Category Archives: Dog Owners Blog

Operant Conditioning: What Is It? How Does It Work For Dog Training?


Operant conditioning is, “a type of learning in which the strength of a behavior is modified by its consequences, such as reward or punishment, and the behavior is controlled by antecedents called discriminative stimuli which come to signal those consequences.”

To break down operant conditioning, there is what’s called the operant conditioning quadrant. This quadrant is made up of: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, and Negative Punishment.

Now, as you can see, this quadrant is broken into two categories which is: reinforcement and punishment.

Reinforcement is used to INCREASE the behavior in a dog. Punishment is used to DECREASE a behavior in a dog.

Now, look at negative and positive like math! Negative, you are removing something or taking something away. Positive, you are adding something.

Let’s break down each one…

Positive Reinforcement:
This is doing things such as marker training with your dog, he gives you a desired behavior (sit, down, heel, place, etc), you immediately give him a desirable reward such as a treat, a ball, a tug or praise. Again, positive, so you are ADDING a reward.

Negative Reinforcement:
This is training such as prong collar or ecollar training. Negative reinforcement means something already present is removed (taken away) as a result of completing a behavior and the behavior that led to this removal will increase in the future because it created a favorable outcome. A good example would be the seat belt in your car, your car “dings” annoyingly until you put it on. So, you generally put it on quickly in order to avoid the nagging. Again, negative, so you are TAKING AWAY the nagging.

Positive Punishment:
This involves presenting an undesirable outcome or event following an unwanted behavior. An example of positive punishment is if your dog jumps up on you, then you correct him with an ecollar or knee him off of you. You have given the dog an unwanted outcome following an unwanted action. An easy example of this, would be something as simple as a hot stove. If you touch a stove, immediately after, you get burned. So, this decreases the likelihood you will do it again. Again, positive, so you are ADDING something (adding an unwanted outcome).

Negative Punishment:
This is when you REMOVE a highly desirable stimulus for your dog displaying an unwanted behavior. For example, if you are trying to get your dog to sit or down; however, he is not paying attention, so you take away his ball/tug. An easy example of this would be two siblings get into a fight over who gets the new toy, so the parents simply take the toy away from them. Again, “negative,” so you are REMOVING something (the toy).

A lot of balanced trainers use the entire quadrant in some form or another when training dogs.

If you are interested in having a highly confident, well rounded and amazingly obedient dog, contact Off Leash K9 Training!

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10 Tips to Help You Stay Sane With Your New Puppy; Training in Virginia

Puppy Dog Trainers in Northern Virginia

Have a new and untrained puppy? It may be a troubling time or a stepping stone to see if you could handle a child, but either way, there are some tips you should take into account and help you stay sane with your new puppy. The first few weeks are the hardest and we’re here to help you virtually. Continue reading if you want to become a puppy pro in the next 5 minutes.

General training

You can’t go weeks with your puppy without training them even a little bit ad it’s important to think of them as a toddler when teaching them. Repetition is extremely important and the first thing to know when training.

Never have an aggressive energy when training; always use an assertive and calming tone when trying to train your puppy.

Like toddlers, puppies need training gates to understand that they shouldn’t go in a certain area. After a period of time, remove the gate and see if they know not to go in there on their own.

Surprisingly, you shouldn’t show or act extremely upset when your new puppy does something wrong. Like a child, they don’t know your words or commands yet and literally have no idea that they’re doing something wrong. Showing aggression toward them can act backwards on their behavior for when they grow into an adult. Assertive and calming natures with a mix of repetition can show them that they’re doing something wrong without altering their personality over time.

Home obedience classes aren’t bad and nothing something that should be shameful. They’re extremely invaluable and should be done to help your puppy get a head start on proper behaviors.

It’s never too early to start training. The earlier the training is done, the more they know not to do and what to do perfectly when they’re still in their toddler phase. This goes along with our previous tip. When you utilize puppy training at a young age, you’ll have a perfectly poise and well-behaved puppy rather quickly.

Listen to your puppies wants and needs – why are they doing a certain action? Pay attention to their motive when performing a certain action whether it’s because of food, having to go to the bathroom, or simply trying to get snuggles!

By knowing these basic guidelines before and during your puppy’s learning phase, you’ll have a breezy time with your puppy and you’ll be able to enjoy time with them sooner!

If you are interested in getting your puppy trained or your puppy questions answered, contact Off Leash K9 Training!

