Are You An Animal Communicator?

Telepathy. Can you hear me now?

Do I have to be psychic?

Animal training is animal communication.  While I have known gifted psychic animal communicators, psychic skills are not necessary to communicate with your dog. You may not have thought of training in these terms before, but I want you to consider this concept.

Animal training is animal communication. You communicate what you want your animal to do. Your animal will also talk back.

What you do need, is patience, observational skills, and the ability to use those observations to understand what your dog is saying.

The kind folks at Oregon Dog Life have posted my article. You can read the rest by clicking HERE.

Want to know more about how to communicate with your dog? Check out my book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. If you purchase from my publisher, use the coupon code “dct-ftg” for 15% off!



Talking About Dogs on Pet Radio Show!

Good Dogs!
Good Dogs!

I was interviewed on Pet Radio last week! We had a lovely conversation about dog care, understanding dog behavior and how to train your dog. Give a listen by clicking here.

I’m in the second half of the program, starting 22 minutes in. A big thank you to Robert Hudson for the opportunity to talk with all his listeners. Check out his Oregon Dog Life, and Pet Radio Show  websites and give his Facebook pages a like here and here.

For more about how to understand your dog, establish clear communication and develop a lasting bond, check out my book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. Click on that link and use the coupon code ‘dct-ftg’ (all lower case!) at check out for 15% off!


My Dog Asked To Wear His Thundershirt


I’ll admit I was skeptical of these. None of my previous dogs were sound-sensitive, and I doubted that tight swaddling would have the same effect on a dog that it does on a human. Turns out I’m wrong, as I found out from direct experience.

Xander is my Great Pyrenees/Lab mix. Isn’t he just adorable? I bought him a Thundershirt last year, and had it on him a few times. It seemed to have only limited success from what I saw, but Xander apparently felt different about his anxiety-reducing garment.


He is the least confident dog I’ve ever had. Belgian sheepdogs aren’t known for their shy, retiring natures, and my Lab, well, she’s a Lab; everyone’s her friend and fear is unknown to her. But for such a big dog, Xander is remarkably…timid, especially when it comes to sounds. We no longer host our big 4th of July party – much to our friend’s dismay.

However, I couldn’t hear anything when he woke me up at 4:30 this morning, scrabbling around in the adjoining room. It was early, but not unusual for the dogs to need to go out at this time. So up I got and out they went. The wind was whipping but it wasn’t raining, Xander quickly returned to the door and wanted back in.

Once back inside, his continuing distress was clear; he was pacing, panting and licking his lips. He would sit and lean against me for a time for comfort, but then look off into the distance over my shoulder and growl. I checked, but nope, no ghosts in the house.

Then I saw the flash outside in the darkened sky and it all made sense. He could hear the thunder I couldn’t.

We went into the basement where it would be quieter, and I turned on the TV to help drown out the thunder. Golly ate her breakfast right away, unfazed by the distant storm. Did I mention she’s a Lab? Xander did not, which is not unusual when he’s nervous. What he did next though, took me completely by surprise.

He walked up to his Thundershirt, draped over a nearby chair and nosed it. Then turned at looked directly into my eyes. I didn’t need any psychic animal communication skills to understand what he was asking. I picked it up, held it out and he promptly sat down to let me wrap it around his body. He even sighed with relief.

He may not be the bravest, but he’s certainly one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had.

Within a minute of getting wrapped up in his Thundershirt, Xander had stopped pacing and panting. He sat and leaned against me, then sank down and nudged his way under my feet with another relieved sigh.


He was snoring a few minutes later. Thank you Thundershirt!

Is your dog sound sensitive? Does your friend whine, cower, or try to escape from loud sounds like thunder,  heavy machinery, or fireworks? It’s important to know the behaviors that signal your dog is in distress – Xander paces, whines, pants, and licks his lips, but other dogs may dig, run, hide or bark.

If you see your dog reacting stressfully to loud sounds, what should you do?

The last thing you want to do is try to reassure him or her. Petting, saying things like “It’s okay” or “You’re a good dog” can actually reinforce your dog’s stress reaction, even amplify it. Pet parents sometimes find it difficult to understand this because the behaviors we humans find comforting – hugging, petting  – often do not translate as soothing or calming to our dogs. Try to avoid these if your dog is acting stressed.

