Category Archives: Dan

Dan Turns 3!

Dan is 3! His birthday (Jan 10th) snuck by us this year, but we were at the beach for the weekend – I don’t think it could have gotten much better for him! He had a great time chasing the ball for hours with Sammy, Jack, and Bean.

I am trying to re-assess my goals for Dan every year on his birthday. Of course I am thinking about it more often and taking notes on single behaviors/experiences, but it is nice to have our big picture list each year.

Over the last year, Dan has learned to:

  • Play Frisbee – and actually bring it back sometimes!
  • Ignore other dogs at the park to play fetch instead
  • See dogs from the car without barking
  • Walk around our neighborhood without too much pulling or barking. There is definitely room for improvement but this is actually a fun thing to do with him now instead of a dreaded chore.
  • Do lots of foundation skills for agility
  • Do up to 3 jumps, the table, and the teeter for agility (at speed)
  • Do obedience commands in random order

Our training goals for this year:

  • He’s gotten over bikes, shopping carts, cars, and busses, even squirrels. But not skateboards. This is on the top of my list!
  • Barking like mad at UPS/FedEx/Mailman – I think all of my online Christmas shopping created this problem for us.
  • Herding the cat very intently – He will literally stare for hours. He never tries to harm the cat, but it definitely is annoying for Cecil (and us!). I am pretty sure he will always do this to some extent, but the goal is to at least get him to stop when asked for more than 10 seconds.
  • Fine-tune our neighborhood walks – no pulling, more attention, ignoring other dogs.
  • Obedience commands in novel environments (parks, parking lots, new buildings, new neighborhoods, etc.)
  • Practicing his calm behavior near other dogs in novel environments, separate from playing fetch
  • Continue agility foundation skills
  • Do agility in some new places – introduce the rest of the equipment (weaves, a-frame, a full tunnel, dog walk, other jumps)
  • Take a private agility lesson
  • MAYBE do a group class – we will see how everything else goes

Stay tuned as we work on these things.  I will be posting updates and pieces of his training throughout.

Happy Training!


Why a Recall Matters

The dogs got out this week.

I had only let them out for a potty break into our fenced in back yard.  But it had been windy and the gate came open and I didn’t notice.  It was a rainy Sunday morning, so Justin and I were still drinking our coffee in our PJs.  I was listening for a bark that they were ready to come back in when Justin looked up and said “umm…there’s Sammy.”  She was standing on the front porch.  Uh oh. 

We let her in and Justin went to check the backyard while I checked the front sidewalk for Dan.  He was nowhere to be seen.  I was standing in my slippers on our front sidewalk whistling for him and a man was walking by across the street.  “Are you looking for a black and white dog?”. he asked.  “YES!”.  “Oh he is down the street, he just walked by me a minute ago, oh look here he comes.”

I ran across the street to him and looked down the sidewalk.  Here comes Dan!  He was running to me faster than I have ever seen him go (and he’s fast!).  We went inside and he got a very special treat.  And now our gate is bungee corded shut in addition to the latch.

This is the importance of a really, really good recall (“come”).  Because mistakes happen.  And Dan wanted to take himself to the park, but because of our practice, he wanted to come to me more.

Do you have a great recall story?  Share it below.   And check back soon for a series on teaching and practicing your recall.

Dan and Sam

What’s a blog post without a picture? Dan and Sam, posing for a photo.

Dan Turns 2!

Most of my clients have heard me say that every dog is different and even though there are many tried and true techniques for training a dog or changing a behavior, we have to adapt them to the individual.  This can be a challenge when working with certain dogs, but it also means that we learn something new from every dog we work with.  And we learn even more from each dog we have the privilege of owning.

Today is Dan’s 2nd birthday and in light of the occasion, I wanted to share some of the challenges we have worked through together and some of the things Dan has taught me as a trainer and as a pet owner.

Dan in the Deschutes River as a Puppy

Dan in the Deschutes River as a Puppy

The first few months of owning Dan were pretty rough.  Don’t get me wrong – he was a super cute, hilarious little puppy and we had lots of fun too.  He is so smart and watching him work through problems is probably one of my favorite things to do.  But he was a difficult puppy to raise and we were in a difficult environment.

Dan has always been very reactive to new things and living in a downtown apartment as a puppy and adolescent did not help this behavior.  When he was just 5 months old, he would bark at everything – people, squirrels, dogs, motorcycles; anything new or different looking.  We work hard with him every day, with every experience he has, and it is slowly paying off. (I won’t lie, moving into a house with his own yard has helped tremendously!)

Here are some of the major things Dan has accomplished over the last year:

  • When someone comes to the door, he now goes to his bed and lies down.  We allow him to bark until we tell him to stop.  He can stay while people walk in the door and he is a little calmer when he greets them.
  • He can quietly watch people walk past our house, as long as they do not have a dog with them.
  • He can walk nicely on a loose leash with no distractions.
  • He can walk nicely on a loose leash when going out the front door and hanging out in our front yard.  He can even walk a few houses down the sidewalk without pulling or sniffing.
  • He is happy to lounge with us when we are relaxing; he can recognize playtime vs. lounge time.
  • He will not bark at the neighbor dog through the fence when reminded to “leave it”, even if the other dog is barking at him.
  • We got through an entire vet visit without any barking or growling at noise of other dogs.
  • He has made four new doggie friends – two of which came to his house!
  • He has learned lots of tricks and is much more focused on me in general – training time or otherwise.
Dan and Sam made friends with Bandit and Mojo

Dan and Sam made friends with Bandit and Mojo


Another New Friend - Lobita

Another New Friend – Lobita

All of these things are fairly common expectations for a pet dog, but they have been very challenging to teach Dan to do.  He would much rather be impulsive, yank on a leash, bark at everything, and run around like a crazy man.

