these test and M.R.I scans we can no longer shy away from the fact that dogs and many other animals have emotions similar to humans and to consider them as property may not be in their better interests.

An alternative to this may be may be to consider partial personhood to animals that display neurobiological proof of emotions. Various animal rescue groups have coined the word ‘guardian’ for animal caregivers thereby making it obligatory for the human to take up the responsibility of caring for his ward.

If we go further and grant them personhood, they will be given additional protection from exploitation. Dogs for racing and puppy mills will be banned for violating their basic rights by exploitation.

It is presumed that our society is years behind in considering dogs as a persons. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has opened the doors for such possibilities after the neuroscientific findings.

In couple of cases the court has ruled that the juvenile offenders should not be given a life sentence if there is no possibility of granting parole. Apart from the rulings the court gave brain mapping evidence that brain is not mature enough when in the adolescent stage.

If you are interested in learning more about your dog’s behavior, body language, or training; contact us at Off Leash K9 Training!

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Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Is It Better To Get A Puppy Or An Older Dog?

Should I get a puppy or adult dog?

At our dog training classes in Northern Virginia, we get asked this question all of the time!

Once you’ve made the decision to get a family pet, a dog, there is still one choice remaining. Are you willing to put up with the necessary training in order to break in a brand new puppy or would you much rather deal with an adult dog? There are several deciding factors that can help you decide whether or not a puppy or an older dog is the perfect fit for your family dynamic.

First, consider the dedication and work that is required by a newborn puppy. You will have to train them to use the bathroom outside, not to steal food from the table, not to bark at every passing car or person who may come to knock at your door, not to chew shoes or furniture and many more. This kind of dedicated training will definitely take up a lot of time and energy in the first few months that you bring the puppy home. Not to mention, this entire process will require lots of patience, puppies are prone to in the home accidents and regardless of the rigor and strength of any training program, at first it will be trial and error as they adjust to living in a new space.

Now, most people want a puppy for the obvious reasons, they are cute, cuddly and loving but most new puppy owners fail to realize that soon the cute and cuddly can turn into big and somewhat of a headache, if not properly trained in obedience, house behavior and given adequate food and exercise. This is the reason why when you visit a shelter, you see many puppies that are within the twelve to eighteen-months age range. These are the types of puppies who were purchased just for their cute and cuddly nature and then never trained, therefore leaving their faulty owners with the only option to leave them with a shelter in the hopes that someone will come along to train them properly.

If your heart is set on a puppy, just make sure you have the time and energy to give it the proper training it needs and you and your puppy will soon become best of friends.

One reason that an older dog is a great addition to a home is that older dogs can coexist in homes with a variance in activity level. Since they aren’t puppies anymore, senior dogs require less activity and are therefore easier to manage and take care of. However, if they have a bad habit, it may take more time to break than a puppy. Still, if you end up adding an older dog to your family, go through an obedience program with the dog to ensure a bond between man and dog. This makes sure that the dog understands its role as a member of the family.

In the end, there is no strict deciding factor that determines which type of dog is best for which type of family. If you have the time and energy for a puppy, go for it. If an older, more laid back kind of dog is what you desire, look for a more adult/older pet.

If you have anymore questions about training, please contact us at Off Leash K9 Training!

Reach us at: or 888-413-0896 or

Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Do Dogs Have Emotions? Emotional Dogs in Virginia

Dogs Feel Emotion Northern Virginia

At our dog training business in Northern Virginia, we always get asked about dogs’ emotions.

Dog owners everywhere have been asking this question for years when looking at their furry friend: “What is he thinking about?”

Recently, two studies have shown that a concrete answer to that question may be possible.

A study conducted by the director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy, Gregory S. Berns, may be able to provide tangible evidence regarding what a dog is feeling. After hearing the incredible story of the Navy dog that assisted in taking down Osama bin Laden, Berns was moved to see what was happening inside the canine mind. The dog was trained to not only endure rough conditions, but to enjoy working in them.

Berns chose fMRI to be the tool he used to look into the minds of dogs and see what they were thinking. With a dog trainer and an assistant by his side, Berns spent a year preparing the dogs to withstand the fMRI machine.

fMRI machines are fairly loud, so the dogs were trained to wear ear plugs during the procedure and to ensure the dogs remained safe in the machine, he also trained them to lie perfectly still as the scan was done. If the dogs were not still, the image would be ruined.

