On Good Behavior LLC

Building Trust | Socializing with Children | Sniffspot | Wait!

Happy September! I hope you had a wonderful summer. I’m sure your dog(s) will be happy that any travelling and dog-less trips to the beach are done and that it’s coming up on nice weather for long walks.

Here are my latest tips and observations along with insights into what I’m working on with my own dogs.

Please hit reply to share your thoughts! I love hearing what you are up to with your pups.

What I wish everyone knew: Trust is the key to a good working relationship. This is true in both human and canine relationships, but we don’t often give much thought to earning our dog’s trust. Want to clip your dog’s nails? He needs to trust that you won’t hurt him. Want to take something out of his mouth? He needs to trust that you won’t follow up taking it with yelling at him and/or smacking him.

I’ve been reminded of how important trust is while Wager has needed daily eye medication. Here is video of instructions I left for a friend:

We build trust whenever we help our dogs out of a sticky situation: pulling a thorn out their paw, protecting them from overly rowdy playmates, or being steady and supportive in scary new environments. We lose trust when we punish harshly or erratically, when we are unpredictable, or when we put our dogs in situations that are more than they can handle. 

Quote that I am pondering: “Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.” Roger A. Caras.

What I’m excited about: Sniffspot. I routinely recommend more off-leash exercise for my client’s dogs, but I’m not a big fan of dog parks. Sniffspot is like AirBnB for dogs. You can rent a fenced yard for an hour and let your pup blow off steam playing ball or you can organize a playdate with his best buddy. More and more locations are showing up locally. 

What I am working on with my dogs: Getting Wager more comfortable with children. Wager’s breeder did a nice job introducing him to kids and I did my best to continue that, but kids are not part of my normal social circle. Nonetheless, Wager was enjoying kids until we had a bad day hiking about six weeks ago. We were walking a narrow stretch of trail and had to pass a family whose young son was terrified of dogs. The little boy was screaming, flailing and trying to get away and I felt terrible for the poor kid. Wager seemed fine at the time despite getting his foot stepped on in the chaos, but the next time we were out for a walk and saw kids he started shaking and trying to hide. Clearly the experience had been traumatic for him.

Wager with little friends as a baby puppy. At this age, he would whine with excitement to see kids. 

I arranged a few meet and greets with kids and, while he was willing to take treats, he was quite nervous and having stress diarrhea. So I switched to a slower plan and started taking him to playgrounds several times a week. I let him just sit and watch at a comfortable distance. Eventually he relaxed enough to check back in with me and I rewarded that. We’ve worked on eye contact, so he knows that it is a good behavior to offer. He continued to look at the kids playing, then look back at me to get a treat. After about 15 minutes, he got bored (I love it when dogs get bored of things they are afraid of!) and rolled over to ask for belly rubs or a game. Excellent! We played a little, went home, and the next day did the same thing but ten feet closer.

Wager watching children at the playground and then turning back to check in with me.

This has been a big project, but it’s an important one since little kids are sometimes so excited to see dogs that they run right up to them. I want Wager to be ready to welcome them with his usual polite sit and joyful kisses. 

Book That I’m Reading: Developing Jumping Skills for Awesome Agility Dogs by Linda Mecklenburg, 2008. This book is a classic and I was happy to find a used copy online. I’ve learned about the material during seminars and classes, but it’s nice to read through Linda’s carefully thought out plans. A must for anyone starting a new agility dog or working through jumping problems.

Word of the month: “Wait.” I use “Wait” when going through doors or gates when I don’t want my dogs to follow or when I want them to stop on a hiking trail to “Wait” for me to catch up. This is very easy to teach using the door itself as a barrier or using the leash to stop forward movement. Sometimes I reward with a treat and sometimes I reward by releasing my dogs to go forward (Free! or OK!). 

To remember when to use Wait versus Stay, think “Wait a minute; Stay a while”.

Business Updates:

Private Lessons: Are currently available at your home (within a limited service area), at my Franklin Park location (in the office or outdoors in the agility field), or online via Zoom. All scheduling has been moved to Square, so once you are an established client you can schedule (and reschedule if needed) at your convenience.

Agility Classes: Are held outdoors April through October. Please read through the pre-requisites to make sure you and your dog are ready to have fun doing agility together. Please email me to be put on the interested list if you would like to join a class this year. Class schedules are posted on Facebook. The fall session starts 9/10 and 9/11.

Obedience Classes: I am offering Intermediate Obedience classes to current and former students. This class is suitable for dogs who have completed the basics and need practice listening around other dogs and people. Non-reactive dogs only, please. Please email to be put on the interested list if you would like to join a class this year.

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