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The City Is After My Barking Dog.

Q: Help my dog is disturbing the peace.  As soon as I open the back door, my dog runs outside and starts to bark until we bring them back in.  One of my neighbors called the police once on me already. But what can I do, my dog does have to go outside once in a while.

“The SOUND OF SILENCE is a beautiful thing”, says Gregg Henson Radio Host for 97.1 FM. His three dogs were always barking 24/7. Now he thoroughly enjoys the sound of silence in his house, after training with Alternative Canine Training. Barking is just symptoms to a deep rooted problem.  You can always put a bark collar on a lonely, bored dog that is locked up in a kennel behind the garage.  The dog may now be quiet, however; the dog will still be lonely and bored.

No matter what the symptoms are, your dog is barking for just three major reasons

  1. Alarm barking is a low pitch woof, woof
    1. It means your dog thinks he is a police officer on duty.
    2. That means that he is Alpha and you have a problem of leadership in your household.
  2. Separation anxiety is a high pitch frustrated type of the barking.
  3. Your dog is bored and has nothing to do or he just likes to bark

Dogs do not need to bark to communicate, relieve frustration, or to be happy.   Barking dogs are actually expressing the exact opposite emotion. To understand you need to look at why dogs bark. If you have ever walked through a typical neighborhood that has fences and you walk past a house with multiples dogs, they may suddenly start fighting.  Why? Because, only the top dog in a pack does the barking or the protecting. The top dog might consider you to be a threat to their territory, but the dog barking next to them is a threat to their social position. This social position is far more important than the territorial threat. They will put the other dog in its place, and then worry about you and the territory. This is why if a dog knows and understands that you are top dog, they will gladly give you the job of barking at intruders.

We see this time and time again that once we make it no longer the dog’s business to bark at everything, along with implementing our special program, the dog becomes calm, relaxed and happy. Their eyes are no longer darting nervously around looking at who and what they should bark at or worry about. They are also no longer frustrated.

Yes, some breeds are genetically more prone to bark.  Shelties are one breed that tends to be notorious barkers. Beagles and many of your hounds were bred to bark, their loud bay bark allowed a hunter to follow the dog to the game.  Terriers tend to be a little territorial and bark to tell everyone, that wherever they are, they own it. Silence can be achieved with these breeds but it will take a little more work.

Often time’s owners express the desire to have their dogs bark. It makes them feel more secure because they want their dogs to protect the house. The problem arises when they can’t get the dog to be quiet or the dog starts to carry this protectiveness one step further.    Yes, someday this dog might bite. You can’t have your cake and eat it to.  If you work now with getting your dog not to bark then, in the long run, when your dog is finally fully mature and you become lax with training, your dog might still start barking when someone is at the door but that will be fine, since now you can say, “Thank You for telling me someone is at the door, now be quiet”. The dog will be quiet as it is your position to bark or protect.

Obviously, prevention is worth a pound of cure.  If you worked on making your dog be quiet while it is a puppy, then keeping it quiet as an adult is simple. If you didn’t give the puppy proper structure and guidance, the dog will take it upon themselves to be the leader and start their new job which is “barking”.

So how do we get them to stop barking? For puppies, first of all never let your puppy out of the kennel when they whine or bark because this will be the start of them barking. When a puppy starts barking, often times by just saying loudly “aaaght, quiet” and then clapping your hands or tapping the top of their crate will stop the barking. Once again, we need to find what behavioral interruptible approach will work based on your dog’s temperament. This means that using whatever negative sound will interrupt the bad behavior so we can praise the good behavior. If your dog hates water, try using a squirt bottle. You might try using noise devices as your second option. A thrown “shaking can” or plastic water bottle with 4 to 5 pennies or washers inside it will get their attention. NEVER hit the dog with these items. Remember that you are just tossing them in the dog’s direction along with saying “aaaght” to stop the barking. You could also try an ultrasonic device or the “Pet Convincer”. If you have a bullet-proof type of dog, than you might need to invest in a citronella collar.  You can also teach the dog to bark on command but then never give the command. We would only recommend a bark collar as a last resort or if the owner lived in an apartment or condo and was about to be evicted. If you stay diligent and correct the dog every time they bark, the barking will soon stop. You can have the sound of silence.

December 2, 2019 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Traumatic Experience at The Vet’s Office, Not My Dog

Going to the veterinarian’s office doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.  There are several things that you can do in advance and while you are there, to keep the experience from being traumatic.