Berns’ study was successful and he was able to capture images of the dogs’ brains. When the dogs were shown a hand signal indicating they would get a treat, the reward center of their brains were activated and lit up on the image. That was not a surprise to Berns. However, he also discovered that dogs’ brains are considerably more responsive when the signal came from a human, and not an inanimate object.

Using the fMRI to map a dog’s brain will be able to answer the question of whether dogs can feel empathy or not in the future.

Across the pond, Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer, researchers out of London’s Goldsmiths College, began their journey to figure out if dogs are able to feel empathy – the ability to share and understand another’s emotions.

Custance mentioned that she has talked to a number of people who claim that their dogs try to comfort them in their times of need. Her own dog, Custance continues, has never offered her comfort. Even with her own dog not expressing these characteristics, Custance wanted to study whether or not dogs were truly able to care about their owners in the way we think they do.

To conduct their research, Mayer and Custance put together a group of largely untrained dogs. The group was mostly mixed breeds and contained an equally number of male and female pets. A scenario was set up where a stranger to the dog and the dog’s owner would alternately cry, hum in an unusual way, or talk. The dogs’ reactions were observed.

15 of the 18 dogs that participated in the study, sought out whichever person was showing signs of distress; it did not matter if the person was a stranger or not. Custance said it seemed as though the dogs were capable of showing empathy because they did not go to their owners to be comforted themselves. However, the study does raise more questions: Do dogs respond to anger or pleasure the same way they responded to distress? If children were included in the study, would the dogs react differently?

Dog lovers everywhere are rejoicing at the results of this study, because, to them, it proves they are more to their dog than the just hand that feeds them. Mayer and Custance have made it clear that there is still more research to be conducted and they aren’t surprised at the public’s reaction. They know that dog owners want to believe this data. However, Custance knows that dogs still have a positive effect on people’s lives.

The question: “Wonder what is he thinking about?” may be answered sooner than you think.

Are you interested in learning more about your dog’s behavior or training? If so, contact us at or

-Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

What Are Some Tips For Traveling With Your Dog?

Traveling With Your Dog
Traveling is already a stressful endeavor. Traveling with a dog becomes even more stressful. If you aren’t well prepared, traveling with a dog can become dangerous.

Designating and securing a spot for the dog in the back of the car is a must. Leaving a dog loose is a first worst mistake when traveling with a dog. A startled dog that is distracted by something outside the car or something else, could lead to the possibility of of the dog landing in your lap and possibility distracting you from your driving, placing all the occupants of the car in extreme danger. Also, a second good reason for securing your dog in the back of the car is that if in the case of an accident, having the dog secured will greatly increase chance of survival and prevention from death.

Also, traveling with a kit full of the dogs’ necessary medicines as well as a copy of their medical records is another necessary precautionary measure. If in the case of needing to use them, they will be right at your fingertips instead of possibly being a world away at home where they won’t be of much use to you or the dog.

Obviously, you pack for a trip. But also to remember to pack for the trip for your dog. This is probably one of the most important tips for when traveling with a dog. Be sure to include a food and a water bowl as well as enough dog food to adequately last the duration of the trip. This is especially important for dog owners whose dogs eat a special kind of food that may not be available at the place of your trip destination.

If you decide to travel during the warm weather months, make sure to pack plenty of bottle water to soothe the thirst of your dog. Packing extra water if planning, say a beach trip, is important in order to combat potential car breakdowns or traffic delays.

Another thing to consider, especially in trips that occur during hot weather is to allow for enough hair circulation within the car for the dog. This can be achieved by leaving windows in the back of the car open enough to allow such fresh air to enter. In tune with this, make sure that none of those open windows are open wide enough to tempt a dog to jump out of them.

Once you’ve made sure the dog is properly fed, given enough water and fresh air remember that like children, dogs will get extremely bored on long road trips. Include a favorite chew toy, bone or treat to distract the dog for a few hours during the trip. This will give him something fun to do and will also provide some comfort on the journey.

As much as possible, stop for breaks to allow the dog to comfortably stretch and walk around. This might require a leash, so don’t leave that necessary item at home. Also, giving your dog enough room in the backseat to move around a bit will ease the toll of the journey on the dog. Just like you prepare for your own trip, make sure you also prepare for your dogs’ trip, it will make the whole experience a better one.

If you have anymore questions about traveling with your dog, contact us at Off Leash K9 Training at or

Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training