Tag Archives: dog training

Halloween Tip: Keeping dogs away from the front door

So. . .we’ve already given the important reminder to keep holiday treats away from your four-legged crew. What else should you do to keep your critters safe during this upcoming holiday? Keeping your pets away from the front door is another big one!

With mass amounts of tiny humans (. . .and some big ones!) that will be knocking on your door next week, a lot of dogs can get stressed out. Not surprisingly, this can be a big holiday in which dog owners may find their pup on a bite hold. We’ve actually helped our share of private clients gain control as a result of incidents that have occurred on Halloween.

So, what should you do? You can safely keep your pups crated, gated, or otherwise in another room, so as to keep them calm and not reactive every time the doorbell rings. This helps for dogs that are reactive, and also helps those pups that are inclined to dart out of the front door when it’s opened. (Yes- we can help control that, too!) An alternative may be to sit out front and greet all the cute little ghouls and gobblins as they approach, and eliminate that door reactivity all together!

Last, if you’re ready for your pup to share in some Halloween fun, join us at Jen-Nic Pet Foods (515 Baltimore Pike, Bel Air, MD 21014) on Oct 28! The Humane Society will be there with adoptable pets, AND there will be a costume contest!

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!

Have an article suggestion or success story you want to share? Email us! aja@muttmagic.com

Also, don’t forget to visit us online at www.muttmagic.com

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!

Nature VS Nurture: Puppy Socialization

When it comes to the question of “Nature VS Nurture” there’s no easy answer. The best answer is usually: BOTH. Dogs are born with an innate temperament, which is generally influenced by their breeding. We also influence how they respond to the world around them.

Quickly, let’s talk about temperament and learned behavior. Temperament is something your dog is born with. This cannot be changed, and is “the card they’re dealt.” Some dogs are naturally more outgoing, some dogs are naturally more fearful. This is normal, and important for you to be aware of, as knowing your pup and his tendencies will enable you to choose the best training and socialization path. Next, learned behavior is how we influence our dogs. This can be HUGE! Your puppy (and dog!) is constantly learning, and everything is training, whether you intend it to be, or not.

So, how can we best set our puppies up for success? Early socialization is key. Once your vet has cleared your pup to explore the world – go for it!! Get your pup to the park, take her to play dates, sign up for a training class. Learning from other dogs is super beneficial at this time. Go anywhere and everywhere with her! Thankfully, before your pup is ready for the world, there are some things you can do at home, too! Expose her to new textures – hard wood flooring, tile, carpet. Expose her to new scents – food, grass, flowers. Expose her to different chew items – tendons, pig ears, bones. This last one will be big as your pup starts teething, too! A great rule is 100 experiences in 100 days. Get creative, and have fun with it.

There’s no such thing as over socialization. Especially if you have a pup that’s less confident, you may be fighting against nature to help him out in this area. If you have a breed that has tendencies to guard, you’re going to have to work extra hard early to be sure those behaviors are kept in check. So. . .know the nature, provide the nurture, and enjoy your pup!

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!
Visit us online: www.muttmagic.com


Ever have a dog with a behavioral problem, and you don’t know what to do about it? Check out this success story. . .there is hope!

Hi Aja,

Success!  Primrose is going down the stairs every time!  I have all three dogs in my room at night and in the morning I get up, ignore them and just go downstairs.  At first, Primrose was the last one to come down, but now she just goes down whenever she can.  I fed her the first two days on the stairs and by the end of the second day, she went down the stairs with the older dog with no hesitation!  Primrose used to go upstairs alone during the day and whine to come down.  Now she isn’t even going up there during the day unless I go.  She must have been going up alone to get away from stress before.  I’ve really made everyone aware that she has anxiety issues and to work with her.

Your advice and knowledge was very helpful.  I’m still playing the games with all of the dogs and I have the Thunder Shirt too.  The “touch” training has helped to keep the dogs from being so demanding.

Thank you again for your help!


Catherine, Primrose, Sansa and Tuki

Need help with your dogs? Contact us! http://muttmagic.com


Exercising your dog may soon be illegal in Baltimore.

Does your dog use a backpack to burn extra energy on a walk? How about use a treadmill or weight pull equipment for sport or conditioning? These items may soon make you a target in Baltimore. Not only that, but with new laws already in place that have recently removed judicial review from animal matter hearings, if you’re targeted, there’s very little you can to about it, too. (Read more about that, here.)

According to CBS Baltimore, City Council is trying to make these items, and others, such as break sticks- commonly used to break up dog fights, considered “dog fighting paraphernalia,” and posession of them a crime, punishable by $1,000, and up to 90 days in prison. (For the record, some of our local shelters use break sticks to safely break up dog fights as needed, without injury.)

