What is a Service Dog?

I’ve seen and heard a lot of confusion regarding service dogs lately. I know of many clients with service dogs that have been discriminated against. I also know of many clients that confuse a service dog with a therapy dog. So, what exactly is a service dog?

As of 2011, only dogs are recognized by ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act) titles II and III. (Although there are provisions for other animals.) Before then, any animal qualified! Now, any dog that performs a service to an individual with a disability qualifies. Keep in mind, not all disabilities are visible. These dogs are allowed to go anywhere the public is allowed to go.

Often, service dogs are professionally trained to do specific tasks. While training is a must, *professional* training is not a requirement as long as the dog’s handler is capable of successfully training the tasks in need. Often, service dogs are visibly identified as such. This is also not a requirement, and there is no one certifying body responsible for these certifications. Having ID for a service dog does make life easier for many individuals, however.

When it’s not obvious what tasks a service dog provides, and/or the dog does not have a visible ID, staff of establishments may inquire about the dog, not the person or the disability. Appropriate questions would be- 1. Is the dog required because of a disability? and 2. What work has the dog been trained to perform? While service dogs are allowed anywhere the public is allowed to be, they may be excluded if- 1. the dog is not under control, or 2. dog is not housebroken.

It is important to know that service dogs are not pets. They are working dogs, and should not socialize with the public when they are working. NEVER PET A SERVICE DOG. The key difference between a service dog and a therapy dog is that a service dog provides service to an individual with a disability. A therapy dog provides therapeutic support to other individuals. While therapy dogs are also awesome, and often allowed places pets may not be allowed, there are no requirements that therapy dogs must be allowed in public places.

Questions regarding service or therapy animals? Need help training a service or therapy animal? Direct inquiries to Aja! (aja@muttmagic.com)

Also, please visit us online at www.muttmagic.com

Happy Tail!

What’s your dog’s story? Some of our beloved pets are blessed to have an easy and short one. While that’s not the case with all of them, it’s nice to know that those with a longer story can have happy endings, and be amazing pets for us!

Rory, as she was known at the Humane Society of Harford County (HSHC), came in as a stray. She had a massive tumor on her side, and was wondering around Bel Air when animal control picked her up and brought her in. (HSHC is Harford County Animal Control’s drop off location for stray animals.) She had a wonderful temperament and did well at the shelter. One of our local rescues, Dogs XL, heard about her and her medical condition, and decided to take her on. (Amazing things can happen when the rescue community works together!) After a successful surgery – her tumor was benign! – she ultimately found her forever home locally, and is now known as Tori!

There’s more to her story, though. Settled into her new environment and healthy, she began to test her boundaries. Not unlike some Danes, she began to present some dog aggression while out on walks. To gain some initial control, Tori’s new owners participated in a private lesson, and then were able to get her into one of Mutt Magic’s group training classes with Claire Sharp. They worked on control around dogs, among other things. Her new owners have this to say about her:

“Tori loves children, so my goal is to find a role for her as a therapy dog for kids.  I was so happy that we passed the good canine citizen test so we can move to the next step.”

Tori was always an awesome dog. With a little work and dedication to her, she is now also a Canine Good Citizen. WHAT A HAPPY TAIL!

Tori, during her group training course!

New site is underway. . .

We have a new blog appearance! It’s more in line with how the new site will look, once it’s operational. We anticipate all of those changes to take place later this week. So exciting!! Have I ever mentioned how much I hate using WordPress and customizing themes? I’m not a web design person in the slightest, so making these changes and modifications myself is insane. Fingers crossed that I won’t have to do it again for a very, very long time. Oh, and let’s also cross our fingers for a smooth transition to the new platform!

Yay for new websites!!!


Keep your pooch cool with a healthy weight

I’m not a scientist, but I do believe that keeping a dog light on weight can help them keep their bodies cool as the weather warms up. Think about those extra “winter pounds” we may be trying to shave now, too. A body simply doesn’t need to be heavy during the summer months. We don’t need the extra energy from stored fat, nor do we need the insulation benefit. You may notice yourself and your dogs alike eating less this time of year. . . for good reason!

I work dogs in sport outdoors year-round, and definitely see a workability benefit in keeping a lean dog during the summer months. They’re able to run longer, and jump higher. They also cool faster on a hot day. This is important in our area, where a dog may succumb to heat exhaustion or heat stroke easily. In addition to working dogs, I also walk client dogs during the day, and notice a clear difference in the endurance of leaner dogs in the heat. Of course, there may be some individual differences in dogs and other environmental factors, but I do believe that weight plays its role.