Instead focus on projecting calm and confidence. When you do speak, do it in low, gentle tones. Avoid using the voice or cue words that mean “Good dog!” as these are easily interpreted as meaning his stress reaction is appropriate.

If your dog comes and leans against you, it’s okay to put a reassuring hand on a shoulder or hip, but don’t pet or scratch. Let it rest with some heaviness – let your dog feel the weight of your hand and arm – but don’t press her against you.

Try turning up the TV or radio and distracting your dog with a toy. However if your pet is so stressed that they won’t engage with you, you may want to look into a Thundershirt for your pet. You can find their website here. It has excellent information and links to the science behind the Thundershirt’s effectiveness.

Helping your dog to reduce his anxiety will build his confidence in himself and you!

More Off Leash Zones? Why This is a Bad Idea.


They’re having so much fun! Every dog should have the chance to run and play off leash, right? Yes, of course! But also no. I know, it’s contradictory, but bear with me.

I live in Seattle, and I read this article this morning. It did not fill me with warm fuzzies. It says that Seattle’s off leash policy is under review, and the Parks Department is considering allowing dogs off leash in nature parks, like Lincoln Park.

I do not use dog parks, for a number of reasons, but I support their presence and yes, they fulfill a very important need. But dog parks are not for every dog, and not every dog parent who wants to exercise their dog wants them mixing with lots of other dogs. Many dog parents have shy, reactive dogs. Or older dogs who are not looking for lots of playmates. Or disabled dogs that can’t interact with other dogs and are at risk of injury. The list goes on, so I’ll say it now even though it’ll probably make me unpopular.

Your dog’s right to “run free” does not trump my right to be unmolested by loose dogs.

When I first moved to Seattle, I was attacked three times in the first six months by loose dogs while I was out walking my Belgian sheepdog, Domino. In one case I was set on by three dogs. I don’t know what I would’ve done if those two men driving by hadn’t rescued me and helped drive the dogs off. Domino was a great dog, but those attacks scarred him and he was never the same after.  His strategy became “the best defense is a good offense.” It took quite a bit of work to get him past his fearful aggressive reactions. He mellowed even more when we got Golly and at last walking him was not an exercise in stress management – his and mine – when we saw a loose dog.


You want to know what’s really sad? Domino used to love dog parks. I frequented a number of them when I lived in San Diego, and he had a great time. It took just six months to demolish his joy in other dogs. He did eventually become much less reactive, and a perfect gentleman out on walks, even with other dogs passing by. But it would always make me cringe when I saw a loose dog come running toward us. I could see at a glance that the majority of these dogs were not aggressive, but Domino was rarely in a mood to make a new friend.

“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” The owner would call with a smile and a casual wave. When I would put my body between Domino and the other dog and say “Yeah, well my dog’s not, would you please call your dog back?” I would inevitably get the sneer, or the scornful look that said “You’re a bad owner for bringing an aggressive dog out here to the park.” Occasionally I even got a lecture on socializing my dog. Um. Yeah. Listen Princess, you’re the one breaking the law not me, and you do not know my dog’s history. You’re the one putting your little Fluffy at risk.

Sadly, Domino’s story is not an unusual one. Not every dog wants to run free, surrounded by tens or even hundreds of other dogs. Not every dog deserves that either. Yes, I said it. The aggressive, badly socialized dog does not deserve to run free and terrorize other park users, human or canine. The city’s parks are for everyone to use, and this means that everyone needs to act responsibly. This means keeping your dog on leash.

Why? Because people who have been bitten by a dog and are phobic have a right to feel safe walking in the park. People who want to sit on a blanket on a sunny afternoon with their family have the right to not get splashed with urine because a dog lifts his leg on the tree next to where they’re sitting. Or have their picnic trashed when the dog runs onto the blanket, kicking sand all over it.

But what? You’re a good dog parent with a well socialized dog? Yes, I get it. I do. I have a friend who has her dog very well trained. And she sometimes lets him off leash. *gasp* But she is constantly paying attention to her surroundings. When other walkers come into view she calls her dog back to her and leashes him up. This is almost always before the other party is aware of us and our dogs. She also keeps him to the trail. But she is the exception, not the rule.

If you are in this category, bravo. I’m not worried about you. I’ve seen you out there too, because we spot each other at the same time and get our dogs quickly back to our side and under control. We usually let our dogs say hi and maybe have a quick play session before moving on our way.