I feel very lucky to have Dan as our dog, and he amazes us every day.  He has taught me so much about changing your expectations and goals to fit the dog you have.  Here are some of the things I have gotten better at through working with Dan:

  • Timing of my reward delivery – he has no patience for late treats!
  • Choosing a reward to promote the type of behavior you are working towards.  For example, using tug as a reward when you are working on calm behavior is not ideal for Dan.
  • Being attentive of the environment to predict problematic stimuli and train appropriately.
  • Observing and recognizing precursor behaviors to aggression, reactivity, and fear.
  • Being patient in training.
  • Understanding reactivity and aggression, having an arsenal of techniques for dealing with these problems, and choosing the right one for the dog, owner, and environment.
  • Celebrating small victories like they are world championships.

Dan might not ever be my agility champion or competitive obedience rock star that I was looking for when we brought him home – although he loves practicing these activities at home and is quite good.  What he is teaching me is much more valuable than that and will not only benefit the dogs we own in the future but is already benefiting the dogs my clients own.

Happy Birthday Dan! – I can’t wait to see what else you have to teach me in the years to come.

Cat Watching - Dan's self imposed job

Cat Watching – Dan’s self imposed job


Dan’s Birthday Bone


Leave It!

Leave it is one of those behaviors that is priceless to teach your dog.  Leave the grass, leave the other dog, leave the other dog’s toy, leave the chicken on the counter, leave the child alone…it goes on and on!

Over the past week or so I’ve seen some great pictures on the internet demonstrating this behavior.

First I saw this one.


Then these two followed.  (Credit to Becky Herring, her dog Hunter, and her friend Michele and her three dogs)



Tonight while Dan was working for his dinner, I decided to give it a shot.  Here’s the video of him doing it on the first try!  I even had to get up to get more kibble and he stayed put, waiting ever so patiently.

Try the “leave it” challenge with your dog!  Send your pics to and I will feature them in a future blog post!

A Shaping Project – Ring It

Since we got Dan, I have been wanting to try this little project but hadn’t been able to find the bells.  We picked some up from a toy store last weekend and on Monday I decided to set it up.  The idea is that when he needs to go outside, he’ll ring the bells and we can take him out to potty.  But, before he can learn that, he has to know how to ring the bell!

I decided to shape this behavior with a clicker and some treats to help him practice the shaping game in the process.  Shaping is the training technique of asking your dog to get a little bit closer to the final behavior in order to earn a click/treat.  This might be after each step or sometimes you might need to stay on the same step for a few trials. A trial is each behavior and the click/treat that go with it during shaping.  For mastered behaviors, a trial is each time you ask your dog to do the behavior.  Breaking behavior into trials helps us to measure the behavior and graph it.

So, before we get to the video, here is the data – get excited!


Before you can take data for a shaping project, you have to outline each shaping step. I challenge you to read these shaping steps before watching the video to see if you can identify them during the training session.


Here is the data for the training session. Cumulative # of trials means that I added the number of trials during the current shaping step to the total number of trials so far. This allows us to see the progression towards the last shaping step.


After the learning part of the shaping lesson, I did a few trials to check how well Dan knew the behavior. He did pretty well, but if he had not done as well this would be a hint for us to go back a step or two and do some more training.


Once the dog knows the behavior, you can start checking for generalization. This is the idea that he can do the behavior in many other situations or scenarios. If he did it right the first time, we moved on to something else. If he didn’t, I tried a few more times and then if he still didn’t perform the behavior, I made it a little easier for him (ex. leaning towards the door). Then we tried the first check again. There are many more scenarios we could have done, but we started with these ones.

And now, here’s the video of the whole session, from the first doorbell touch to the last generalization check.  The final step would be to check for maintenance.  Maintenance checks ask the question “Will he still do it later?” I don’t have the video for that part, but he’s done great, ringing the bell every time I ask.

Dan Rings Doorbell

Happy Training!


Dan’s Introduction to Agility

Dan has now had two formal agility lessons one was in early June and the other was two weeks ago.  He loves it and I think he’s gonna be great fun to play agility with.

During his first lesson Justin and I introduced him to a “jump”.  Since he was such a young puppy, we had the bars set very low and kept the session short to prevent any injury, but our goal was to teach him the concept of going between the jump standards and over the bar.  We first had one jump, with no bar and called him through that.  We added a second jump with no bar, just a straight line, and called him through that.  Then we added the low bars and did one jump then two.  We added the third jump with the bar.  Each step probably had 2-3 repetitions and the whole session was only about 20 minutes.

Here is the video of the final product from that day.  We were looking for him to complete all three jumps and drive forward to get his toy.  The goal was to keep it upbeat, fun, and easy.

You can already see him getting excited about the game and driving to the toy.  I goofed on spacing the jumps and the distance between the second and third jump was slightly shorter than the distance between the first and second, but this didn’t stop Dan!  You can see him taking one less stride before this jump.

Two weeks ago was the second lesson.  We worked on front crosses at a low jump height and tried a couple of jumps at 16″ to work on the concept of “go over not under!”

We’ve been practicing at my in-law’s house because they have so much more space than us.  They are working on their roof so excuse the piles of scrap wood in the background but here are some of the photos from that day.  My father-in-law took the video and I forgot to get it from him before we left so I’ll have to add that later.


There were some successful “over not under” attempts, but also several goof-ups. Here is a near collision.


Around again…yes that is much easier!

Got the “over” part, but now we need the “look ahead” part. Sorry about my socks…

Over and straight ahead! Now he’s got it!

Late take off – But look how determined that face is!

Perfect mid-air shot

Driving to the toy after a close landing.

Much better landing.

Needed a rest with the ball after all that agility! Very happy puppy.