What is the best way to drop pounds on your dog, if it’s needed? Just like any animal (us included!) both diet and exercise are key. You don’t want to just drop weight, you want the weight that remains to be healthy, and in shape! If you don’t already have a walking routine, begin one! If you have one, consider taking your dog to the park to run, or throwing a ball in the yard to get your dog moving more. Additionally, keep your dog on a healthy and grain-free diet (ideally raw) to be sure he receives proper nutrition. From there, you may cut back food as needed until your dog achieves a desirable weight!

Questions on how to start a new diet and exercise program for your dog? Contact us for details!

Enroll in group or private lessons at www.muttmagic.com


The benefits of a crate

No, not every dog needs one. But, for those that do, dogs and owners alike can find comfort in a sturdy crate. As den animals, most dogs take well to a crate, and treat this as their home inside your home!

Often, owners of newly rescued dogs feel that a crate is cruel. They would prefer to give their dog free roam immediately because said dog has had it rough, or spent “x” amount of time in a kennel, or *insert any other reason here.* Unfortunately, when this new family member doesn’t yet know the rules of your home, having free roam can actually create quite a bit of anxiety. Especially coming from somewhere like a shelter, where the routine is the same every day, they simply don’t know what to do or what to expect in a new place! Having a routine that involves a crate can really help during the adjustment period, and can prevent common behavioral problems like anxiety and housebreaking issues.

Crating young and old dogs alike can be beneficial to curb unwanted behaviors, as well. Any number of behaviors can occur from boredom and lack of exercise- chewing is a common one that comes to mind. Crating can keep your dog safe from chewing on dangerous or expensive items, and you can place items the dog is allowed to chew on inside the crate! Of course, if the behaviors are a result of boredom or a lack of exercise, addressing these issues is important, as well.

Interested in learning how to best crate train your dog? Contact us for details!

Enroll in group or private lessons at www.muttmagic.com

Greet the people. . . not the dog!!

A common question has come up frequently over the last couple of weeks, and so I thought it may be a great idea to address this with everybody. It’s something along these lines:

“My dog has been doing great overall lately, but I had a guest come over the other night, and he/she growled at them. Why is he/she still having this problem, and what should I do?”

Many times our guests, especially if they are dog people, feel obligated or otherwise compelled to greet our dogs upon arrival. Most of the time this isn’t a big deal, but with a shy, fearful, or even dominant dog, this can spell trouble. The solution is simple. Instruct your guests to ignore the dog. This means do not look at, talk to, or touch the dog. Afterall, your guest (most likely) came to visit you anyway, not the dog!

Remember- in a pack of dogs, it is always the submissive dog that initiates interaction. Most dogs like and willingly take on this role if it is presented to them. By ignoring the dog, your guest is automatically placing him/herself in a position of leadership, therefore calming the dog. From there, if your dog chooses to greet your guest on his/her own, you may instruct your guest to acknowledge your dog’s greeting, if they wish to do so.

This ignoring solution usually resolves the greeting grumblies. If you’re still having problems and/or if your dog’s response has gone beyond mild discomfort, it is likely time to schedule an in-home evaluation and lesson. Of course, we are happy to help with all of this!


Please visit us online: www.muttmagic.com or www.baltimorecrateescape.com

Indoor Enrichment Activities

As winter is winding down, we’re getting hit hard this year! If you and your dogs are going stir crazy, below are some great indoor activities that you can do to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors.


1. Hide and Seek- Tap into your dog’s ability to scent, and his desire to be with you! Have family members take turns hiding throughout the house, and calling the dog. As your dog becomes proficient at finding you, eliminate the call and let his nose do the work!


2. Food Games- The use of a food toy (ex- kibble nibble or tug-a-jug. . .not your standard Kong!) is great for stimulation when you’re not around, and sometimes when you are! Don’t have these laying around the house? Hide your dog’s meal of kibble, split into many servings, throughout the house in various locations. Another great way to use your dog’s nose and problem solving skills.


3. Obedience- Of course, teaching your dog new tricks is also a great way to break up the monotony! Find something new and challenging to teach- indoors is always a great place to start. By the time it warms up, your dog will be ready for the challenges that practicing outside will bring, as well!


Aja Harris-Brown


Mutt Magic Training, Inc.

Visit us online: www.muttmagic.com


The benefits of infant-prep training

I’ve been teaching infant preparation in-home dog training  courses almost since the beginning of Mutt Magic. What have I learned now that there’s a two-legged addition in my own home? Well, for starters, I’ll probably never have the “The dogs will be fine; they know you’re pregnant,” attitude. While I’m sure the dogs did know, I wish would have spent more time preparing them. It’s been a tough adjustment for them, and not one that happened overnight.