Help With New Puppy: Puppy Advice and Tips in Northern Virginia

Puppy Training Virginia

Being a new puppy owner is exciting, but most don’t realize the work that may go into actually taking care of a puppy or even learning to train them. We have the best tips to help you get started when it comes to training your new furbaby and you shouldn’t take these like a grain of salt as you’ll feel more lost than you expect without preparation during the first few weeks. These weeks are essential in molding the current and future behavior of your puppy.

When it comes to unwanted behavior…

It’s bound to happen but there are plenty of tips to keep in your pocket for when your puppy displays negative behavior.

Buy a spray bottle that has a bitter apple flavor and put it on the normal things your puppy goes for with his chompers. This will make his face go foul and his jaw drop what he’s trying to get away with!

Make sure to look for a plethora of textures when trying to get them to stop chewing on anything other than their toys. This will make them know what textures are what and give them all they need to be satisfied with, rather them wanting to see what texture your shoes or blankets are.

When you want your puppy to make friends…

Getting your puppy to socialize properly may be one of the hardest things you can do, but in order for your puppy to be affectionate rather than aggressive, you want your puppy to be well-socialized yet independent so they aren’t clingy to everything.

Introduce your puppy to ask many other puppies and people as much as possible. A well-socialized puppy is an independent yet affectionate puppy.

Do some research on the breed of your dog. Learn what triggers them more than other things and learn which breeds and environments they work best in. Use this to help amplify their social status and behavior.

Let them become familiar with different types of body and dress styles like beards and glasses so they can differentiate people and learn to accept everyone, and know when to become aggressive if necessary. (if they are a watch dog).

When it’s time to potty train…

Potty training is the most important training aspect with a new puppy and during the first month, all small puppies should be carried to the area they are allowed to go in. Not only does this prevent accidents, but it shows them through repetition where they need to go.

With positive reinforcement, use treats to show them that they did well by doing their business in the right area. This is called a mini puppy-party. Also, we highly recommend crate training, read our blog on that here.

Never scold and become aggressive when it comes to them making mistakes with the bathroom. If they aren’t going in the right area, you’re probably not showing them enough. Use the same phrase like “potty time” to show that this phrase (through repetition) means to go to the bathroom.

Within weeks, your puppy can be fully trained and make minimal mistakes, allowing you to enjoy your time together much quicker than expected. Don’t be afraid to utilize obedience courses, but try your hand at first so the puppy can become comfortable with you, your actions, and your tone of voice.

We also recommend doing many confidence building exercises with your pup, things such as: noise desensitization, object desensitization, touching all their body parts, etc.

If you have a puppy, and you want him to be an amazing/productive member of the K9 community, contact Off Leash K9 Training!

Help With My Dog Chasing Things: Dog Prey Drive Training in Virginia

When people think of adopting a dog, most of the time, they don’t think of predatory aggression and expect everything to be swell automatically. Predatory aggression is very real in dogs of all kinds and a lot of people may wonder if it’s natural. They are animals, however, so a level of prey drive is going to be natural no matter what.

What’s prey drive?

Prey drive is the desire to chase, catch, attack, or completely kill a small creature, furry or not. It’s the circle of life and something that is natural in the wild, especially for thousands of years prior. With predation, it’s a natural instinct dogs have for survival and can be trained away. Until then, it’s a natural instinct to attack and obtain for some breeds of dogs. This is why many chase, bite, attempt to eat, and even kill other living things.

Through various breeding practices, predatory aggression has been decreased and eliminated completely. Depending on the type of breed, the level of prey drive is quite different from type to type. According to the renowned American Kennel club, there are seven breed groups of puppies and around four of those have an advanced and enhanced prey drive level. These four groups are:


Dogs that are specifically bred in the sporting and herding groups have a higher prey drive because of sporting reasons.

How do I know if my dog has predatory aggression?

You may think it’s easy to catch, but there are plenty of other symptoms that you can notice and make note of in terms of predatory aggression and a prey level. One of the prime factors and symptoms of this aggression is when a dog’s behavior as such is triggered by a movement of some sort. This could be anyone from the mailman to a skateboarder down the road, a car pulling up or driving away, and even a bicyclist. These types of movements activate the instincts that are usually dormant and leave the rampant. It does not matter the age or gender of the dog, as this type of behavior can be found in any.

How do you treat predatory aggression?

