Raising Canine


  • Pet Care Survey

      Money.com has just completed and published a survey on consumer pet care, which you might find interesting. Here’s the link:  https://money.com/pet-pandemic-national-survey/.

  • Increasing Your Income as a Dog Trainer through Efficiency

      Dog training is a labor of love, and professional dog trainers are not in it for the money. However, in order to stay in the business, we need to have a decent dog trainer income. And there are lots of ways to do that.

      Raise Your Rates

      The most obvious way is to raise your rates. And raising rates is a very legitimate way to make more income. However, you can only raise them so much before you price yourself out of the market. As with many professions, dog trainers work by the hour, so we should be looking at our hourly rate compared to our competition’s hourly rate.

      Let’s first discuss price shoppers. There are two types of price shoppers: those who are looking for a bargain, and those who are looking for the average price of the product or service.

      Bargain hunters are usually problematic because they want as much bang for their buck as they can get. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you can spend a lot of time and energy dealing with them – explaining why you don’t do certain things, or caving and giving them something you wouldn’t normally give another client. As soon as someone starts haggling over price, red flags start going off in my head. It’s not that I won’t do business with them, but I’m not going to bargain. I’ve spent a lot of time and money getting education and experience, and I consider myself a professional. I wouldn’t haggle with my lawyer or CPA over rates, and I expect the same courtesy.

      However, I do like people who are doing their homework and finding out what the going rate is. These people usually pay the median rate, or higher. They understand that you get what you pay for. That is why I always encourage my students coming out of my Professional Dog Trainer course to charge at least the median rate. They are insecure and reluctant to charge that much, but I know that if they’ve successfully completed the program, they are at least as good as the average trainer.

      But, there is a point where you’ll price yourself out of business if you’re not careful. If you get all your referrals from veterinarians, you’ll probably be able to charge on the high end, but if you’re still working to drum up business, think carefully about the rate you’ll charge.

      Do More Classes

      You should be making more per hour when doing classes. You need to calculate the time spent between classes, cleaning and preparing; however, the volume should result in a higher hourly rate than what you’re charging for privates.

      Sell Product

      Selling product is a great way to make more money. If you have a facility, you probably already sell product. If not, get some kind of organization system set up in your car so you can have all the product you need ready to go.

      A great way to sell management items such as harnesses (especially if you’re doing group classes) is to fit the dogs that are obvious pullers the first class and tell the owners to try it for a week. If they’re happy with the results, they can pay for the harness the next week. In my experience, asking an owner to go to a pet store or on the Internet to purchase items has a very low success rate. Therefore, I always carry certain items such as harnesses, head halters, bait bags, and my favorite interactive feeding toys. I didn’t have lot of items, but I had high quality, useful items. And, I charged a lot less than the local pet store!

      Hire Personnel

      You can hire trainers to run classes and do private consultations for you, and they receive a percentage of the income from these activities. This is also a great way to increase your dog training income; however, you are now becoming more of an administrator than a dog trainer. You need to be sure this is what you want and that it is something you’ll be good at. Also, you need to make sure your personnel train according to your philosophy and that they don’t try to steal clients.

      Increase Efficiency

      Last but not least, you can increase your efficiency. There are three areas in which you can increase efficiency: administration, people training skills, and dog training skills.

      In administration, you set up systems so that everything runs smoothly and you don’t spend a lot of time duplicating effort, looking for things, etc.

      By increasing your people training skills, you are able to help your clients get quicker results. We tend to think our clients know more than they do and can absorb more information than they can. Therefore, we leave the consultation with certain expectations that don’t come to pass – but it’s not our clients’ fault, it’s our fault for not making sure they understood the concepts. Some of these issues can be resolved with a simple follow-up e-mail outlining the steps for the particular behavior you want them to work on. Also, understanding their expectations and ability to perform is important. This is a huge topic, but a little work on people training skills can go a long way.

      Finally, increasing your dog training skills can also increase your dog trainer income – especially if you’re doing day training or board and trains. If you are an efficient trainer, you can get the dog trained in less time, thus giving you the opportunity to train more dogs in the same amount of time. All packages (and I include day training and B&T in this model) will benefit from efficient training, because a good package isn’t based on time, but on performance. So, if you perform better, you finish sooner.


      I’m presenting a webinar on The Big 4: Four Fundamental Concepts for Training on April 1, 2020 which will discuss how to become a more efficient trainer. If you are not able to attend the live webinar, it will be recorded and available on-demand.

      Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, which provides remote education for professional dog trainers and dog behavior consultants, as well as business and marketing educations and consulting to help their businesses. Raising Canine, LLC has an intensive course for those wanting to become professional dog trainers. Sue is also the co-author of the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds.” Sue is certified through CCPDT and IAABC. She is an ex-Board member for the CCPDT, an active, professional member of CCPDT, APDT, and IAABC, and was named APDT Member of the Year. Sue also owns East Valley Dog Training in the San Tan Valley of Arizona.

  • Becoming a Positive Reinforcement Dog Trainer

      Have you ever watched a video (or even a live presentation) of a “new” method and felt your world rock? There are lots of gurus in the dog training world; people who have a new training system that will make your life easier, and your animal training a breeze. That’s one of the key goals in becoming a positive reinforcement dog trainer.

      The truth is, there is no new method out there. Every method that’s out there can be explained through basic learning theory. When you hear a trainer talk about a revolutionary new method of training, be wary! You can get that same information for a lot less money, and probably a lot less wear and tear on your animal, by just understanding basic learning theory.

      Positive reinforcement dog training (clicker training)

      Here are a few examples:

      • Watch Me – positive reinforcement
      • BAT – negative reinforcement
      • Clicker Training (as a philosophy) – positive reinforcement
      • LAT (Look at That) – positive reinforcement
      • The Horse Whisperer – negative punishment, some negative reinforcement
      • Natural Dog Training – positive reinforcement
      • Parelli – negative reinforcement
      • Syn Alia – hard to tell, probably negative reinforcement

      You’ll notice that almost all of these (with one exception) are either negative or positive reinforcement. That makes sense, because the goal is to increase behavior, rather than reduce it.

      Often, there is really good information to be had by watching and listening to these experienced trainers; so, we don’t want to dismiss them out of hand. For instance, in “Watch Me,” Patricia McConnell introduces the idea of an autowatch. Again, there’s nothing new about this – it’s simply a conditioned stimulus for a particular behavior – but, it’s a very useful concept in dog training. However, the method and how the animal is learning is not new.

      In the process of becoming a positive reinforcement dog trainer, it’s very important to understand what is going on when watching another trainer. BAT is a great example of this. It seems very gentle, and there’s a lot of discussion about letting the animal decide. This all sounds really great; however, it’s still negative reinforcement, which is an aversive. I want to clarify that I have no problem with BAT, and I think trainers should have this tool in their toolbox. But it should not be the first option – Watch Me is very similar and is positive reinforcement, so should be the first choice. If, for some reason, Watch Me doesn’t work, then pull BAT out of your toolbox.

      I recommend watching dog training videos with the sound off. That allows you to ignore what the instructor is saying, and actually watch what is happening. Of course, you must first have a good grounding in learning theory, or you won’t have the knowledge you need to identify specific techniques.

      If you find this information intriguing, I will be presenting a webinar on this topic. We’ll view videos of various “systems” and analyze them. You’ll be surprised at what you learn! For more information on this webinar, go to Method Comparison – a Critical Look at 7 Different Methods for Fear-Based Aggression

      Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, which provides remote education for professional dog trainers and dog behavior consultants, as well as business and marketing educations and consulting to help their businesses, including an intensive course for those wanting to become professional dog trainers. Sue is also the co-author of the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds.” Sue is certified through CCPDT and IAABC. She is an ex-Board member for the CCPDT, an active, professional member of CCPDT, APDT, and IAABC, and was named APDT Member of the Year. Sue also owns East Valley Dog Training in the San Tan Valley of Arizona.

  • Professional Dog Trainers: Learning Theory

      Understanding how animals learn is a helpful tool for professional dog trainers

      Let me count the ways. No matter what field you’re in, the more you know, the better you are. Knowledge is a powerful tool and gives its possessor a leg up on the competition. If you want to increase your dog trainer salary, you should be studying dog behavior and how animals learn. There are many ways to do this – conferences, weekend seminars, on-line dog trainer courses, webinars, books, magazines . . .

      Understanding learning theory also helps understand behavior

      Learning theory is our scientific understanding of how animals learn. This includes overriding concepts such as Thorndike’s Law of Effect (a response that produces a desirable effect is more likely to occur again in that situation, and a response that produce an undesirable effect is less likely to occur again in that situation), and deeper-dive concepts such as how to shape behavior and the advantages and possible pitfalls of doing so (resurgence, small criteria increases, contiguity of reinforcement, high ROR, etc.).

      However, for professional animal trainers, just the simple act of studying learning theory also requires us to study behavior, because the two intersect. For instance, learning theory teaches us that behavior must be reinforced if it is going to be maintained. That leads us to look at a behavior problem and wonder what is maintaining that behavior – what’s the motivation/reinforcement? Learning theory allows us to be more systematic in our study of behavior and rely less on traditional lore and supposition, and actually identify the root causes of the behavior.

      When you don’t know why the animal you’re training isn’t responding to your protocol, you can go back to the basics (because you know the basics!)

      Learning theory also teaches us why behavior happens and what must be present for behavior to happen. So, when we’re stuck, we can go back to the basics: timing, motivation, criteria, rate of reinforcement. These are the basics, and if behavior isn’t changing when a protocol has been implemented, it’s going to be one or more of these factors. Of course, we can dig much deeper into each of these categories, as well – for instance, professional dog trainers might discuss generalization, but that’s really a function of criteria. Regardless, knowing these rules and principles can only help us.

      I need a dog trainer! My dog eats my stuff.