But to be honest, not every dog or dog parent falls into this category. In fact, most don’t. Because it takes a lot of time, and work to train your dog to that level. Most have their dog sorta trained to come when called but when they turn their dog loose they start playing on their phone and only look up occasionally. And this is what we will get if we ease the leash law. It will be by far the majority of off leash users. Let’s not give the folks who are not dog lovers extra ammunition in their negative perceptions of dog parents and the dogs we love.

I totally agree. Everyone should train their dog to have a strong recall, and exhibit trail courtesy when they’re out, but not not everyone does. That is just a fact. To dismiss that little fact is a disservice to everyone else who wants to go out for a stroll in the park.

Being a responsible dog parent means you control your dog so that you live amicably with your neighbors. This means using a leash to keep your dog from becoming a nuisance. And frankly, that’s what this easing of the leash law would make of dogs. I can guarantee that not every dog parent who unsnaps their dog’s leash is going to monitor and control their dog to the level my friend does with her dog. Guarantee it. Because I see it frequently.

So does the City Parks department, and you can read about the negative impact dogs have on our nature parks here. Dogs are destructive to wildlife and plants. They are; sorry, but sometimes the truth hurts. They scare off nesting birds and resting marine mammals. They damage sensitive habitat either by running over delicate plants, digging them up or eliminating on them. “Not my dog, it’s just this once.” And that’s what the next ten, and the next ten all say. It all adds up. The damaging effects are cumulative.

Our parks would not be nearly as lush, lovely and thriving if it was not for the efforts of staff and volunteers alike who work to control invasive plants and encourage native growth through new plantings. Their job though is made much harder when the habitat they’re trying to preserve and protect is trampled into the ground. It’s bad now. In the study quoted in this article, 25% of the dogs were off leash, with most heading off trail into the woods and other sensitive areas. And this is with a leash law fully in effect. If we want our nature parks to thrive, we all need to be good stewards and protect them. Which means staying on trail, you and your dog.

I don’t want to do away with dog parks. We need them, we really do, and for a whole lot of dogs they are a little slice of heaven on earth. I would support additional dedicated and fenced off leash areas. But I cannot support the idea of easing the policy of keeping dogs leashed in a general use park. It’s simply not the best policy for all park users.


Dog Parenting Done Right – Train With Baby Steps


The phrase ‘take baby steps’ describes finishing a task or working through a problem in small increments. Rather than trying to tackle a large issue in one big gulp, you work at in in small, manageable bites.

In animal training ‘successive approximations’ are the ‘baby steps’ that make up training a complex, multi-step behavior. I describe this concept in detail in my book Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. But there is a related training concept that complements successive approximations: systematic desensitization.

This is used in humans to treat things like anxiety and phobias. In dogs, it can help with these as well as other training situations.

And you can combine the two to teach your dog some really cool stuff. We’ve all seen those cute memes and cards that have dogs posing with props; sunglasses, clothes, bottles or well, anything really. To catch that perfect pic though is a combination of photographic and training skill.

What? You didn’t think they just slapped those glasses on the dog and took the pic, did you?

Ok, sure, some dogs are extremely tolerant from the start and can be dressed up without any fuss. Most dogs though, need some familiarity with whatever it is that is being put on or near their body. Training your dog to take those super cute pics requires that you systematically desensitize the dog to the object being on or near the dog, and approximate the dog into the desired position. I also talk about this in my post about dogs and Halloween.

While decorating for the holidays I wanted to take some fun  pictures of Xander and came up with the idea of draping lights around him and getting him to pose. But I knew he wasn’t going to just sit there and let those crazy blinky wires wrap around him unless he got to know them first.

So the first thing I asked him to do was just come up and be close to the light string.


The Blinky Stringy Thing just lays there and does nothing, and Xander has no problem being right next to it. While this might not be a very big deal to some dogs, for others anything new in their environment is a Great Big Scary.

He’s looking at me with that big, goofy smile because he knows I’ve got yummy treats. I’ve asked him to Sit and Stay next to the new Blinky Stringy Thing, which means he has to remain in that position while I walk away. While Xander is just fine with this, for some dogs, being far away from Mama or Daddy while next to something potentially dangerous (at least in their eyes) is very stressful. Teach them to be less fearful by rewarding calm behavior as you slowly approximate them closer to a scary object while you move farther away. Baby steps!

Progressing to the next level involves Blinky Stringy Thing touching Xander.