Why is this a problem? As someone that addresses 100% behavior modification training these days, adequate exercise is often a challenge for owners of working breeds, terriers, and others. I recommend dog treadmills, and weight pull training and equipment to clients on a weekly basis, or more often! Read “Weight Pull Saved my Dog-Life” by Kristina Vakharia, a friend, client, and city resident, to learn the benefits of such training. Additionally, there are legitimate competitive sports that utilize this equipment, such as APA weight pull, among others, which have competitions locally.

As with many other things, making these things illegal for outlaws (who, by definition, aren’t going to care about the laws, anyway) really only effects the responsible owners out there. For those of us who choose to have high maintenance dogs, maintaining their needs may get that much harder! Start writing City Council now. Be sure they’re aware that this equipment is NOT just for dog fighting, and that you’re not interested in seeing this law come into effect.

Office of the City Council President, 100 N. Holliday Street, Suite 400, Baltimore, MD 21202

Coucil President: Bernard Young, CouncilPresident@baltimorecity.gov

District 1: James Kraft, James.Kraft@baltimorecity.gov

District 2: Brandon Scott, Brandon.Scott@baltimorecity.gov

District 3: Robert Curran, Robert.Curran@baltimorecity.gov

District 4: Bill Henry, Bill.Henry@baltimorecity.gov

District 5: Rochelle Spector, Rochelle.Spector@baltimorecity.gov

District 6: Sharon Middleton, Sharon.Middleton@baltimorecity.gov

District 7: Nick Mosby, Nick.Mosby@baltimorecity.gov

District 8: Helen Holton, Helen.Holton@baltimorecity.gov

District 9: William Welch, William.Welch@baltimorecity.gov

District 10: Edward Reisinger, Edward.Reisinger@baltimorecity.gov

District 11: Eric Costello, Eric.Costello@baltimorecity.gov

District 12: Carl Stokes, Carl.Stokes@baltimorecity.gov

District 13: Warren Branch, Warren.Branch@baltimorecity.gov

District 14: Mary Pat Clarke, MaryPat.Clarke@baltimorecity.gov

New Dog Introductions

Selecting an appropriate new dog to bring home, as well as selecting new playmates for dogs in your household always requires introducing the dogs. There are a few points to remember to ensure that all new greetings are as successful as they can be. A few general rules to keep in mind are: 1. Male-Female pairs tend to do better long term; 2. Adult dogs that get along initially will typically continue to do so; and 3. Walking the dogs together before greeting can greatly improve chances for appropriate greetings, especially with dogs that are selective.

Male-Female pairs are best because there will be less competition between the dogs. In a pack, there is always an alpha male and an alpha female. (Of course, in your pack at home, you should be the dominant leader, although that’s another topic all together!) Keeping opposite sex pairings can reduce dominance scuffles, which can be intense. In multi-dog households or playgroups, it’s best to determine who the top dogs are, and keep a watchful eye to be sure that other dogs do not challenge this role.

Contrary to the popular myth, adult dogs are better new additions! Getting a puppy to have it “grow up” with the other dog or with the family greatly increases the risk that the puppy will challenge an adult dog as he/she matures. If you select a new addition to your household as an adult and your current dog is receptive from the initial greeting, chances are that the roles will not be challenged in the future because both dogs are mentally mature. Mental maturity in most dogs happens between the ages of 2-4 years, which often depends on the breed and the individual dog.

Now . . .you think you have found the perfect match. It’s time to introduce the dogs! Start on neutral territory, and do not allow the dogs to greet right away. Take the dogs on a long walk side-by-side to start. The longer the walk the better, as greetings will be less intense if the dogs have burned some energy. As you’re walking, take turns having one dog walk in front and the other behind. This will give both you and the dogs the opportunity to watch behaviors. Plus, it will give the dogs an opportunity to pick up on the other dogs scent.

Once the walk is over, as the handler, you must make the decision if it’s the right time to let the dogs greet. Happy, but relaxed, posture is key. Do not allow the dogs to greet head-on; this can present a challenge to some dogs. Head-to-tail, or a sideways greeting is better, as this allows the dogs to learn each others scent. With loose leashes, allow the dogs to approach naturally; you should notice one or both dogs veering slightly to one side, with bodies curved. If the dogs are pulling toward each other with tight leashes, more walking may be needed.

Some dogs are able to meet with new dogs quickly and easily, while other dogs may need more time to get used to a new household or playgroup addition. This depends greatly on the individual dog, with breed and gender playing a role in this as well. Always know your dog and his/her reactions, anticipate responses, and watch behaviors for the best new intros.

Have safe introductions, and enjoy your new addition!

Want to learn more? Visit us online: www.muttmagic.com

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!

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