      When a client asks you a “Why does my dog . . .?) question, you’ll be able to speak with authority – even if you don’t know why

      When you can speak knowledgeably on behavior, learning, and training, when you don’t know the answer to something you can say so and maintain your credibility. You can also tell your client that you don’t know the answer, but your best guess is . . . I write an “Ask the Trainer” column for my small local paper. Someone asked me why her pug likes to sleep under the covers. Well, I don’t know! It could be any number of reasons. But, I was able to put forth some ideas – one had to do with the breeding and another with the practical aspect of comfort.

      When challenged with an outdated idea or training model, you can speak with authority on why it’s outdated

      Although our industry has come a long way in the last twenty to thirty years, it will be a long time before people get the idea of “dominance” out of their heads. When we are challenged by a client, a competitor, or possibly a veterinarian, we can give logical, science-based reasons for dominance not being a valid behavioral model. There are many other strange ideas out there as well, and understanding how animals learn and why they behave as they do can only help us.

      It increases your credibility with potential clients and veterinarians

      Similar to the topic of clients asking you a question about their animal’s behavior, having good knowledge at the ready increases your credibility. Remember that veterinarians are scientists, at heart. They like information to be based on science, and understand that model.

      You can carry on intelligent discourse with your peers

      More and more trainers are becoming familiar with how animals learn – some have a deep knowledge, some have a rudimentary knowledge, but they have knowledge. Understanding the terminology and the concepts helps us discuss behavior problems with our peers in a productive way. We’re all on the same page with language and understanding, and our discussions become streamlined and efficient. I highly encourage those wanting to become a dog trainer to get started on the right path and study how animals learn.

      It’s fun!

      Not everyone will agree with this statement, but I think it’s fun, so I’m sticking’ with it!

      At the end of August, I will be presenting a webinar called Understanding Learning Theory. This is a great course for beginners, those getting ready to sit for the CPDT-KA exam, or as a refresher for those who need it. For more information on this course, go to https://www.raisingcanine.com/course/understanding-learning-theory/. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

      Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, which provides remote education for professional dog trainers and dog behavior consultants, as well as business and marketing educations and consulting to help their businesses, including an intensive course for those wanting to become professional dog trainers. Sue is also the co-author of the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds.” Sue is certified through CCPDT and IAABC. She is an ex-Board member for the CCPDT, an active, professional member of CCPDT, APDT, and IAABC, and was named APDT Member of the Year. Sue also owns East Valley Dog Training in the San Tan Valley of Arizona.

  • Dog Trainer Expectations

      A lot of dog trainers get very frustrated when their clients don’t complete training. Within the training community, we hear a lot of venting about a lack of commitment, owners wanting a quick fix, or a wave of a magic wand. I do understand that this seeming lack of commitment can be very frustrating to trainers, (as well as affect our dog trainer salary), but I have some thoughts on the topic I’d like to share. I’d love to hear back from trainers about what they think.

      Dog trainers are professionals – consultants.

      So, let’s start with the basics – what is a dog trainer, exactly? A dog trainer is a consultant – we consult on behavior and behavior problems. The definition of a consultant is “a person who provides expert advice, professionally.” But I think a better definition is “a person who provides expert advice professionally, but has no control over the outcome.” I think this is a better definition, because all we can do is determine the problem, give our best advice on how to resolve it, and hope our client agrees with us.

      I actually think the biggest reason owners don’t go as far with training as we think they should is because our expectations are too high and they consider the problem fixed before we do.

      Let’s start with dog trainer expectations. We like to train, we think training is fun and worthwhile. That’s why we’re trainers. Owners, on the other hand, don’t particularly like to train. Owners simply want a well-behaved family member, and sometimes need help accomplishing that. These are adult learners, and adult learners generally have a very specific goal in mind. Once that goal has been accomplished, they see no reason to continue – they have better things to do with their time and money.

      To illustrate this point, I’d like to talk about a client I had a few weeks ago. These are nice people with two small dogs that they adore. They’ve recently moved from a suburban situation with a fenced back yard to a rural area where they are building a house. They have a business and are living in a large room within that business while their new house is being built. When they first moved, they let the dogs out off-leash, and one of them was attacked by a coyote.

      The veterinarian referred them to me, and we decided to work on the following issues:

      • Recall
      • Desensitization to harness & leash
      • Housetraining for one dog

      Prior to the move, the dogs didn’t go out, so they weren’t used to wearing a harness and leash, although they had worn them years earlier. One of the dogs was not house-trained, so we decided to work on that, since they were moving into a new house. And, of course, the recall was important because of the living situation.

      My main goal for our first session was to get some management in place so the dogs would be safe during the training process. Once I arrived, I realized that they did have a small, fenced area which their exit door opened onto, so that really solved the problem of the dogs having to go outside the safe area to potty. We spent an hour discussing basics – free-feeding, house-training, how to get the dogs used to their harnesses, and how to potty the dogs until they were reliable.

      After a couple of days, I texted them to see how things were going and if they had any questions. The text I received in return. The wife then called me and said things were going great. The dogs had adjusted to their harnesses almost immediately, so they were today able to walk them on-leash; they were working on house-training the smaller dog (I left them with a handout, so they pretty much had what they needed); and they were either walking the dogs on-leash or letting them out into the fenced area. And, they didn’t really have time to train, as their schedules were already over-loaded running their business and building a house, but they’d call me once the house was done.

      I don’t really expect to hear from them, but that’s okay because the truth is, their problem is solved. Would I have like to work on other issues, such as the recall? Sure. But again, once that house is built, they’ll have a big, fenced yard that is coyote-proofed, and they probably won’t leave it except for occasional vet visits.

      So ultimately, I consider this a successful consultation. They don’t want to do everything I recommended, but their problem is solved to their satisfaction, and that’s my job!

      Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, which provides remote education for professional dog trainers and dog behavior consultants, as well as business and marketing educations and consulting to help their businesses, including an intensive course for those wanting to become professional dog trainers. Sue is also the co-author of the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds.” Sue is certified through CCPDT and IAABC. She is an ex-Board member for the CCPDT, an active, professional member of CCPDT, APDT, and IAABC, and was named APDT Member of the Year. Sue also owns East Valley Dog Training in the San Tan Valley of Arizona.

  • Online Dog Trainer Course: Types of Learning

      Learning to train dogs online is a convenient, economical way to get the basics.

      This gets a little in the weeds, but as professionals, we do need to understand the different types of learning and which ones the animals we work with best learn by. Since this website is primarily for dog trainers, this article will be discussing dogs and how they learn. After I started writing this article, it occurred to me that it would be a great topic for a short online dog trainer course, so I’m doing a FREE webinar on types of learning. This article will give you an overview, but we’ll look at video and discuss the types of learning in more depth during the  course.

      The two types of learning we, as trainers, use most are respondent and classical learning. Because there is so much to these two topics, and they are so crucial to our industry, I’m going to be very brief in this article, but I will do an in-depth article or dog trainer course online for each of these types of learning.


      Respondent learning is also known as either classical or Pavlovian learning, and this phenomenon was discovered and studied by Ivan Pavlov around the turn of the twentieth century and, in fact, he won the Nobel prize in physiology and medicine in 1904 for his research.

      Respondent learning deals with conditioned responses. Conditioned responses are when a stimulus (such as a clicker) evokes the same physiological response as an unconditioned stimulus (such as food). The animal has made an association between the two events, and the conditioned stimulus predicts the unconditioned stimulus.

      Of course, there is much more to respondent learning, but this is it in a nutshell. And, as promised, I will do another presentation on this topic in more depth. The thing to remember is that ALL learning has its foundation in respondent learning. When you teach a dog to sit, he’s making an association between the cue and the behavior, and the behavior and the consequence—the association is classical learning.


      As with respondent learning, probably most of what we do revolves around operant learning. The name comes from the idea that the animal is “operating” on his environment. The main difference from respondent learning is that the animal chooses his response—i.e., he chooses whether or not to sit when he hears the cue, he chooses whether or not to chase a squirrel in the park. So an example of operant learning is the dog perceives a stimulus/antecedent (such as the lid comes off the dog food bin), he decides on a behavior (to come into the kitchen—although he could equally decide not to come into the kitchen), and there will be a consequence of his decision (if he comes into the kitchen, he’ll be closer to his food when it’s ready—if he decides not to come into the kitchen, it will take him longer to eat).

      As you can see, there is the potential for a lot of different outcomes to this scenario. Most dogs are pretty food motivated and a lot of their life revolves around meal time. However, if the dog isn’t hungry (motivation), he may decide it’s not worth the effort to get up from his cozy bed and walk into the kitchen.

      Again, I’ll do an article or trainer course online where we can discuss this in much more depth.


      Social facilitation is when an animal is motivated to perform at a higher level because someone else is doing that behavior. Dogs learn very well through social facilitation. Say two dogs are barking at a squirrel. If it were just one dog, he would probably stop barking after the squirrel was out of sight; however, because of the second dog, they continue to bark, even though the squirrel is gone.

      Often, lay people see dogs doing something another dog is doing and attribute it to imitation of observational learning (see below), but there’s little evidence that dogs learn through those means. Usually, it is social facilitation or local enhancement (see below).

      Much of the research in social facilitation revolves around humans and sports. For instance, one of the early studies (by Norman Triplett) showed that cyclists racing against another cyclist performed better than when racing against a clock.


      Local enhancement is similar to social facilitation in that there are two animals involved in the behavior. However, in local enhancement, dog A perceives dog B doing something (barking, digging, etc.), and dog A decides to do it, as well. So the difference here is that had dog B not been barking, dog A probably would never have started barking. As trainers we often hear about a family dog who never barked until a new dog was brought into the household and “taught” the original dog to bark.


      Taste aversion learning is interesting because it is the one type of learning that can have a significant period of time elapse between the behavior and the consequence. Of course, this is an obvious survival response—if you eat something that makes you sick, you don’t want to continue eating it!


      Single event learning is when it takes only one trial for an animal to learn something. Usually, this involves fear or some kind of aversive event. It happens once, and the animal remembers it.