  1. Happy veterinary visit: Make a visit with your dog to the vet’s office just to say “Hello”.  Most Veterinary offices encourage these happy treat visits. Walk in the office and give a treat to the staff to give to your dog.  Now your dog gets treats and some pets, this place is fun!
  2. Try to stay calm yourself: Being nervous makes your dog nervous.  I know you may be very nervous yourself, worrying about what the vet might find, however; it is no different than taking a child to the doctors.  If you act worried and relay this to a child by saying, “don’t worry it won’t hurt a bit, you’ll be OK”, the child might refuse to get out of the car. Instead talk to your dog as if you were just going over to a friend’s house.
  3. Keep your dog safe while at the vet’s: Not all dogs want a young enthusiastic dog running up to them, especially if they are not feeling well.  Keep your dog under control by keeping them in a ‘sit’ or a ‘down stay’.  You can also take their favorite toy and try to keep them focused on you, not the other dogs.
  1. Be proactive and desensitize: Make sure to accustom your dog to being touched and handled before the veterinary visit. Dogs accustomed to being touched won’t mind when the ear scope is put in their ear or their teeth are being looked at.  Hence, instead of fighting back and feeling threatened, your dog will think they are getting petted.
  2. Teach them to stand and stay: This will make your veterinarian’s job easier in examining your dog. If the dog is constantly moving around, the veterinarian may miss something.

Even if you are lucky and you only have to take your dog to the veterinary once a year for their vaccinations, by following these steps your dog won’t mind going to doctor at all.


November 2, 2019 at 8:53 pm Leave a comment

Why Does My Dog Dig?

QUESTION:  My Siberian Husky has a problem, he loves to dig. He seems to only enjoy digging in dirt and rarely digs in the grass area.

Digging can become a very expensive hobby for you and your dog.  If only you could get him to dig were you wanted, you could hire him out to a landscaping company.  After all, your excavating, landscaping, Siberian husky just needs a job.

Dogs dig for several reasons;

  • Some are hardwired in their breed traits.  We routinely see owners of Terriers, whose backyards look like they have been through a major excavation.
  • Some of them dig because they have nothing else to do, they are bored.
  • Some digging starts when the warm weather arrives. Since the earth is still cooler, a couple of inches down, dogs dig to cool down. They dig a nice cool spot.
  • Some dogs dig for recreation, because it is fun and is a sense of accomplishment.  I always think of children at the beach building sand castles.  It is a lot of fun and also a sense of accomplishment because it stays there after they have left.

When a puppy learns that something is fun, they will continue to do this as an adult dog. This is why it is so important to supervise your puppy or new dog, when they are left outside to their own demise.  The other most important thing is to make sure that you exercise your dog.  Give them physical and mental exercise by doing obedience in the area that they dig.  A tired dog is a good dog. If you get your dog to run as fast as he can for 15 – 20 minutes twice a day and you have stimulated his mind through obedience; then he will be too busy and too tired to dig up your yard.

Dogs do not learn in the same way we learn.  They are more like teenagers; you can no longer tell them anything, they know it all.  Often Teenagers can only learn by the consequence of their behavior. Dogs only learn by the consequence of their behavior, whether it is positive or negative. Positive will increase a behavior and negative will decrease the behavior. This is why if you let the environment correct the dog, they learn very quickly.

One of the oldest procedures and simplest for stopping unwanted digging is do a little poop patrol in your yard and instead of disposing of the feces, deposit it in the hole.  Nothing ruins a person’s walk in the park more than stepping in a pile of someone else’s dog poop, nor for a dog when digging and finding that their paws have a most peculiar odor.  If you catch them in the act of digging, yell loudly “ Aaaah No Dig”, “What do you think you’re doing?”  You can also loudly clap your hands or use any other behavioral interruptible correction, such as a “shaking can” or pet convincer.  Once you have their attention, show them their ball or toy in the yard. Sometimes you just can’t fight City Hall.  For those dogs like the Terrier breeds that were genetically born to dig, it may be easier to just build a sand box and teach them to only dig in the sand box.  In this way you are letting these dogs exude their natural tendencies.  For the rest, let’s teach them not to dig.