Because dogs are born with this prey drive and it’s something that is in their brain that is triggered, there is no cure or treatment to fix this; this is why it’s usually done through breeding, because you can’t quite teach a dog to lower their level or prey drive. It can be toned down, but it will never go away as it is programmed in their animal brain, and rightfully so. However, as you see in our 1200+ videos on YouTube, we use obedience to outweigh their prey drive. So, their obedience essentially becomes stronger than their prey drive.

If you need help getting your dog’s prey drive under control, contact Off Leash K9 Training!


Things To Consider When Moving With Your Dog | Northern Virginia

Moving dog Virginia

As life moves forward and changes transpire, sometimes we are put in a position that requires us or inspires us to make a move. Sometimes, that can be a hard task to endeavor when you are considering others besides yourself. The task is no easier when that special being your are considering is your most loyal companion. Here is a list to consider when making that big move with your canine pal.

Walking Space: An important question to ask and examine is where you will walk your dog. You’ll want to consider having a green area nearby, whether it be a park or grassy square, that allows and encourages your canine pal to “take care of business.”

Climbing Stairs: If your dog is older or has difficulty climbing stairs, moving to an apartment or loft that is not on the ground floor may become tricky and difficult for your pup. Whether you like it or not, another thought to consider is how accessible an emergency exit would be for little Lassie or Spot. It is important that your pet has a feasible way to exit to ground level regardless of whether they are stretching their legs, or taking a bathroom break.

Flooring: For those with accident-prone puppies, you may be familiar with the difficulties of keeping a carpet clean. When deciding on a new home, it is important to take into account the type of flooring and how this can affect your pup and the cleanliness of your humble abode. A carpet is more difficult to keep clean as it traps odors and fur. However, if you have an older dog, a wood floor or tile floor is more difficult on joints and can lead to accidents and slips for the older canine.

Window Location: Paying special attention to window location is another important factor when deciding on a new home. Low-lying windows will lead to greater incidents of reactionary barking from your pup. However, if you don’t mind the noise, or have neighbors, the same windows can provide an engaging activity for your dog as they keep their eye on what’s happening outside.

Neighbors: If you are considering a new home or apartment, you should also be considering the neighbors. This is also important to examine on your pet’s behalf. If other dogs live nearby, this could lead to problems in the future if your dog gets a bit over-excited in the presence of new dogs. Lots of barking and noise problems can be avoided if you take this factor into consideration beforehand.

Location of Utilities: If contemplating a move into an older apartment or house, you may have to factor in the location of heaters or other gas-related utilities. Poorly concealed objects such as these can pose a threat to your pet if they are running around or throwing chew toys every which way.

Security: The last factor to note is how secure the exits are in your new home or apartment. A poorly secured window or loose-locking door can lead to a pet that has the means to quickly dart out on his or her next adventure. Make sure your new home is just that for your pup – a home, a safe, restful sanctuary that provides comfort and happiness.

Are you moved to your new location and need help with your dog?

Contact Off Leash K9 Training!

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Hiking With Your Dogs In Northern Virginia

We’ve all heard that a dog is the best and most loyal friend a human being could ask for. When you think about it, they are also one of the easiest companions to pass time with. Not only are they always eager and willing when it comes to the next adventure, but they’re ALWAYS positive and energetic during the proposed activity. The greatest traits contained in one small, furry, four-legged soul. What’s more, the excitement, positivity, and eagerness are heightened when they are participating in lively, stimulating outdoor activities. For the dedicated dog lover, this is reason enough to bring along our beloved canine pals on all of our exploratory outdoor experiences. As our minds start rolling, and our brains planning, here are some tips to examine and employ in consideration of our pup companions.

Before packing up your dog and heading out for a weekend full of camping and backpacking, it is important to make sure you’re well aware of any physical limitations your pet may have. Tip number one is to make sure your furry pal is in good physical condition for the hike or trip ahead. If you plan on having your dog carry any load during the hike, make sure it is weight they can bear. You can build their strength and up their capacity to carry a load by having them practice during daily walks. In considering physical limitations, you’ll also want to consider the camping or hiking destination. A terrain that is too dangerous or not conducive to your domesticated pet could lead to an unfortunate injury. In any case, when participating in longer hikes and camping adventures, the potential for injury exists. Another good tip is to carry a first-aid kit to utilize in case of emergency.