      In imitation, you copy another’s actions precisely and learn from that. There is little evidence that dogs learn from imitation, however there is a great deal of research happening which may result in a different opinion. Some examples of imitation might be formal dancing, children learning to tie their shoelaces, etc. Often, people confuse imitation with social facilitation or local enhancement.


      In vicarious learning, you learn from watching another and the consequences that result from their behavior. If you watch your little sister steal a cookie from the cookie jar and your mother gives her a spanking, you are less likely to steal cookies from the cookie jar.

      There are other ways of learning, but these are the most relevant to dog training. If you’d like to attend the FREE dog trainer course I’ll be holding online in July, click here.

      Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, which provides online education for professional dog trainers and dog behavior consultants, as well as business and marketing educations and consulting to help their businesses, including an intensive course for those wanting to become professional dog trainers. Sue is also the co-author of the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds.” Sue is certified through CCPDT and IAABC. She is an ex-Board member for the CCPDT, an active, professional member of CCPDT, APDT, and IAABC, and was named APDT Member of the Year. Sue also owns East Valley Dog Training in the San Tan Valley of Arizona.

  • Courses For Dog Trainers: Nature vs. Nurture

      Dog training courses can help you learn how to deal with behavior problems caused by both nature . . .

      and nurture!

      Ah, the age old question “Which has more influence over our behavior? Nature or nurture?” And, of course the answer has gone back and forth like a ping pong ball for decades. Fortunately, today there are enough good courses for dog trainers which address this question so that we don’t have to continue to debate the issue. The real answer is that the two are inseparable.

      What it really boils down to is, you can’t do something if you are not genetically capable of doing it – i.e., pigs can’t fly – and you won’t do something you’re genetically capable of doing unless there’s an environmental stimulus – i.e., blink your eyes. Of course there are various bodily functions such as heart beats, that don’t need a stimulus in the way we think of them, and there are others, such as pupil dilation, that do need an environmental stimulus. But for most behavior – particularly the behavior professional dog trainers deal with – we need some kind of a stimulus and that stimulus usually comes from the environment.

      In developing effective courses for dog trainers, an important question needs to be answered. How do nature and nurture affect us as professionals, particularly when using positive dog training techniques where you don’t just force the dog to do what you want? This is a very important concept for those just learning to become a professional dog trainer, as well as those who have been at it for a while. So let’s explore the question in more depth.

      (I want to preface this section by saying that there is a lot of new understanding about genetics and heritability which may refute some of what I’m about to say. I am not a geneticist, so my knowledge is pretty basic.)

      The ability to learn is genetic. But what we learn is not heritable. So we can be born with an ability to learn certain things, and every species is more susceptible to learning certain types of things. For instance, a horse is more likely to learn to be afraid of a snake than of a boulder – because a snake is more dangerous to the horse. A grizzly bear is likely to take to the water and learn to fish more easily than a camel – because a good portion of a grizzly’s diet is fish, and none of a camel’s diet is fish (not to mention there’s not a whole lot of water in camel territory).

      So, as animal trainers, we need to take into account what the animal is designed to do – and this is a function of nature. Dogs, in particular, have been bred for certain traits which do affect their behavior. For instance, Corgis tend to nip at people’s heels, herd children, and bark, because this is what they were bred to do. Corgis were bred to herd cattle and sheep by nipping at their legs. Their barking probably helped herd the animals and also alerted shepherds to potential problems.

      Not all breeds act like Corgis – for instance, most terriers love to dig, grab, and shake. For the most part, terriers were used to keep the vermin population down. Many vermin live in the earth, so terriers became diggers – in fact, the word “terrier” derives from the Greek work “terra” which means earth. Also, their job was to catch and kill said vermin, so they love to grab and shake.

      And even other herding dogs don’t act exactly like Corgis. Although there will be some overlap in behavioral motor patterns between all herding dogs, such as controlling others’ movement, each breed has a specialty, almost always based on the terrain in which they work. For instance, Border Collies are famous for their “eye,” which helps to control the sheep they are herding.

      These examples illustrate the great behavioral differences between dogs, brought about by selective breeding. Although most other animals are not as selectively bred as dogs, there are some domestic animals that are – such as horses. If you’re a horse person, you’ll be aware of behavioral differences between horse breeds.

      But even with all this genetic influence, nurture still plays a big role in behavior. Corgi’s need something to bark at – even if it’s just a leaf falling from a tree. And terriers need something to grab and shake – which is why they love squeaky toys!

      We can certainly teach Corgis not to bark, and terriers not to shake. The question is, should we? These are natural behaviors that need an outlet and these behaviors can be quite problematic for dogs living with humans. In fact, if there is no outlet for these behaviors, you may see behavioral problems develop in other areas, such as obsessive compulsive disorders.

      With the advent of positive dog training methods and the many courses for dog trainers now available, we’re learning how to provide our dogs with an outlet for these normal behaviors without disrupting our human households. There are toys and activities to address almost every natural need of our domesticated dogs.

      So, to put it all in a nutshell, nature is what allows a species to survive. A species adapts to their environment through natural selection and/or mutation. These adaptations should help them find a niche within their environment that hasn’t yet been filled by another species, or is plentiful enough that it can be shared. If the adaptation benefits the species, those individuals who have adapted the best will live to produce offspring with that beneficial adaptation, and those who have not adapted will either die off or find a different niche to adapt to. In other words, natural selection.

      Nurture, on the other hand, is how an individual survives. Nurture is the environment we live in, and we all have to learn to survive within our environment. This type of learning is not passed on to our offspring through genetics; however, assuming the parents survive, they can then pass this knowledge on to their offspring through teaching. We’ve all seen animals teaching their young – any species that stays with their young for any length of time will help the offspring to survive, thus giving them the ability to procreate and pass their knowledge to their offspring. And so on.

      For those animals who do not stay with their parents once born, it’s probably a bit of a crap shoot, but the ones with the best genetics for the environment – which includes the ability to learn – will survive.

      For on-demand courses for dog trainers on this topic, go to the following links: Understanding Learning Theory or Motor Patterns, Drives, Instincts, & Fixed Action Patterns: Important considerations when choosing and training a dog

       Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, (www.raisingcanine.com), which provides remote education for professional dog trainers and dog behavior consultants, as well as business and marketing educations and consulting to help their businesses, including an intensive course for those wanting to become professional dog trainers. Sue is also the co-author of the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds.” Sue is certified through CCPDT and IAABC. She is an ex-Board member for the CCPDT, an active, professional member of CCPDT, APDT, and IAABC, and was named APDT Member of the Year.

  • Dog Psychology: Dogs vs. Wolves

      Be sure to sign up for this unique “dog psychology” webinar Dogs vs. Wolves: Are there ANY behavioral similarities” which will be presented on Wednesday, May 8. This webinar is not about dominance, but about the differences between dogs and wolves — of which there are many! If you are not able to attend the live version, you will receive the recorded version.

      This webinar is presented by Wendy van Kerkhove. Currently Wendy is the owner of Fresh Air Training which specializes in Bark, Snark & Growl classes and conducting private training sessions for those humans with dogs who are reactive to other dogs. Wendy is a self described Learning Theory junkie including “dog psychology”.  She is a frequent contributor to the Chronicle of the Dog, TC Dog and will be published in JAAWS (Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Sciences) in 2005.


  • Online Dog Training Courses

      Raising Canine was the first business in the industry to start offering online dog training courses to professional dog and animal trainers. We led the way, starting back in 2005 with great speakers like Jean Donaldson, Dr. Lore Haug, and Dr. Ian Dunbar presenting for us. Although there are many training courses for dogs being provided today, Raising Canine prides ourselves on being the first, and going through the growing pains of educating people on exactly what on-line education was and how to use it! Looking back, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. I remember doing “telecourses” over the phone on a conference call provider, and recording the courses with my little digital recorder hooked up to my phone with a complex system of cords and phone hook-ups—which was itself cutting edge technology!

      Fourteen years later, we’re still going strong and have evolved, along with technology, using the great webinar platforms available to record great, current information which helps dog trainers, paraprofessionals, and owners stay abreast of current information. We still have great speakers, some who’ve been around since the beginning, like Dr. Lore Haug, and others who are new to our “stable” of speakers like Michael Shikashio and Barbara Davis.

      Although many of you attend Raising Canine’s live webinars, it’s a bit of an open secret that most of those courses are recorded and become online dog training courses, available on-demand. This means that you are able to watch these valuable webinars at your leisure. If you work a regular job or train during the day, you can still listen to these courses as you’re driving from appointment to appointment, during your lunch hour, or on the weekend, during your spare time.

      These courses are relatively short—most lasting for just 1½ hours, but still packed with great information—inexpensive, and very convenient. Most qualify for continuing education units (CEUs), for those of you who are certified. There are also many courses for novice trainers, paraprofessionals, and owners.

      It’s also very simple to access these online dog training courses. Just go to our website, www.raisingcanine.com and on the home page, you have several options. The first is the drop-down menu “Webinars” which gives you all the education options Raising Canine offers. Below that, in the middle of the page, are various icons, including one for on-demand webinars and one for upcoming live webinars. Finally, over to the right is a search button. This search button allows you to search for webinars by name, speaker, topic, or CEUs.

      We also offer other types of dog training videos, usually longer in length and more in-depth. You can find those under the drop down menu, as well.

      So, don’t feel you have to be available for the live webinar to avail yourself of our great educational opportunities. If you sign up for an upcoming live webinar and are unable to attend, within a day or two after the live webinar is presented, you’ll get an e-mail with the access info for the recorded version. No more excuses! Listen, learn, improve, and have fun debating concepts with your trainer friends.

      To find our great webinars, go to www.raisingcanine.com/education and start learning!

  • Positive Dog Training: Is Extinction Effective?