For more insistent diggers, you can spread cayenne pepper on the dirt. You can make two layers, the original layer of dirt, than pepper, dirt, pepper and then finally a light layer of dirt. Another option is to pour citronella oil in the hole and surrounding area.  This procedure will also keep the mosquitoes away and make your yard smell fresh and lemony. Digging is just the symptom; the root cause is that you are not meeting your dog’s physical and mental needs.  Give them a job, besides landscaping.



October 2, 2019 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

My dog is chewing. What can I do?

Before I commit murder can you tell me how to stop my 2 year old dog from chewing?  He was caught chewing the arm off my $8,000.00 designer sofa while lying on it.  I am so angry and at my wits end. Yesterday he was caught chewing the corner off one of our very expensive Persian rugs.

This dog sure has expensive taste in chew toys!  Did you know that you can purchase $2.00 to $10.00 chew toys at your local pet store?  Perhaps the next time you go furniture shopping, take him with you.  This way he can pick out his next favorite chew toy.  After all it is the people who are crazy not the dogs. You see you have a relationship problem; your dog already knows that genetically whatever belongs to Alpha is left alone.  If your dog truly respected you as the leader or Alpha, than this would never have happened (especially with a 2 year old dog).  Instead your dog thinks that he owns the house and because of this, everything in the house is his to chew at his leisure. I guess he also makes the mortgage payments!

Since you were at home when this happened, we can rule out “separation anxiety”. The bottom line is, your dog is just plain bored and sees this as a wonderful vacation resort created solely for him. This poor, bored dog has no other job to do, and with so much free time, they go looking for trouble.

First of all you need to add structures in the household that the dog has to follow. There is no free lunch. Make them “sit-stay” for feeding and “sit-stay” to go in and out of doors. Make them do something such as “Come”, “Sit” or “Lay Down” in order to receive a pet or praise. If they are in a crate, make them wait and only come out when given permission. In other words, they are not allowed to just bolt out. We also suggest that you get your dog off of the sofa and bed.  Dogs take their sleeping area very seriously. An Alpha dog will not share it with anyone else. Dogs are very aware of height privileges. Higher ranking members always sleep higher.

Chewing may have started because they were bored, however it can also become a habitual habit, just like someone biting their nails when bored or nervous. So, let’s go back to the basics which are making sure to fulfill your dog’s three major needs.  PHYSICAL, you have a sporting dog that was bred to run and swim all day long without tiring.  Your dog needs to get some aerobic type exercise, running back and forth for twenty minutes twice a day. MENTAL, your dog needs a job; we do obedience training for this.  SOCIAL, we want to be able to trust our dog under all circumstances.  In return for observing the first two canine needs, physical and mental, as well as, establishing the language in which to communicate; your dog can become an acceptable member of your family and not a prisoner in your backyard or crate.

We are also going to treat your two year old dog like a puppy.  He needs to be under your constant supervision.  If you can’t supervise him, put him in the crate.  If you limit the time allowable for him to get into trouble, you can stop a vicious cycle.  You need to prevent him from doing this bad habit of chewing up your belongings so your dog will instead chew on the things that are allowable for him. If he starts to put something not appropriate in his mouth, distract his attention by clapping your hands, stepping forward and saying “aaaght”. You can also use a “shaking can”, squirt bottle of water, or a pet convincer to get his attention.  Use anything that will startle and interrupt his behavior, and allow you time to give him one of his appropriate chew toys. In other words, interrupt unwanted behavior, redirect to wanted behavior and reward good behavior.

These steps will help to teach your dog to leave your stuff alone in your presence. To help in your absence, we spray the items that you want to protect with one of the products that make things “bitter tasting”.  There are many products available at your local pet store.  You must find which product works best for your dog, as some dogs learn to love the taste.  This is why, once an item is heavily sprayed, I will touch the dog’s lips to the item.  This is a stronger and direct approach, limiting the chances of making your dog like the bitter spray.

Now don’t take the suggestion of using a bitter tasting product to stop unwanted chewing out of context. Without establishing control from the psychological point, you are just putting a band-aide on a more serious problem. As for your sofa, you might call a very good reupholstering shop to fix it just like new or cover the arm with a nice afghan.


September 2, 2019 at 7:50 pm Leave a comment

Tribute to my Best Friend, Eclipse

Windsong’s Ecliptic Phenomenon CD, WC, JH
8/20/1996 to 10/1/2011

Eclipse was a great dog. She was so special that a client once offer me $1000.00 for her. But she wasn’t always a good girl.