Now, considering what to pack, plenty of food and water is essential. Just like you, your precious pup will require ample hydration while being active. Counting on finding water for your canine companion throughout the hike will not suffice. The H20 your pet may come across while galavanting through the wilderness may contain bacteria that is harmful to both dog and human alike. Your pup’s veterinarian is a good resource to utilize when considering how much food and water to pack. From them you’ll be able to find out how much more food your dog should be fed when preparing, embarking, and enjoying their outdoor adventure.

Another tip to regard is based on weather circumstances. If you are hiking or camping in colder temperatures, which is likely, you’ll want to make sure your pet is prepared in way of a warm coat and sleeping gear. As temperatures drop, your pet is no different from you – they need extra warmth. Though their furry coats assist in providing this extra heat, they are often times not enough.

The last tip to consider gives you something to think about when the hike or camping trip has concluded. Because they may have been exposed to wilderness-thriving insects and critters, it is important to check your pup for ticks, mites, fleas, and the like. A nice bath will definitely be necessary to rid your canine of any irritants that may have manifested themselves throughout your hiking or camping journey.

If you want your dog to be able to have amazing obedience that way they can be off leash and well behaved during your nature hikes, contact Off Leash K9 Training!

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Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Food Aggression Northern Virginia | Dog Growls Near Food | Dog Trainers Virginia


At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we often times deal with food aggression and resource guarding.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, our furry friends are always in communication with us. Though a language barrier exists, our canine pals utilize other methods to get their message across and help us understand what needs and desires they wish to be met. One example of this unconventional medium of communication is known as resource guarding. 

Resource guarding is most often witnessed with the dog’s food bowl, and to find out whether or not your pup exhibits this behavior, a simple test can be administered, with caution of course. As you place your dog’s bowl of food on the floor, walk away and then re-approach him or her. As you are walking towards your canine companion, note the body language they exhibit. The desired reaction is no reaction at all. You want your pup to be okay with you approaching their space and bowl while they are eating their meal. Keep in mind though, it is not uncommon for a dog to display an adverse response. The pup is guarding something that is incredibly vital for their survival – food.

One sign of guarding is quickened eating, which shows that he or she is not willing to share. The dog may also walk away from the bowl, showing that he is not okay with you approaching, but recognizes he is not strong enough to fight you for the contents of the bowl. Other warning signs include showing a side glance or lowering his or her body to protect the contents and shield you from accessing them. Each of these behaviors are threats that your furry friend are physically communicating to you.

If these signs are not respected, your pup may lash out and behave in a manner that is aggressive and potentially harmful to you or others Thus, if witnessing any of these signs, you should stop and not proceed any further. After learning that this problem exists, there are actions that can be taken to assist your pup in warming up to the idea of you being near during mealtime. These actions do not include seizing the bowl or continuing forward. In fact these signs can validate the resource guarding in the dog’s mind or, as stated before, lead to aggression. As you attempt to encourage your dog to welcome your closeness, slowly try placing dog treats around them as you approach. Once he or she lets you close enough, you can place the treats in the dog bowl itself, teaching your pup that you pose no threat. As this process continues, try serving your pup treats as you nudge them or place your hand in or around the bowl.

For some of us, resource guarding is a commonly missed form of communication. For others, we see it and are not sure how to explain it or why our beloved pup is displaying this seemingly-threatening behavior. Resource guarding can also be interpreted as improper as some suggest it looks as if the dog is not showing respect for the “alpha dog,” which we hope to be us.

On our YouTube channel, we have over 1000 videos, we show some of our food aggression training, like this Pit Bull, Mar!

Almost all dogs with food aggression can be much better managed; however, with many it is possible to completely eliminate, as well!

Are you having resource guarding/aggression issues?

Contact us at Off Leash K9 Training!

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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



Random Questions about Human-Dog Psychology! Dog Trainers Virginia

Dog Pyschology Northern Virginia

4 Questions about human-dog psychology answered by these studies.

Can dogs actually look like their owners?
A study was conducted by Roy and Christenfeld in 2004 that found dogs do resemble there owners. But, there is a catch. They found that only purebred dogs resembled their owners.

An article was written analyzing the data from this study and the author, Levine, found problems with the original work. He says that we cannot definitively say that purebred dogs resemble their owners.

Roy and Christenfeld came out and defended their study saying that their work was accurate.

This makes the answer to this question inconclusive.

Do dogs serve as good conversation starters?

There is no surprise that having a dog can do wonders for your social life. Whether you’re out for a walk or at the dog park, there are always friendly faces to strike up a conversation with.