      As positive dog training experts, when we get called in to help owners with their dogs, it’s almost always to get rid of behavior that has already been happening and is now a big enough problem they’ve decided to call for help. This can include anything from jumping up to aggression. Of course, the problem with behaviors that have been happening for a while is that they’ve got a solid history of reinforcement behind them, making them much harder to deal with.

      Many trainers recommend extinction for annoying behaviors that require reinforcement from the owners, such as jumping up and barking. But just how effective is extinction? Theoretically, it works great. Simply withhold the reinforcement that has previously maintained the behavior. Simple, right?

      Not so much, in practice. Owners have to be “on guard” at all times to avoid accidentally reinforcing the behavior. If they accidentally reinforce the behavior, it’ll come back stronger than ever, which often makes them think the behavior is getting worse. It’s very hard to ignore an annoying behavior—and I speak from experience!

      I once tried to extinguish my dog’s scratching-at-the-door-to-be-let-in behavior. What a disaster. I’d do really well for a while, then something would happen—I’d be on the phone, talking to someone, doing something—and I’d end up letting him in. And most importantly, I totally understood the science behind extinction—I knew about extinction bursts, spontaneous recovery, resurgence, the importance of consistency, and on, and on, and on. I knew what I needed to know and I still couldn’t do it.

      That experience made me start thinking about owners trying to extinguish behavior. If it was that hard for me, how hard must it be for an owner who doesn’t have the depth of knowledge I have, or even just the normal desire to modify behavior that most positive dog training experts have? Probably close to impossible for them. So, that was my turning point in moving from using extinction to straight differential reinforcement with great timing.

      Now, having said all that, it’s still very important for trainers to understand extinction because extinction affects behavior in more subtle ways – such as when we raise criteria. So, extinction isn’t all bad – just not a great way for owners to modify behavior.

  • Dog Training Programs: Business & Marketing

      One of the things I’ve noticed in my business, which provides continuing education to professional dog trainers, is that of all the dog training programs I provide, most trainers go for the sexy topics: aggression, separation anxiety, extreme fear and under-socialization. And, of course it is important for trainers to understand and be able to work with these problems, but it’s equally important to know how to run a successful business. But that’s just not a sexy topic!

      Sexy or not, the reality is that the vast majority of professional dog trainers will be self-employed. There are some opportunities for employment, but the chances of ever making serious money and being able to train what and how you want will be severely limited when working for someone else.

      If you work full time for one of the big chain pet stores, you’ll probably work for low wages and be expected to also work the floor, selling product – often product you don’t want to sell, such as electronic training collars. But let’s face it – those stores are in business to make money, and they make a lot more money selling an e-collar than a clicker!

      You can work for another independent trainer, but most of these trainers can’t afford to hire a trainer full time, give them good wages, and provide benefits such as health insurance and retirement. It’s not that they don’t want to, but it’s hard (possibly because they don’t know how to run a successful business, either!). If you do find someone who can afford all that, more than likely they’re running a boarding and daycare business, as well as doing dog training programs, and you’ll be expected to help out with those aspects of the business. And, as with the chain stores, you may or may not be able to train the curriculum you want. You may not even be able to train the methodology that you want.

      So, it behooves professional dog trainers to learn how to successfully run a small business. And, of course, that’s a field of study all its own. You need to understand your financials, good marketing strategies, how to create and implement systems, and much more – usually including personnel. None of this stuff is particularly hard, but you do need to know what you’re doing, so instead of signing up for all those sexy dog training programs, it might be a good idea to replace one or two of them with a business course!

      Now, having said that, the one business course that people will sign up for (although not as many as will sign up for an aggression course!), is marketing. We all want to understand the mysteries of marketing. How can we best allocate our limited resources to bring in the most benefit? How do we define our target market? Exactly what is a target market? Isn’t anyone who owns a dog part of our target market? How does our marketing compliment our overall business goals? And so on, and so on.

      For more information on Raising Canine’s in-depth business course, go to Good to Great. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

  • Positive Reinforcement Dog Training: Functional Assessment

      A functional assessment is a positive reinforcement dog training method for systematically assessing behavior when trying to determine what is setting up the environment to make it easy for the behavior to happen and what is maintaining the behavior. Once we have those two pieces of the puzzle, it makes our job much easier.

      It’s important to always remember that behavior has function. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what that function is, but it’s there and we need to suss it out. There are functional relationships between an antecedent and a behavior, and between a behavior and its consequence. Bringing it down to its simplest form, a functional assessment is designed to determine those functional relationships and get to the heart of positive reinforcement dog training.

      Too often we assume we know what’s going on – and probably the majority of the time, we’re right. When a client calls me and says his seven-month-old Belgian Malinois is out of control and never settles down, I have pretty good idea of what’s going on. Lack of training, lack of parameters, lack of consistency.

      When someone calls and tells me their eight-month-old English Springer Spaniel is eliminating in the house when the owners are not home, my first assumption will be that the dog is not properly house trained, yet. And this is a reasonable assumption because of the age of the dog. But, what if it’s actually separation anxiety? That’s also very possible.

      Let’s go back just a bit and talk about the principle of parsimony. In psychology, the principle of parsimony states that when there are two or more possible explanations using and accounting for the same set of facts, we should first test the simplest, briefest explanation before moving on to a more complex explanation. (You may have heard of this concept under the name Occam’s Razor.)

      In addition to the principle of parsimony, those of us belonging to a professional organization will usually have some kind of guide for behavioral intervention and dog training techniques. For the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDTO, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), we have the LIMA principle – “least intrusive, minimally aversive.” At the very top of this hierarchy of interventions is physical and mental well-being.

      So, utilizing the LIMA hierarchy and the principle of parsimony, the proper path of intervention would be:

      1. Veterinary check to see if there is a urinary tract infection, bladder infection, etc. In my mind, the fact that the dog is only eliminating in the house when the owners are not home makes this an unlikely explanation. However, if it is the explanation, all the training in the world is not going to solve the problem and the dog will be in distress as long as the problem remains, so we need to rule it out.
      2. Go back to basics on house training.
      3. Check for indications of separation anxiety.

      Now, basic house training and separation anxiety checks can be done at the same time. There’s no logical reason to go through an extended period of time working on house training if, in fact, the problem is separation anxiety. However, we should never jump straight to separation anxiety without first or coincidentally working on the housetraining issues.

      Back to the functional assessment. Again, most of us are doing a mini-FA in our heads as the client is explaining the problem. And, it’s absolutely true that once you’ve been in the business for a while, you’ll have seen the same problems over and over. And that’s fine – we just don’t want to become so sure our hypothesis is correct, that we overlook important information.

      When applying positive reinforcement dog training techniques, if the owner is compliant and works on the problem as agreed, execution is good (meaning they understand how to do the training), and the hypothesis is correct, you should see behavioral change in a fairly short period of time – three-to-five days in most situations. This does not mean the problem is resolved, but that you are seeing progress. House training may take a little longer, but if the criteria is raised systematically and everything is in place, that should also happen pretty quickly.

      If you are not seeing progress and you are comfortable that the client is doing their tasks properly, then it might be time to do a functional assessment. It’s possible something is going on that you are unaware – and the owner may be unaware of. Here are two examples of situations where something happened to the dog that the owners were not aware that had a great influence on the dog’s behavior.

      Example 1 – A dog that had previously had no issues at all suddenly refused to go out into the yard. To the owner’s knowledge, nothing had changed. A trainer was called in and a program of systematic desensitization was implemented. It worked, and everything was fine. Weeks later, the owner found out from a neighbor that the dog had been harassed with a BB gun.

      Example 2 – Again, a dog that had no previous problems began having severe panic attacks. All of a sudden he would jump into the owners lap (and this was a big dog!) and begin shivering so hard his teeth rattled. A trainer was called in and the first thought was that perhaps the dog was having seizures. He was about six-to-eight months old and this was a typical age for the onset of some types of seizures. It’s difficult to rule out seizures, because there are so many different things that could be happening. However, the owner was able to get the dog into the vet’s office within an hour of the onset of the attack and the vet was able to do a blood draw and rule out certain things.
      Since no one knew what was causing the panic attacks, it was difficult to implement a systematic desensitization program, because they didn’t know what to desensitize the dog to. The only thing that had changed was they had very recently moved into a new house (within weeks of the onset of the attacks). Of course, this was a huge red flag, but it was still difficult to pinpoint exactly what the antecedent was for the attacks.

      Eventually, the owners remembered that they had left the dog alone one day while they ran errands. They had just have Venetian blinds installed, had left the windows open, and it was a windy day. The dog had never been around Venetian blinds before and here he is in a brand new environment, alone, and the wind starts rattling the blinds. Taking that information, the owners started paying more attention, and sure enough, it was the wind. The dog was fine outdoors, but in the house, if the wind was blowing he was a nervous wreck. With that information, They were able to institute a systematic desensitization program.

      So, these examples show that sometimes it’s very difficult to know what do address. In example #1, it didn’t matter that they didn’t know about the BB gun – they were able to systematically desensitize the dog to the yard without that knowledge. But in example #2, it was more difficult because they didn’t know what the problem was. They could have done straight counter-conditioning, but that’s a much tougher prospect.

      In both of these cases, it was a more in-depth analysis of the events surrounding the behavior that led to the solution. And that in-depth analysis is a functional assessment of the effectiveness of any positive reinforcement dog training technique.

      For more information on this course, go to A Simple Functional Assessment. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

  • Beyond Dog Training Methods: Create a Quick & Easy Marketing Plan

      As professional dog trainers, we’re usually very good at: dog training methods! But, of course, most dog trainers are also small business owners. Unfortunately, we’re usually not so good at the business end of things. And if we break it down even further, the thing we hate most is marketing. Eek!

      Marketing can be a deep and unfathomable mystery. What works and what doesn’t? Why does Joe Smith down the road do so well when you know you’re a much better trainer than he is? How come every vet’s office you go into is referring to Joe and isn’t interested in taking the time to listen to another trainer’s pitch?