Eclipse at 8 weeks

In fact the first 2 years of her life she ran wild. You see someone else was in charge of raising and training her. He tried, but he wasn’t a dog trainer. I decided to take over after it took me 20 minutes to get her to come. Once I took over she learned very quickly and became a fantastic working partner.

Doing What She Loved

She could hold a sit stay for as long as I needed her to. She amazed people because, I would put her in a sit stay in a client’s home, run outside to my van, come back in and she would still be in a stay. Believe it or not I still have the stuffed alligator toy that Eclipse won for placing 2nd place at an AKC obedience trial back when she was 3 years old. She loved that toy. If I said go find your alligator she would run around until she found it.
Eclipse had a charmed life. Not too many dogs get to go to work with Mom. The best part was that it was her job to play with other dogs. She was my distraction. In the last 11 years I couldn’t even start to think about how many dogs she has helped train.

Eclipse Giving a Helping Hand

She would stay in the van and sleep until it was time for her to do her job. I could leave the windows open on the vehicle and she would stay for hours if I needed her to. (But, never on hot days or if it was too cold.) Sometimes while waiting for me she would sneak into the driver’s seat waiting for my return, but most of the time you never knew she was even in the vehicle. I did teach her a trick for her and my safety and that was guard my Van. I was always afraid that someone might try to steal her, so I taught her guard or no guard. If ever I went into areas that had a higher potential of cars being stolen. I would say guard my van. I know she wouldn’t have done anything, however she sounded like a ferocious watch dog. Otherwise I would say no guard and once again. You would never know that she was there.
Now there were times that Eclipse wasn’t the brightest dog. Whenever I would work with dogs that were dog aggressive and the dog would be growling at her. Well Eclipse thought that they wanted to play. She would bounce around trying to get them to play with her. Once she even tried to play with Coyotes. They weren’t in any mood to play and she quickly ran back to Mom. Actually she raced back . Yet she also had a calming nature about herself. Whenever a dog came into bootcamp, she was the welcoming committee. She just had a knack for making the dog feel at home.
Many clients remember Eclipse at our once a month maintenance class. She would hold a sit stay while Mom was running the class, but once class was done. She would go up to every person to say hello. Since she loved her bumper (retrieving toy) she would carrying it around and tease people with it. She would walk around to everybody holding her bumper challenging them to take it from her. We used to have pizza at class and she always managed to get a few crusts. I eventually had to tell people to stop as this always made her sick. I actually think she was upset. After all that was the best part of class.
In some ways Eclipse was a celebrity. She had been on TV several times, been in numerous radio stations and of course a star on my training DVD.

The Movie Star

If you count all the times that she got to play with celebrities dogs. Well I probably could have let her have her own fan club. The problem is all that attention might have gone to her head.
Well this was Eclipse’s public life. Her private life was just as special.

Playing Tug of War With Gareth

She liked lying down by my feet while I was working on the computer. If I went outside she always wanted to go with me. I think she was hoping I would throw her bumper or take her for a walk. She loved her walks. Even in the last year when she no longer could go very far, she got to go at least around the block. Of course she was a fantastic retriever and loved to swim. If I brought out a bumper she would perk up like a puppy and would race out to pick it up. I knew it was getting close to the end when last week she ran out to the bumper, but never picked it up.


In the last 2 years poor Eclipse has been battling cancer. She had a tumor on the inside of her right front leg by the elbow. I had it removed 3 times. She was 14 years old the last time it was removed and unfortunately within a month it started to grow back. It was decided to let it alone as the last surgery took so much out of her. She made it to 15 years old and for this I am grateful. She will be missed by many. I know it will take me some time to stop looking for her on her favorite dog bed, however; I know she is running in the fields of Heaven chasing bumpers and being happy.

June 5, 2019 at 12:44 pm 5 comments

The Challenges of Training a Deaf Dog

Meet Snow, a sweet Dalmatian mix that unfortunately is deaf.

Snow in the snow

Snow in the snow

Snow has a very interesting story as she spent the past two years of her life in a shelter awaiting her forever home. In an effort to give Snow a chance, she was transferred to another shelter where it was discovered that Snow was going to be a difficult placement. Her time away from people seemed to have caused some behavior concerns.

