Tag Archives: Canine Good Citizen

Dog training: keep it simple.

Some training friends were around from out of town recently. This is always a good experience because as trainers, it expands our knowledge base, and keeps ideas fresh. Among many things I was able to take away from this, one I’ll share with you all: train for “as much as needed, as little as possible.”

What does this mean? When you’re teaching behaviors to your dog, you want to bring the amount of handling that your dog will need to learn, without overwhelming them. (Or yourself.) You always want to adjust your technique to accommodate your dog’s specific needs, there is no cookie cutter method to training! Some dogs need more hands-on work, some dogs need more hands-off work. Additionally, some dogs learn best with more repetition, some dogs learn best with less. As a novice, you’ll need to do a bit of trial/error to know what works best for your particular dog, which is where a skilled trainer comes in handy. Knowing how to read a dog and what it needs, we can make the best suggestions to have success with “as much as needed, as little as possible.”

Whew! That should make training easier. Right?!

Have you had a behavioral problem that you don’t quite know how to resolve? We’re here and LOVE to help! Ask away, and your question may be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

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

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!


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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!


Starting a training journal

Keeping a training journal while working with your dogs can be very rewarding. I often suggest this to clients that own dogs with behavioral concerns when they enter into a training program, although this can be very useful for all dogs. I keep one for each of my dogs, in fact. Now that we’re well into the new year, I can look back to last year’s entries to see how my dogs have progressed, and what still needs to be worked on. Perfect!

What should go in a journal entry?

Every month, I create a calendar as the first entry. Then, I mark each date that I’ve trained. I also mark when I’ve exercised the dogs, what the exercise routine was, and what the temperature was outside. This way, I have an overview that I can easily reference that shows how many days the dogs and I have worked together and what we’ve done.

Following the calendar page, I enter detailed information regarding what was accomplished on each training date. Did the dogs do anything well? Did they need more attention on certain aspects of what we worked on? How was their endurance when exercising? These details will help you to adjust your next training and/or exercise session.

Next, once you’ve progressed and have several entries, you can look back to see how far you’ve come! I suggest monthly and yearly reviews. This is particularly beneficial if you’re trying to accomplish something specific like behavior management, competitive obedience, or endurance training. It can be used for anything, however. If you come up with a new use for journaling your dog’s progress, please share it with us! info@muttmagic.com

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Controlling your dog in-home with new visitors

A very common question I receive is, “How do I control my dog when people come over to visit?” The best training techniques I can suggest would be to pattern train boundary training and target training. Commonly used in our classes, the “Place” and “Touch” commands are a great way to teach your dog what is expected during the excitement of a new visitor. When pattern trained (always performing them in that order- “Place” and then “Touch”) this further engrains the lesson in your dog’s mind.

Starting with “Place,” which is the command we use for boundary training exercises, you will teach your dog that he needs to remain in his area until he’s released. This will allow your guest to come in and settle, while your dog manages his excitement levels in his own area. You may learn how this is done by visiting our YouTube video, online. (Links at the bottom of this article)Next, once your dog is calm, you will work on the “Touch” command, which is what we use for target training exercises. This shows your dog what is expected in a proper greeting.

The combination of these commands can prevent problem behaviors resulting from both fear, and excitement. Of course, if your dog isn’t already familiar with these, she won’t remain in “place” when you go to the door tomorrow, but working these commands daily and building distractions regularly is the way to go!

To get started, you may view how-to videos on our blog, here!