      Well, Joe probably understands marketing. A few years ago a friend of mine had that exact issue. There was another trainer in town, considered an expert in aggression, who used some really deplorable methods and had some really crazy philosophies on dog behavior. This trainer was referred by almost every vet in town – a few were beginning to realize that his dog training methods were questionable and some were getting upset because he was recommending pharmaceutical interventions without discussing it with the vet – but for the most part, he controlled the vet market.

      My friend, who absolutely was an expert in aggression, mentioned this to me, so I did a very cursory and informal study on dog trainers and their websites. What I found was that most men (traditional or R+) and most women (traditional) used scary graphics on their websites; whereas, positive reinforcement women rarely used scary graphics. They are much more into explaining aggression and positive reinforcement – in text. These are marketing techniques – the scary picture attracts people and takes them further into the website for more information; the long, drawn out explanations are too dense and complex to read. The scary graphic promises results; the explanation gives caveats. Never forget that ALL purchases are emotional, and particularly a purchase that involves a beloved pet that may be on the verge of euthanasia.

      So, the moral of this story is that marketing is important and can greatly influence your business. Once you’ve accessed the market, you have to be able to walk your talk and actually know how to use those dog training methods you market, but accessing it is key. Marketing doesn’t have to be a big mystery – as with any other field of endeavor, there are guidelines and a ton of free information available. And, in today’s world, the Internet has greatly leveled the playing field. You can be as good at marketing as the big boys – you may not be able to produce slick online dog training videos as ads or reach a huge market, but you can certainly reach your local market and do fun and engaging podcasts, videos, etc.

      One of the things I do every year is create a simple marketing plan. I think one big thing to think about with a marketing plan is linking your marketing – i.e., one form of marketing links to another form of marketing. A blog links to a coupon, which links to a testimonial, etc. By linking everything, you are able to exponentially increase the impact of your marketing.

      Too often, small business people don’t know what to do for marketing and are seduced by cheap ads that reach a lot of people, but more often than not, those people are not their target market. It sounds good, but good is measured in results. Having a plan helps prevent these impulse marketing purchases. $25 for an ad doesn’t sound like much, but if the ad doesn’t work, it’s $25 you could have spent on something that does work.

      And, speaking of measured – all marketing endeavors should be measured. How else will you know it’s working. If you do a blog, learn how to use Google Analytics to see your click-throughs. If you put a coupon out, have some way to know that the business is coming from that coupon – a special product, reduced price, free handout, etc. And be patient – marketing takes time and consistency. One blog isn’t going to increase your web traffic; 2-3 blogs per week for six months will.

      Here’s a picture of a page of my blogging plan for my 2019 webinars (this is just a small piece of my overall marketing plan). Creating this blogging plan took me less than one day, and it’s pretty dense and comprehensive (309 tasks). This seems crazy intensive, but in reality each webinar has the exact same schedule, so all I have to do is plug in the date, course, and speaker name (look at the section on the right – sorry it’s a bit blurry).

      I print out one page of the list and keep it on my desk. Each morning I look and see what tasks need to be done, and I do them. It takes maybe 5-10 minutes unless I have to actually write a blog. It’s pretty efficient.

      The above schedule is only for blogging to market upcoming webinars. I do another spreadsheet for other types of marketing that I want to do throughout the year. For instance, I tend to focus on upcoming live webinars; but I have over 300 on-demand webinars that I never market. I really need to get on that! It’s a huge profit center that I’m basically ignoring. I worry that I’ll inundate people with e-mail notices, but for my serious dog training market (and that is my market – I don’t target owners or hobbyists) they’re okay with it because they want to know the entire gamut of dog training methods available.

      One last thing before I end (it seems like I keep mentioning something which leads to another marketing concept and I want to stick them all in here – but I must focus). However, this is an important marketing concept so I’ll just mention it briefly.

      “Market Narrowly, Deliver Broadly”

      Market narrowly: What this means is narrow your target market down as much as possible – a lot of people have an avatar of their ideal client. That helps you with targeting your market – you can eliminate marketing venues that don’t reach your target client.

      Deliver broadly: This means you still deliver services to people outside your target market. They’ll come through word of mouth, etc. You’re just not marketing to them.

      For more information on this course, go to Create a Quick & Easy Marketing Plan. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

      Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, (www.raisingcanine.com), which provides remote education for professional dog trainers and dog behavior consultants, as well as business and marketing educations and consulting to help their businesses, including an intensive course for those wanting to learn how to become a professional dog trainer. Sue is also the co-author of the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds.” Sue is certified through CCPDT and IAABC. She is an ex-Board member for the CCPDT, an active, professional member of CCPDT, APDT, and IAABC, and was named APDT Member of the Year in 2004.

  • Dog Training Certification for Professional Dog Trainers: What Does it Mean?

      Well, that’s a complicated topic. There are many online courses that promise “dog training certification”. Understanding which ones are meaningful and which are simply for marketing purposes, can be very difficult for owners looking for a qualified dog trainer, or people who would like a career in dog training.

      There are essentially three types of certification:

      • There is a certification which indicates you have completed a course of study through an organization and satisfactorily met that organization’s standards;
      • There is a certification through a member-driven organization; and
      • There is a certification that means you have met standards independent of any organization.

      The first type of dog training certification is essentially a certificate of completion – you take a course of study and complete the course. There is nothing wrong with this; however, you must always remember that the curriculum of the organization may stress a specific methodology or point of view, and the testing process is geared to the curriculum, which may be quite rudimentary. Some examples of this type of certification would be some type of training course for dogs, a seminar, a vocational school, or even a university (they call it a diploma). Once you receive a certificate of completion, the process is complete.

      As with a school, the second type of certification may or may not indicate any real proficiency. The organization is ruled by the membership, so their certification requirements are based on their membership. The certification requirements are often philosophically driven, as with a school. Most organizations that certify do require some sort of continuing education to remain certified.

      The third type of certification sets a standard level of competency that must be met regardless of how you received your education. This type of certification is setting an industry standard. Examples of this type of certification are the CPA exam (Certified Public Accountant), or Certified Nutrition Support Practitioners. Some professions are regulated by the government (attorneys and hairdressers, for instance) and must pass a similar exam, but are then licensed, rather than certified. When you receive this type of certification, you will almost certainly be required to continue your education and periodically renew your certification. This continuing education process helps to ensure that practitioners are qualified and up-to-date on current knowledge and best practices.

      Again, this does not mean that a certificate of completion does not meet the industry standard – some may even exceed the standard; however, an independent certifying body holds everyone to the same standard and gives the consumer a means of choosing a qualified professional.

      In the dog training world, certificates are a dime a dozen! If a dog training school claims that you will be a certified dog trainer when you complete their program, they are simply saying that you have taken their course, learned their material, and passed! There is no guarantee that their course has taught the broad spectrum of training issues.

      In the dog training certification world, there is only one truly independent certifying body – the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). The dog training industry is trying very hard to professionalize and standardize the profession. CCPDT’s duty is to the public, not to the people who sit for their exam; they are not a teaching organization – it is up to each individual to receive adequate education to pass the exam. It is strongly recommended that, once qualified, trainers take the CPDT exam; it is an indication of commitment and professionalism.

      The CCPDT has recently added two additional dog training certification levels: one requires a deeper level of knowledge of dog behavior and accepted applied behavior analysis practices, and the other is a skills exam.

      For more information on this topic, go to the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers website. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

  • Dog Training Techniques: Understanding the Theory Behind Learning & Behavior

      What exactly is learning theory and why does someone who wants to learn dog training techniques care? Most people start out loving dogs, perhaps taking a basic obedience class, or dabbling in dog sports. Often they have a dog that has serious behavioral problems and through working with a professional dog trainer, they develop an interest in behavior and training. Sometimes people have been training their own dogs forever and their friends start asking them for advice. But almost always, when you get down to the nitty gritty, they think it’s fun and easy. Well, sometimes it’s fun, more often it’s hard work, and it’s never easy.

      The traditional way to become a dog trainer is through mentoring under a professional and watching lots and lots of dog training videos. You can certainly become an adequate dog trainer, and learn important dog training techniques, through this method; and, the better your mentor, the better you’ll be. But you’re also limited by your mentor’s limitations. Apprentice trainers also spend an inordinate amount of time doing non-training work such as cleaning kennels, feeding and grooming.

      But, through understanding learning theory combined with working under a knowledgeable mentor, you’ll have the best toolbox possible. You’ll understand the basics of how animals learn and how evolution, genetics, and survival have a huge influence on behavior. You’ll be able to move away from simple rote dog training techniques and actually analyze a situation and be able to figure out why the animal isn’t learning what you’re trying to teach.

      When you understand the phases of learning a new behavior and the things that need to be in place for a new behavior to be learned, not to mention the most efficient way to train (which most trainers don’t know), you have less frustration, you satisfy your client’s needs more efficiently (saving them frustration and money), and you develop good word-of-mouth.

      Learning and behavior is an established area of study that has been around for a very long time. It’s called psychology. We’ve been studying and practicing human psychology for decades – actually, longer than that as clinical depression was mentioned on a 1550 BCE ancient Egyptian manuscript known as the Ebers Papyruss.  In the mid-1800s, psychology became its own field of study, separate from psychiatry, and by the end of the nineteenth century, psychologists were figuring how to actually measure behavior.

      Around the turn of the century, Ivan Pavlov published his findings on what we now call classical conditioning, and B.F. Skinner followed that up with his work in operant conditioning in the mid-1900s. Skinner also made the concepts he studied part of popular culture. He made appearances on popular television shows such as The Mike Douglas Show and Firing Line, as well as documentaries for television. In the 1960s and 1970s, experimental parenting techniques were in full force and much of what had been discovered in psychology was now being practiced in the schoolroom.