First, I have it just barely touching his legs and side.





Then I drape it over his legs.




And finally, lay it over his back.




At each step of the way I gave Xander treats and verbal encouragement. In between each step I released Xander so he could get up, move around and relax. This is important! Allowing Xander to relax away from Blinky String, even for a few moments can be just as rewarding as a treat. I used those moments to give Xander a good scratch and some ear rubs.

Each little step was treated as a fun, quick interaction. For Xander it wasn’t scary, it was playtime with Mama.


Xander was fine when the BST was only loosely placed on him, but when I wrapped it a little tighter, look what happens to his attitude.


But just a few more sessions of wrapping and unwrapping, and I had this.


Until finally, I had him looking like this.


All this took me maybe an hour. I did use a clicker, although in this particular instance a clicker is not a critical tool. It went quickly with Xander because he’s used to working with novel items in his environment. This was the first time I asked him to let me wrap something around him, but he handled it like a pro. He’s such a good dog!

Can you think of ways to adapt this technique to help your dog? Does your dog need to learn how to manage stressful situations? Or do you want to teach your dog how to be the next Doggie Supermodel? Tell me about it down below!

Need Help Training Your Dog? You Need This Book!


My first book! Not my last I’m sure but there’s something special about your first. It’s been two years in the making and I am so very pleased to share Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS with you.

Training your dog, or any animal, depends upon communication. There must be a clear and open channel between you and your dog or you will both end up frustrated. And here’s a secret:  your dog already is an expert on you. He knows what it means when you pick up your keys and put on your coat. She knows it’s bedtime when you turn off the TV and get up off the couch late at night. Your dog knows everything about you because your dog excels at reading body language and facial expressions.

Here’s another secret:  Your dog is going to act and react based on what your body and face are doing. This may or may not be the same as what you tell him to do. If you don’t understand and use this secret when you train and interact with your dog you will have problems. Knowing how to read your dog and communicate with her is the key to successfully training your dog.

That is why you need this book. I’ll teach you how to open and maintain a clear communication channel between you and your dog.

You can order Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS by following this link. If you use the following coupon code:


The publisher will give you 15% off the price! How cool is that?

I know you will love this book! I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and I am excited to share with you the secrets of dog training success.

Dog Parenting Done Right – Is Halloween Scary For Your Dog?


Have you ever seen a dog freak out at something new in it’s environment? Sometimes introducing new items can be stressful. While we want to minimize stress in our animals, it’s unrealistic to expect to eliminate it all the time. It’s important to teach them to handle stress – so they don’t freak out at the least little thing. Teach a dog to handle stress and you’ll have a dog that will learn to be calm and resilient and look to you for guidance and support.

“Sure, easier said than done!” I hear you…believe me. It’s not like we can tell our dogs “Relax, it’s okay. See? It’s nothing to worry about.”

Except, you can. In fact, you should if you want to have a happy, well-adjusted furry companion. As a good, responsible dog parent you should know your dog well enough to anticipate something that might scare him and take steps to help him.

I decided to decorate my house this year for the holidays. I’ve felt a bit Scroog-y the last couple years and haven’t done anything. Well, this year, I’m changing that! Scrooginess just doesn’t feel good. So off to the store I went for some Halloween fun to make my living room a little more festive…


But this guy has never seen Halloween decorations. And knowing Xander’s temperament I knew he’d need some help to not fear the Grim Reaper-ish baubles I brought home.

The new Halloween decoration elements included draping a table and some boxes with a black sheet, pumpkins, skeletal props, tinsel garland and lights. Oh yeah, and a giant, pose-able spider.


You can see he looks less than thrilled to be there. When he first saw just the draped table he growled at it. From his perspective, a giant black blob was suddenly sitting next to the bed he likes to sleep on. I might feel a little growly too. He paced back and forth eyeing it suspiciously.

Have you ever seen your dog do this? With or without the growling?

I called Xander to me, away from what was scaring him. He has a soft temperament, and is the least confident dog I’ve ever owned. But, he knows that I will take care of him, and will not ask him to do anything that is dangerous to him. He also knows I will ask him to face his fears and work through them. Together we are slowly building his confidence. But it does take work, and a certain amount of forethought on my part.