Rogers, Hart, and Boltz did an observational study in 1993 with elderly dog walkers. They found that dogs owners had more conversations than their pet-less counterparts They often talked about their beloved dog, which isn’t very surprising.

  Dog owners also reported to have higher satisfaction with their social, emotional, and physical states. So dogs not only serve as good conversation starters, they also improve your health!

Do humans talk to their dogs like they talk to their babies?
A lot of people use baby talk to speak to their furry friends. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is speaking to their child or dog. So Mitchell (2001) set out to compare how people talk to dogs with how they talk to infants. Unsurprisingly there were both similarities and differences.

Mitchell found that people used a high-pitched voice, present-tense verbs, and repetitive use of words when talking to both dogs and babies. However, when people spoke to their dogs they gave more orders and used shorter sentences compared to when they spoke to babies.

Since dogs and babies both have limited communication skills and short attention spans, the similarities in the study are not surprising.

Can dogs understand what we’re saying?
Two researchers, Miklosi and Csanyi wanted to look at what people perceived of their dog’s capability to understand them. They gave dog owners in Hungary a questionnaire to fill out on how they feel their dog responds to different types of speech.

The Hungarians thought their dogs responded to questions the most, followed by permissions and then information giving.

 The researchers then asked the dog owners how well their dog listened to and obeyed a command. They claimed their dogs obeyed commands 31% of the time in any given situation and 53% of the time when the context of the command was right.

Going off of this study it seems that dogs can understand us pretty well!  Also, this shows that using the command in the proper context makes a difference, as well.

If you are interested in making your dog amazing, contact us at Off Leash K9 Training. or 888-413-0896 or

Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

After School Snack Ideas your Kids can Share with the Dog

Dog Expert in Virginia

While doing our boarding and training program in Northern Virginia, we always get asked questions about dog food and snacks!

There are few things cuter than kids and their dogs. Best friends for life and inseparable, kids share everything with their dogs, including food. Parents may never know who really ate the vegetables when the plates are cleared at dinner, but it’s all worth it. The hard part can be keeping the dog healthy when a child is constantly handing over various foods to their pet, or your toddler is leaving a food trail on the floor. Fortunately, there are some great snacks that are healthy for the both the kids and the dogs.

Snack time
After school snack time can be chaotic. The kids walk through the door starving, and the dog is jumping all over the place happy to see their best friend. This may be a time of day that is less supervised than mealtime, so this is the perfect time to present a hassle free snack. You can calm your fears and relax while your child and dog are sharing the goods at snack time by choosing from the many dog safe foods you eat every day. There are also some great dog friendly recipes out there for a special treat. Take care to establish rules about feeding so your dog doesn’t develop bad habits or aggression, however.

Who Doesn’t Love Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a commonly used ingredient in dog treat recipes. While peanut butter can be a good source of protein, you need to be careful what type you buy if your dog will be having a taste. Sugar is never a good idea for kids or dogs, so look for a natural version with little or no added sugar. Creamy is probably easier for both as well. There are some great organic choices out there to keep everyone healthy. Look online for great dog friendly recipes that use peanut butter.

Yogurt is often used to promote digestive health in dogs and humans alike. Plain, organic yogurt is best for dogs and can be used in many creative ways. Forget the expensive frozen dog treats from the store. Get out an ice cube tray out and freeze yogurt for a yummy frozen snack option. Yogurt can also me mixed with peanut butter before freezing for extra tasty fun. Kids can add some dog safe fruits as well.

Fruits and Vegetables
Apples and bananas are often offered after school and can be offered to the family dog when prepared properly. Even large dogs need to have their snacks cut up into smaller pieces or they may swallow large pieces of food in a hurry to scarf it down. Take care to consider the size of your dog when preparing fruit and vegetables. Removing peels before serving can lessen the risk of choking. While you may have a hard time convincing your kid to eat green vegetables, your dog can actually benefit from some greens. Zucchini and peas are on the safe list.

Before feeding any human foods to your dog, check out a reputable list of toxic foods from your veterinarian’s office. Grapes and chocolate are the two most well-known toxic foods for dogs. Be very careful what you let children walk around the house with. You aren’t the only parent that finds week old snacks hiding in the couch cushions. Chances are, your dog will find an abandoned snack before you do, so make sure it is a safe one.

If you are interested in making your dog amazing, contact us at Off Leash K9 Training! or 888-413-0896

Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training