      These two concepts, classical and operant conditioning – particularly operant conditioning – are what the new school of animal trainers are using. You don’t have to have a degree in psychology to take these concepts and put them to work and apply effective dog training techniques. However, you do need to invest some time into learning the concepts and practicing your new skills –setting good criteria, observing behavior, analyzing behavior, and so on. If you have only a cursory understanding of how animals learn you’ll do okay, but if you have a good understanding of these concepts, you’ll do a lot better!

      For more information on this course, go to Understanding Learning Theory. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

  • Dog Training Videos & Upcoming Webinars

      Don’t miss it! This coming Wednesday – we have two great webinars on dog training techniques and enrichment for cats. Dr. Lore Haug is presenting Cats in Prison, and I’m presenting a very important webinar on Criteria and Rate of Reinforcement. After many years of consulting with trainers, participating on discussion lists, producing dog training videos, etc., I’ve decided these are the two areas where professional trainers have the most problems. Also, I did a short blog on this topic and you can read it here: https://www.raisingcanine.com/2019/01/become-dog-trainer/. And, check out my website, https://www.raisingcanine.com, for hundreds of dog training videos.

      For more information on these courses, go to Cats in Prison and Criteria & Rate of Reinforcement. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

  • How to Become a Dog Trainer: Criteria & Rate of Reinforcement

      I recently wrote a blog on Dog Obedience Training – Four Key Elements, which discusses one of the most basic principles anyone who wants to know how to become a dog trainer must know. However, within those four elements, there are two that are most often misunderstood by professional dog trainers – criteria and rate of reinforcement.

      To learn what each of the four elements are, check out the blog Dog Obedience Training – Four Key Elements. In this blog post, I’m going to relay some of my experiences in observing many many trainers. Most of the old-timers understand these concepts, but even they get stuck on criteria once in a while. For newer trainers, I’d say criteria is the biggest single problem they have.

      So, some real-life situations and what I see as the problem:

      Scenario: A professional dog trainer has been working with a German Shepherd Dog for several months. He’s a one-year-old rescue and the trainer did well on most of his issues, but he barks when he’s in the car with his owners. For about a month the trainer and her partner drove around with the dog in the car. However, he rarely barked when in the car with them, but barks incessantly when in the car with his owners.

      Assessment: There are specific triggers (the owners), so a thorough history might help – when did it start, where were they going, etc. But ultimately, that’s just background info, and we still need to set achievable criteria. There are a couple of ways to approach this, but they are both criteria-based solutions (as all solutions in the process of discovering how to become a dog trainer are).

      Solution one – it’s highly unlikely he’s really barking non-stop for a long distance. So, they need to set a criteria of no-barking for . . . maybe 1 second, and reinforce every time he stops barking for 1 second. Once you’ve achieved your desired rate of reinforcement (ROR) (maybe 10 reinforcements in 1 minute), raise the criteria to no barking for 2 seconds. Etc. Gradually increase the time between reinforcements, adjusting your desired ROR as you go.

      Solution two – under safe conditions, put the dog in the car alone and move away (perhaps out of sight). Wait for the dog to stop barking, then start walking toward the car. If the dog starts barking, go back to where you were. Eventually, the dog will learn that when he barks, you go away, and he will stop barking. This is less desirable than solution one because it’s negative reinforcement, but it can be very effective.

      Scenario: A woman has a dog that chases and bites her tail when the woman and her boyfriend are present. The dog is uninterested in redirection, toys, etc. Clapping and walking away works; however the woman has times where that’s not convenient.

      Assessment: Again, there are specific triggers, so that actually makes it easier to work with the dog. There’s probably a level of excitement or perhaps stress for the dog in this particular situation.

      Management – unfortunately for the owner (and the consulting trainer), learning doesn’t necessarily take place only when it’s convenient, so we need to deal with the times it does not happen. This is called “management.” Because the triggers are specific (the woman and her boyfriend together), when they aren’t able to train, they can make sure the three of them aren’t together at those times. Put the dog in another room or a crate, have the boyfriend go out and run an errand or just sit in the car with a good book, etc.

      Solution – there are several things that need to be done, but from a criteria standpoint, the woman needs to do set ups with the boyfriend and the dog, measuring the intensity and the rate of tail chasing/biting. She also needs to assess various situations: For instance, is the behavior stronger when she and her boyfriend are right next to each other (vs. him being in another room or 10 feet away); can she use a recording of his voice and get the behavior, and if so, is the behavior the same or weaker? All these things will help give them a starting point. We already know that clapping works, so if she precedes the clap with a cue, eventually she’ll be able to cue the dog to stop with a word.

      Caveat – this could be an obsessive-compulsive behavior, so may require the intervention of a vet behaviorist.

      So, there are a couple of scenarios where criteria is not being used to maximum effect in the process of learning how to become a dog trainer. These scenarios make me wish I’d taken some dog training videos of some of my clients to show you!

      I feel so strongly about criteria and rate of reinforcement that I’m doing a webinar on that exact topic! You can access more information on this topic by attending the upcoming webinar, Criteria and Rate of Reinforcement: The most misunderstood piece of the puzzle.

      For more information on this course, go to Criteria & Rate of Reinforcement: The most misunderstood piece of the puzzle. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

  • Dog Training Course: First Meeting Body Language


      This is a video I have from when I boarded dogs in my home. I specialized in reactive dogs, so had lots of good opportunities to observe interesting body language. Although this dog training course isn’t about dog training for aggressive dogs, it is some great body language between two reactive dogs meeting for the first time, and what to look for. And, it illustrates the importance of early dog socialization.


      In this dog training course video a new dog, Zoe (brindle), is being introduced to my dog, Jimmy Joe (English Springer Spaniel) and a regular boarder, Pete (solid black). These are two separate dog training course videos and the dogs are introduced separately. What’s interesting to watch is the difference in the behavior of Jimmy Joe and Pete. Just a little background on the two dogs.


      Jimmy Joe went with me to run the Animal Haven sanctuary in upstate New York when he was 7 months old. This was a sanctuary for dogs that were un-adoptable (i.e., aggressive). So, at a young age, he learned some very good dog skills and maintained those skills throughout his life (Jimmy Joe passed about two years ago at age 16). Jimmy Joe was my adult in puppy class and my test dog in reactive dog classes until I decided to retire him – and I never could find a dog with his skills to replace him.


      Pete, on the other hand, was a mess! Although he was an interesting mess. He was extremely reactive except with people he knew well, such as his owner and myself. When first introducing him to dogs, I had to really be on top of him as the slightest misstep on the new dog’s part could turn into a fight. In the video, you’ll hear me asking him to back off periodically, just to diffuse the situation. However, once he got to know the dog, he was great. Pete was one of those dogs that could get the most aloof dog to play – and I’ve seen him in action. However, those first meetings were always an exercise in staying on top of things, for me.


      SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to describe what’s happening in these dog training videos – not necessarily every single thing, but a lot. If you’d like to watch the video first, and see what you notice, do that before reading the paragraph before the video, as that’s the paragraph describing the behaviors.


      So, in this first video, you’ll see a baseline for Zoe. She’s exploring the yard and there are no other dogs out. She’s cautious – her tail is down, but not tucked, she walks pretty gingerly, but it won’t be long before she feels comfortable in this space on her own.



      In the second video, I introduce her to Jimmy Joe. Watch how he handles her. Initially, he approaches appropriately (i.e., not head on), is a little pushy, but moves up to her head and then backs off quickly, allowing Zoe some space. Notice that Zoe freezes while Jimmy Joe investigates, also has some piloerection and does a lot of displacement behaviors (sniffing, etc.). Then, she moves into the middle of the yard at a good pace, tail high, etc., and investigates. Jimmy Joe does another quick butt sniff, but moves off quickly, and as soon as he does, Zoe’s tail relaxes. Then Jimmy Joe does a quick pass by – this is not by accident; he’s inviting Zoe to interact with him, but is not being pushy. Notice that Zoe is not bothered by this pass by, and actually walks over to the part of the yard Jimmy Joe is in (this is a big yard, and she has lots of options). Jimmy Joe continues to give Zoe opportunity without being pushy. Notice when she goes over to the fence, Jimmy Joe takes the opportunity to sniff and, it’s hard to tell, but it doesn’t look like Zoe lowers her tail (or at least not much).



      And then comes Pete! What a different story this is. Throughout this video, keep an eye out for Pete’s piloerection –you can see it better at some angles than others, but it’s always there unless he shakes off – throughout the video, Pete cuts Zoe off and invades her space.. Also, Zoe has some piloerection, so watch for that. So Pete comes out of the house and goes directly, head on, into Zoe’s space. He’s standing tall and stiff with a high, stiff tail wag, walks very slowly and gingerly, and you can see some piloerection close to his tail. Zoe stands very still (as she did initially with Jimmy Joe) and gets a few sniffs of her own in. Pete is very persistent and pushy, so I call him off to give the situation a little breather. Notice that when Pete gives Zoe some space, she does not follow him as she did with Jimmy Joe. Pete takes a little break but is back very quickly with his nose in Zoe’s butt, then walking stiff-legged around her head, with Zoe turning away from him. And, more of the same. Toward the end of the video, Zoe heads toward the fence, but Pete’s right on her, not giving her any breathing room, at all. After I stopped videoing, this continued for a bit, but eventually Pete was satisfied and everything went back to normal.



      Raising Canine has a large selection of webinars. To find the dog training course that’s right for you, click here:

  • Dog Behavior Training – Four Ways to Get Behavior

      In previous articles, we’ve discussed the four elements that must be present for learning to take place, and the four stages of learning a new behavior. By understanding these concepts, you’re on the path to learning to become a dog trainer. The next piece of the puzzle is how to actually get the behavior you want and the best dog behavior training methods.

      Again, there are four ways to get behavior in dog behavior training (four seems to be a very handy number):

      • Prompts
      • Capturing
      • Physical Manipulation
      • Shaping


      Prompts cover a lot of territory. To get a little wonky (and we’ll go much deeper into this in later articles), a prompt is an antecedent stimulus. An antecedent stimulus is simply something that sets the occasion for an animal to perform a behavior. In dog behavior training, we strive to find antecedent stimuli which will help the animal achieve the behavior we’re wanting it to learn, and prompts can be very useful in this regard.