Thankfully, the infant prep curriculum is strong, despite my former lack of personal baby knowledge! Teaching things like waiting at the tops/bottoms of stairs until released, as well as boundary training, and avoiding baby items on the floor are must-have control techniques and are included in the course, among a few other commands. Trust me when I say, you don’t want to need to train these things with a newborn infant in the house! I’ve actually had some clients use many of the techniques in this course to help with control of their dogs when aging family members visit, as well. Nothing’s worse than having your pack trip your grandma on the stairs!!


If you’re interested in our in-home training courses to help introduce new family members of the human or canine variety, please contact us!


Weight Pull Saved My Dog-Life!


Kristina with Brutus & Argo

As a naive and amateur dog owner, I made the mistake of rescuing a second dog without really understanding the first. Within 4 months, I had two young, male dogs in my house with more energy than I could handle. Although feeling like I had made a huge mistake, I couldn’t imagine sending a pup back to the shelter.

Then comes in Mutt Magic….

Aja evaluated my crew and told me that I needed to gain control of my dogs and give them an outlet for their energy. I remember her saying, “that energy has to go somewhere and right now they are negatively directing it towards each other”. With Aja’s help, she taught me how gain control through obedience work and loose-leash walking.

However, once I had the basics, our regular exercise routine was not enough; my dogs still yearned for more.

Aja introduces weight pull…..What is weight pull, you ask?

It is a physical activity where a dog wears a full body harness to pull weight. The harness is crafted to fit across the dog’s chest which is a canine’s powerhouse for pulling. It also crosses along the back to distribute the weight evenly. The dog is not harmed in any way because the harness is supporting the dog’s natural strength. Any breed is capable of weight pull as long as they have a properly fitted harness. In fact, weight pull is an international competitive sport. However, I practice for conditioning.

What are the benefits and why do I say weight pull saved my  dog-life?

1. Burn off the energy: Aja said I needed to see physical fatigue during our walks not just panting dogs. When we get home, my dogs sprawl out on the floor with a look of satisfaction. All their energy has been exerted leaving them calm and free from mental anxiety giving me more control in the house.

2. Walking with a purpose: my dogs know that when it comes time to pull we are on a mission and no one is stopping us! They walk looking straight ahead, they know our path and where we are going. They also know that they will be rewarded with K9 Kraving for dinner.

3. Fully body workout: dogs by nature are always on the move even though we’ve turned them into couch potatoes. My dogs pull 30 – 40lbs and walk between 2-3 miles. This is known as drag weight pull. By keeping them active with regular exercise it promotes good health and longevity.

4. More bonding time: Obviously, I get to spend GOOD QUALITY time with my dogs during their walk. In addition, my dogs stay separated from each other most of the day but after our training we all get to spend time together.

It’s been 9 months since we took in our second rescue and about 8 months since we started working with Aja. Had it not been for her help in obedience training in combination with adequate exercise, we might not have been able to keep both of our pups. So if you’re looking for a way to train, bond, or exercise, weight pull may be for you. Just make sure that you get the right equipment, learn the right way to start the training, and always use a leash when drag weight pulling!

Happy tails!




Most dogs, like most people, are natural followers. In fact, humans have bred dogs to follow our leadership for thousands of years. Even if you’re not a natural-born leader, your dog needs you to learn to be one for his sake!

Many behavioral problems are a result of a lack of leadership in the home. (As you well know I’ll say: The rest are likely a result of a lack of exercise!) Leadership related behavioral problems can be seen in anxious dogs and dominant dogs alike. In fact, a simple lack of leadership that can magnify fear, anxiety, dominance, and many other common behavioral concerns. Leadership is essential for a newly adopted dog, as well as one that has been in your home for years.

So, what are some actions that you can take to become a better leader for your dog? An easy start is a “Nothing in Life is Free” program (NILF, for short). This means that your dog must work for everything that she gets. It can include sitting and waiting for food (being on a feeding schedule, if free-fed), performing obedience for affection and/or treats, having a handler enter/exit doors first (This includes being let into the yard!), and staying off of the furniture. These are some simple, but highly effective, changes that can be made. The best part? They won’t take extra time in your daily routine!

One more note to make regarding leadership: It’s important to remember that in a pack of dogs, it’s always the submissive dog to initiate play and interaction from the other dogs. (Watch them at the dog park, it’s true!) Because of this, be sure that your dog is the one to initiate play time with you, and not the other way around. If you initiate ball play, you’re inadvertently putting yourself in a submissive position. Wait for your dog to request play time or affection. From there, you have the choice to play or not- and now you’re the leader. Simple!

Visit us online: www.muttmagic.com OR www.baltimorecrateescape.com