I first had to get him to realize the big black form was not going to morph into a table demon and eat us. So I went and sat next to it. I didn’t call him, I didn’t require he come over to me, I just sat there and talked to him in a soft voice. I specifically avoided the words “Good dog” and “It’s okay”. Instead I just sort of babbled: “You’re not afraid of this are you? It’s just the table. It’s nothing.”

He quickly got up the courage to approach me, although at first he carefully did not look at the table and positioned so my body was between him and it. I suppose he figured a table demon would take me first and give him time to make his escape. I reassured him by gently rubbing his face and ears, and when he actually relaxed and looked at the table normally – without giving it the side eye, or growling – I told him he was good and popped a treat in his mouth.

With some verbal encouragement and a few more treats he was soon sniffing the draped table like it was an old friend. He wandered away and came back later when I had added things! Oh no!


Teaching Xander that the table and it’s goodies won’t hurt him took me less than a day, but I did it in tiny little bits, like maybe a minute at the most each time. I’d use treats to encourage him to sniff the different items, ask him to sit or lay down and release him before he had a chance to feel too uncomfortable. Yes, I asked him to push past his comfort barriers as you can see in the pictures, but I didn’t ask him to stay there very long. Instead, he learned that small amounts of stress are manageable.

How do you know Xander is not entirely happy in these pictures? Look at his face – tight, tense lips, folded back ears, and his muscles and body are tense and poised to spring up as soon as I say he can.



I used “successive approximations” to teach Xander the confidence that he could see new things that made him uneasy and learn that just because it’s scary at first doesn’t mean it has to stay scary forever. By the time I was done decorating he was calm and relaxed around everything. Even meeting my centerpiece was no big deal, check it out:

Now look at how calm he is:


In my book Dog Care And Training For The GENIUS I teach you how to devise a training plan to help your dog through tense or stressful situations. Look for it to be published next month!

Thank you for stopping by! Be sure to say hi in the comments below!

Dogs + Kids = Bites! Yikes!


The kids playing with the family dog is a classic scene, it evokes warm fuzzy feelings. Sadly the warm fuzzies are replaced with fear and pain if the family dog bites a child. In today’s world a dog that bites is very often a dog that is surrendered to a shelter. A dog with a bite history is extremely unlikely to be adopted and are among the first to be euthanized.

Which is a tragedy because most dog bites are preventable. An animal will almost always give you a warning that a bite is imminent if you know what to look for.

If you’re a dog parent that has your dog around children it is your responsibility to know your dog’s behavior clues that indicate stress or anxiety and reduce or eliminate those stressors. This isn’t always easy today when we are literally bombarded by images of animals on social media. The images form the basis of funny jokes or memes that make us laugh, or are labeled cute and elicit the “Awwwww” response. So we see something that we have a positive emotional reaction to and in our hearts and minds we assume the dog is also having a good time.

This is very far from being true. But because we think the dog is okay with being squeezed or kissed or held up in midair we miss the dog’s cues that they aren’t happy. And when we miss early warning signs, dogs move on to the one you can’t miss:  a bite. If you’re lucky it’s a quick growl and a snap that doesn’t make contact, but even that is pushing your dog too far.

I found this video recently. It’s important enough that I want to share it as far and wide as possible. Everyone with a kid and a dog should watch.

I’ve raised and trained lots of different kids of animals but I have nearly zero experience with one very important kind of critter – children. I don’t have any of my own and I’ll be blunt here I’m not very good with them. So I have never had to integrate dogs and kids into a family unit. The first time I watched that video I cried because none of the dogs in that video are happy, at best they are uncomfortably tolerant. At worst they are in pain or even afraid. But most people will only see the adorable kids and their beaming faces and assume it’s all good.

Watch it again, but now pay attention to the expressions on the dogs faces. Instead of thinking “oh that’s funny” I want you look at how tense the dog’s eyes and mouths are, how they flatten their ears or turn their heads away from being smooched. As it says in the video they are trying to be good but you should not let your dog get pushed into any situation that puts such a look on its face.

I found this video on this website. It’s called Stop the 77 because their data shows that 77% of dog bites are either the family dog or a friend’s dog. They have put together a program to help you learn how to teach your kids how to safely interact with dogs. I really love it. If you have kids and you have dogs you need to go there and check it out. Fun videos and educational materials make it super easy to teach your kids to be safe around dogs.

Really. I mean it. You need to visit this website. The information there could make the difference between having a much loved famity member for life or getting rid of your dog.