      Generally, prompts help get the behavior initially – they give the animal enough extra information to head them in the right direction. However, before a behavior can be considered learned, the prompt must be faded. Some human examples of prompts might be:

      • Teaching a child to read – the child comes to the word “chalk” and is having difficulty, so the teacher might say “ch, ch, ch” which prompts the child to say “ch” and the rest of the word follows because he does understand the “alk” piece, having seen it before in words such as talk, walk, etc.


      • Teaching a child to tie his shoes – here are the “bunny ear” steps to tying shoelaces
        • Fold each end of the lace into a single “bunny ear. …
        • Cross the bunny ears so that they form an “X” in the air.
        • Loop the bottom bunny ear over and through the top bunny ear. …
        • Pull the bunny ears out to the side away from the shoe.
          The child can be prompted at any step, but often prompting is only needed at the first step, and the rest follows easily because it has been done before.

      Prompts can be all sorts of things: lures, targets, noises (verbal or physical such as finger snapping), etc.


      Capturing is when you reinforce an existing behavior. So, if your dog has a tendency to howl, if you reinforce him when he howls, he’s likely to howl more often, creating the opportunity for more reinforcement. So, as someone wanting to become a professional dog trainer, here’s a handy tip: If you have a dog that is really hard to get into a “down” position (which is not at all unusual, because that position puts the dog in a very vulnerable state), you can simply capture the behavior when the dog is relaxed and decides to lay down. That reinforcement will often get the dog to start laying down more often, and once it’s predictable, you can add in a cue. At that point, you have a dog that lays down on cue, and it happened through capturing.

      Physical Manipulation

      Physical manipulation means you actually place the animal into position. This is a technique that should be used with consideration. Physical manipulation is an aversive technique, which means that the animal is trying to avoid the pressure being put on him by the trainer. It can be fairly benign, such as lifting a dog’s paw to teach it to shake hands, or placing a barrier next to the dog to teach him to walk in a straight line. Or it can be quite painful and/or unpleasant, such as jerking on the leash and causing a slip collar to tighten around the dog’s neck, or rubbing the dog’s nose in its urine when the dog has had a house training accident.


      Shaping is not actually a way to get behavior, but it takes an existing behavior (capturing) and through successive approximations, moves the original behavior toward the trainer’s ultimate goal behavior. Shaping is used in conjunction with one or more of the above techniques: prompting, capturing, or physical manipulation.

      In producing my animal training courses and webinars, I try to include techniques that will produce the best online dog training course overall. As trainers, most of the behaviors we train will be shaped to some extent, so it is important to understand this concept in dog behavior training.

      That’s it for this article. This is a brief overview of the four ways to get behavior. We’ll go into more detail on each technique in future articles. If you want to learn more, here’s a good course:  How to Get Behavior

  • Become a Dog Trainer – 4 Stages – (Part 2)

      When learning how to become a dog trainer, remember that these principles apply to all animals, including humans. We’re specifically talking about dogs, but you can use them with any animal and should use them with owners to help them efficiently build their skill set.

      Now that we’re prepared with good timing, adequate motivation, achievable criteria and solid rate of reinforcement (see article: Dog Obedience Training – The 4 Elements That Must be Present for Learning to Take Place), we’re ready to go to the next phase and make sure you do know how to properly train a dog. Let’s discuss actually getting the behavior. There are four phases in learning a new behavior and they are:

      • Acquisition
      • Fluency
      • Generalization
      • Maintenance



      Acquisition is when the dog is actually learning the new behavior, i.e., making the associations between the cue and the behavior and the behavior and the consequence. If you really want to know how to become a dog trainer – a really good dog trainer – knowing how to get behavior is crucial. When you first start training a new behavior to a dog he has no idea what you want, so it’s trial and error on their part. A savvy dog who’s been trained in positive reinforcement methods will usually start trying different things until they hit on something close enough to be reinforced. From there, we shape it into the behavior we want. If the dog isn’t so savvy, we may need to help them out a little. We’ll discuss the four ways you can get behavior from a dog (including shaping) in the next article.


      Once the dog understands the behavior that is wanted – i.e., they’ve made an association between the cue and the behavior, and another association between the behavior and the consequence – we start working on fluency. Fluency is a combination of speed and accuracy. When the dog understands what the cue means and performs it quickly and accurately, then we can consider him to be fluent in that behavior. This is an important point – many trainers train for accuracy and consider the behavior fluent; however, fluency requires that the behavior also be performed speedily.

      In the process of learning to become a dog trainer, it’s helpful to examine some common examples of human behaviors which most adults will be extremely fluent in are things like driving, using eating utensils, tying our shoes, or just walking. All of these behaviors had to be learned, but we learned them when we were young, we’ve used them regularly for years, and today we’re very good at them – we’re fluent. We don’t have to think about stepping on the brake when a car pulls out in front of us, we just do it – we do it accurately and we do it quickly; that’s fluency.


      Generalization is the ability to take a new behavior and apply it under other contexts. Usually, generalization is going to deal with distance, duration, distraction and handler orientation (i.e., where is the handler in relation to the dog when he gives a cue).

      When an aspiring trainer finally manages to become a dog trainer, we often do generalization as part of the training process. For instance, if we’re teaching loose leash walking we address duration and distraction as part of the criteria – i.e., we don’t think of it as generalization, we think of it as criteria. If we’re teaching a formal stay, we address duration, distraction, and distance as part of the criteria. The goal is to get the dog to stay no matter what, so we think of these elements as criteria rather than generalization. And this is fine, as long as we understand what we’re doing and why.

      A great example of a behavior that often isn’t generalized, yet the owner thinks the behavior is well-learned and reliable, is house training. We are often fanatic about house training in our home, but if the dog goes to someone else’s house, they may eliminate. In fact, this probably happens more often than not, and that’s because the behavior hasn’t been generalized.


      Once a behavior is learned and fluent, it must be maintained. Practice makes perfect. An interesting exercise for those of you teaching classes and private basic obedience would be to periodically assess your clients after they’ve finished their lessons with you. I’d assess at the following times:

      • During last lesson
      • 3 months after last lesson
      • 1 year after last lesson
      • 5 years after last lesson


      I don’t know this for a fact, but I’ll bet they only use two to three of the behaviors they learned from you and the rest have been lost through disuse. If you find this to be true, it might be worth considering what behaviors you really need to teach. Perhaps fewer behaviors to higher fluency, better generalization, and more functionality (i.e., name recognition for recalls, leave it, loose leash walking, etc.) would make your clients happier over the long haul.

      An example of a behavior we might have once been fluent in but are no longer, could be something like handwriting. Although I do occasionally write by hand, in the computer age I don’t do it nearly as often as I did when I was younger, and I’m not nearly as good at it – not that I was ever very good! Any sport we played in high school and no longer play on a regular basis, is going to be less fluent than it once was.

      Okay, that’s it for the four stages of learning. In the next article  on ‘how to become a dog trainer’ we’ll talk about the four ways to actually get behavior during the acquisition phase of learning. Here’s an in-depth course: Understanding Learning Theory

  • Training a Rescue Dog: The Story of Guinness

      I’m compelled to tell this wonderful story about my pal Guinness. Guinness is about 11 years old and is a re-homed Cocker Spaniel who lives with my good friend Karen at Tails by the Bay in Homer, Alaska. Karen took Guinness into her home several years ago, and has lots of experience training a rescue dog, (or more accurately, re-training) as she has been involved in rescue for many years.

      We don’t know a lot about Guinness’s background, but we do know that he had some type of accident that injured his spine. He has had mobility issues since Karen got him, and they have been getting worse over the years.

      The first time I met Guinness was in the fall of 2016 when I went to Alaska to watch Karen’s dogs while she was out of town. At that time, Guinness was doing pretty well – he was walking and getting around fine, if a little bowlegged. I went up again this past summer and Guinness’s mobility had deteriorated to the point where Karen had purchased a cart to support his back legs. At this time, Guinness could no longer walk. He was able to scoot around on the floor by pulling himself with his front legs, but his back legs were pretty much useless.

      Well, Guinness didn’t need professional training for this – he took to the cart like a fish to water! What he really needed was some off leash dog training instruction! We had to keep a close eye on him, because he’d take off down the road like a sprinter, not realizing his limitations. He did take a couple of spills when rounding corners, but quickly learned not to panic and to wait to be righted. The cart has greatly improved Guinness’s quality of life – he’s now able to go out with the other dogs and able to go to the beach, again.

      UPDATE!! I just got this video from Karen.

      The cart (among some other things) has strengthened Guinness’s core to the point he can walk, again! Let’s hope he keeps improving and maybe won’t need the cart at all, someday.

      It’s so heartwarming to see his improvement. He’s a real trooper – at 9 ½, when most dogs are gearing down, Guinness is taking it to a higher level. And, not to be self-serving, but it’s really helped with the house training, as well. Not that Guinness wasn’t house trained, but now he can take himself outside, rather than having to wait for someone to put him in his cart and help him out.

      Here’s a course on Rescue Dog Training: Brainstorm   If you’d like to access more dog obedience training videos, check out our selection here– we have tons of them!

  • Dog Obedience Training – Four Key Elements

      This is the first in a series of articles on the science and art of animal training and dog obedience training. Although the discussion is about animal training, don’t forget that these principles apply equally to humans, so if you’re a professional animal trainer, don’t forget to apply them to your clients, as well as their pets.

      For canine obedience training, we have two problems we generally deal with: basic dog obedience training and dog behavior training. When dealing with behavior problems, we’re usually trying to reduce an unwanted behavior such as jumping up or separation anxiety. With obedience training, we’re teaching a dog to increase a desired behavior. For this series of articles, I’m going to focus on obedience training.

