Tag Archives: obedience

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


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

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!