      There are some basic dog obedience training methods that most trainers know – but it never hurts to review them. So, let’s start at the beginning with the four pieces of the training puzzle that must be in place before a new behavior can be learned:

      • Timing
      • Motivation
      • Achievable Criteria
      • Rate of Reinforcement

      If any one of these pieces are missing, the dog is less likely to learn the behavior.


      Let’s start with timing. The “dog psychology” term for timing is contiguity – which is the proximity of a stimulus and response so that an association can be made between the two. In other words, the two events (stimulus and response – in this case, behavior and consequence) must happen close enough in time that the dog is able to make an association between the two.

      There are different “rules” about how much time can pass between the behavior and the consequence, but there’s no doubt that sooner is better. Probably the most common recommendation is that it should happen between one and three seconds; personally, I would be aiming for between immediately and one second. AND – this is very important – if you’re a clicker or marker trainer, the marker can give you some extra time, but I’d still be going for less than one second between both the behavior and the click and less than one second from the time of the click to delivery of the consequence. The clicker buys you time, but the food is the consequence.

      So what this means is, be prepared! Have treats in your hand, ready to be delivered. Don’t have them in your pocket, a baggie, or even your bait bag because it takes too much time to get to.


      We all know what motivation is – it’s the reason we do something. Motivation can be to acquire something or avoid something. In the science-based/positive reinforcement dog training community, we generally use something the dog wants such as food, toys, etc. For purposes of this article, we’ll use food as the consequence. Food is easy to work with, highly motivating, and helps achieve a high rate of reinforcement.

      You should use the smallest, least valuable reinforcer the dog will work for. Use smaller treats because you’ll be dispensing a lot of them and you don’t want to satiate the dog before you’ve completed the training session. As to the least reinforcing, well – save the big guns for more difficult challenges. Another thing to consider is when to break out the higher-value reinforcers. A lot of trainers jump to higher value treats as soon as the dog displays any indifference to the training session, or doesn’t appear to be learning. If the dog will eat the food if given freely, then it’s probably motivating enough for the training session. So, the problem is probably a function of criteria rather than motivation.


      Most trainers understand timing and motivation. Where they often go wrong is with criteria. Criteria is the behavior you want the animal to do now. This can include many things such as position, duration, distance, speed, level of distraction, and so on.

      The most important thing about criteria is that it should be achievable. If it isn’t achievable, all the motivation in the world isn’t going to help. In human terms, think about asking a 2nd grade school child to do a calculus problem. You can offer him $1,000.00, his favorite ice cream every day for the next year, whatever he wants. If he doesn’t know how to do it, the motivation isn’t going to help him.

      Additionally, criteria should be specifically defined. If the requirements change from moment to moment, you have very fuzzy criteria and you’re going to get fuzzy behavior. In a later article, we’ll discuss specifically how to set criteria – when to raise it and how much to raise it.

      Rate of Reinforcement

      Rate is about how often something happens in a given period of time. Rate of frequency refers to the number of times a behavior occurs within a specified period of time. Rate of frequency is how we measure learning – is the frequency of the behavior increasing or decreasing? If not, then the animal is not learning what we’re attempting to train. Reinforcement refers to the consequence that increases a specified behavior. As we know, behavior is consequence driven – i.e., we are likely to repeat or not repeat a behavior, depending on the consequence of that behavior. So, rate of reinforcement is the number of times a reinforcer is delivered for performance of a specified behavior within a designated period of time.

      Timing, motivation, criteria, and rate of reinforcement are the four elements that must be present for learning to take place.

      In fact, if behavior is changing these four elements are in place – the trainer may or may not be aware that they’re in place, but they are. A good trainer knows they are necessary and arranges their training around them.

      These same principles also apply to puppy obedience as well as when training an older dog. For that matter, they apply when teaching horses, cats, cockroaches and humans!

      The next article will discuss the four stages of learning. Meanwhile, I will be presenting a webinar on this topic in January, so if you’d like to learn more, check it out!

      NOTE: Since this is the first article in this series, I thought I’d bring this up now. Early in your career, you should know what to call yourself. A lot of dog trainers call themselves “dog behaviorists.” However the term “behaviorist” is an earned title that takes a lot of work, so out of respect for our affiliated professionals, we should not refer to ourselves as dog behaviorists unless we have earned that title. I suggest the term “dog behavior consultant.”

      Susan Smith is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer as well as a Certified Dog Behavior Training Consultant. She has co-authored the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Dogs and has authored or sponsored hundreds of online dog training courses.

  • Dog Trainer Online Course – Branding
      Branding For Dog Trainers

      Brand Building is Essential for Professional Animal Trainers

      For those of you who aren’t aware, I launched my new dog trainer online course website, Raising Canine in 2013. A project three years in the making! Because it’s been such a long and arduous process, I thought I’d share my thought process with you.

      When I started this incarnation of Raising Canine, I planned on addressing education for all companion animals (i.e., dogs, cats, parrots and horses). While keeping my dog trainer online course, I also recruited speakers for various species and do have a nice selection of cat and parrot courses. During this process, I realized that my business name, Raising Canine, was not helping me when it came to the other species offerings, so I decided to change my name. After some thought, I came up with the name “Animal Ed.”

      Changing my name from Raising Canine to Animal Ed was an emotionally difficult transition, as I love the name Raising Canine, and it is a well-known name in our industry. However, I decided this is a business decision – not an emotional decision – so I decided to gird my loins and do it. I used Animal Ed for about a year, and even put out one major product using that name – Cara Shannon’s DVD, “Bad to the Bone.”

      After about a year, I took a look at my financials and decided that I would be better served targeting dog trainers, rather than consultants for other species. I wasn’t as well known with other species as I was with my dog trainer online course, and I didn’t have the contacts to create a rich and varied selection of educational offerings, as I did with dogs. So, I decided to go back to Raising Canine. What a mess! However, I’m very glad I made that decision, even if it was bit of a sticky wicket.

      So, the moral of this story is, market narrowly and deliver broadly. Does this seem to be a recurring theme with me? I have a lot of really great education for dog trainers; however, probably half (or more!) of that education applies equally to consultants of other species. So, I’ll target dog trainers and if cat consultants want to learn from my offerings, great! I’m happy to oblige.

  • My Twelve Dogs of Christmas

      On the first day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the second day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the third day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Gretchen, who’s shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the fourth day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Jackson the guarder
      Gretchen, who’s shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the fifth day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Betti the meanderer
      Jackson the guarder
      Gretchen, who is shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the sixth day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Arlo the Grinch
      Betti the meanderer
      Jackson the guarder
      Gretchen, who is shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the seventh day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me|
      Annabelle for loving
      Arlo the Grinch
      Betti the meanderer
      Jackson the guarder
      Gretchen, who is shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the eighth day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Jake who’s big and golden
      Annabelle for loving
      Arlo the Grinch
      Betti the meanderer
      Jackson the guarder
      Gretchen, who is shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the ninth day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Kenny for to play with
      Jake who’s big and golden
      Annabelle for loving
      Arlo the Grinch
      Betti the meanderer
      Jackson the guarder
      Gretchen, who is shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the tenth day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Grace with the sloe eyes
      Kenny for to play with
      Jake who’s big and golden
      Annabelle for loving
      Arlo the Grinch
      Betti the meanderer
      Jackson the guarder
      Gretchen, who is shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the eleventh day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Sky who loves to linger
      Grace with the sloe eyes
      Kenny for to play with
      Jake who’s big and golden
      Annabelle for loving
      Arlo the Grinch
      Betti the meanderer
      Jackson the guarder
      Gretchen, who is shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

      On the twelfth day of Christmas
      My clients sent to me
      Zeppelin , so happy
      Sky who loves to linger
      Grace with the sloe eyes
      Kenny for to play with
      Jake who’s big and golden
      Annabelle for loving
      Arlo the Grinch
      Betti the meanderer
      Jackson the guarder
      Gretchen, who is shy
      Copper my sweet boy
      And Jimmy Joe, Lord of the Manor

  • Special Needs Dogs – with Jules Nye

      Savor the satisfaction of helping a client with a really difficult challenge! Just because a dog is deaf and/or blind doesn’t mean his brain doesn’t work. These dogs are just as intelligent as “Joe Normal” dogs, and training them just means using some critical thinking to be a creative problem solver. Learn how to use the other senses to train the most requested owner behaviors using positive reinforcement techniques.


      Some key points that will be covered:

      • How do dogs become deaf / blind?
      • What are the symptoms?
      • How can you test if a dog is deaf?
      • Are vibration collars a good idea?
      • Why do some deaf / blind dogs become aggressive or develop anxiety?
      • What cues and behaviors can I teach my dog?
      • Is ASL the best for training a deaf dog?
      • How do you communicate?
      • How to handle relationships between other house hold pets after your dog goes deaf / blind?
      • How to avoid major problems & aggression?
      • Do I need to euthanize my dog?


      To enroll, click: Training Deaf and/or Blind Dogs

  • Raising Canine – Dog Trainer Education Website Launch

      I was so happy to get this up, and so pleased with my new look, that I really wanted to do something special. I was mulling it over, wishing I was a storefront instead of an Internet-based business, when I thought “Why can’t I have a grand opening? There’s no rule that says grand openings are only for physical stores.” So I took that thought and ran with it. The advantage of a website grand opening is that it doesn’t have to be just one day – it can be all month long!

      And so it will be; Raising Canine’s Website Grand Opening will take place throughout the month of October. There are all kinds of things going on this month – here are just a few of the highlights:

      • Free telecourses
      • Great prizes
      • A remote group hypnosis session

      We have four Grand prizes up to $1500 in value, and we also have a bunch of first prize DVDs and books which will be given away throughout the month. Everybody who enters will win something. Below is a list of the telecourses that will be going on this month, so check them out. Here’s the link to the Grand Opening page on my website so you can enroll in the drawing, if you want. While you’re there, please take the time to fill out the survey. Thanks for participating!

      Grand Opening