Snow deserves a home…but this is not an easy task for several reasons.
• Thought to be completely deaf.
• Not that food motivated.
• Huge prey drive and will lung at squirrels, cats rabbits etc. (She actually started barking ferociously just at a picture of a cat.)
• Reactive with other dogs.
• Aloof or detached from humans, because of having lived in a kennel for so long.
• Very distracted

This is where Alternative Canine Training comes in. She needs so much special attention that the staff just didn’t have the time. It was decided that the best thing for her was to go Bonny’s Bootcamp.

I picked her up on Monday and was allowed to see her interact in the environment that she felt most comfortable. When I came into the room she approached with a little caution and after a few pets under the chin was one big wag. She was then off into her world. She was very distracted, but I know some of reasons why. If you can’t hear you are more apt to look around to see what is going on. These were my initial observations:

• A happy dog but also a serious and cautious.
• Very athletic and strong
• Very distracted and disinterested in what we were doing.
• Very curious about everything

So off she went to bootcamp. Upon getting her home I noticed several other things. First I quickly realized that she is only partially deaf. She can certainly hear base. So if I clap my hands I know she can hear it. It seems like higher sounds like a high pitch praise are inaudible to her. As always the first 2 days are just getting to know her and to start teaching her to walk perfectly on a leash.

Going for a Walk

Going for a Walk

Because, I don’t know how many verbal words she can hear; I use more hand signals. So instead of just saying, “Let’s Go” I also slap the side of my leg. I know she can hear the slap.

Snow became very proficient at walking perfectly in the heal position within a day. She would look up at me and for once actually focus. Well until she saw a squirrel. I have seen dogs intent on getting a squirrel.

What you got?

What you got?

Snow becomes possessed. Her brain literally shuts down to anything around her and would do anything to get at that squirrel. I can see she is used to just bullying her way to get what she wants. She is very strong and so will throw her whole body and pull in the direction of the squirrel or do a back flip trying to pull the leash from your hand and lung again towards the squirrel.

To address the squirrel issue is just a simple matter of making sure she understands what the heel position is. Another words as long as her nose stays behind my leg she will be praised. In Snows case that would be an occasional pat on the head or a treat. Once we are near the squirrel and if she tries to leave the heal position. She gets corrected and getting back to the heal position will produce a treat. Of course when she is trying to focus on the squirrel, Snow could care less about the cookie. Normally in this situation I would praise the dog profusely for staying in the heel position. So the process is going to take a little longer. For now I will just walk through the neighborhood, because of all the Oak trees there are plenty of squirrels. By next week, weather permitting I am planning on walking each day in the park.

Now for some control exercises like sit and sit stay. When I made the hand motion to indicate sit she would totally ignore me. Okay she sniffed my hand to see what I had.

What You Got

What You Got

I tried 3 different treats and same results. Each time she would see what I had. She showed an interest by the 4th treat, but rump only slightly went down. So I massaged her down as demonstrated on my DVD “Obedience for Life #1”. She is now doing much better at sit and for the rest of this week we will work on ignoring squirrels and sit stay.

I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with her and I am glad that it has been decided to give her a chance. She really is a nice dog. In fact had to put her in an Irish Wolfhound size crate, because whenever I approach her crate. Her tail wags so profoundly that I was afraid she might beat the tip off. She really wants to be loved, but doesn’t know how. This stems from her being kenneled most of her life. Next week I will start working on home manners and try to introduce her to my dogs. I’ll keep you posted.

April 13, 2019 at 8:10 pm Leave a comment

Solving Aggression in a Pit Bull Mix

Buck is an awesome dog. He is a big powerful strong affectionate Pit/Lab mix.



The problem he has is that he is very reactive when he is surprised or feels threatened. Another words he will try to bite. Awhile back when he was being showed at an adoption event he lunged at a lady walking by and bit her. So for 3 years Buck has been living in a kennel, until last week when he was sent to Bonny’s Bootcamp.

My first impression of Buck was that he was not the killer that originally I was led to believe. I saw some trust issues and he got a little nervous when I reached for him quickly. The good thing is that even though he turned his head with a very serious look, he didn’t think about acting out. Driving him home was interesting. He would bark aggressively at people jogging, biking, motorcycles or if a car turned from a side street quickly.

Upon arriving at my house he was first allowed to explore his surroundings. The next step was to teach him too walk on a loose leash. I could see that the people at the kennel or someone had taught him the basic commands, but of course he was little stubborn about going in the down position. He had to decide if he really wanted to submit to me or not. After all when a dog does the down for you they are showing that they trust and will submit to you. I find some dogs even if you are using their favorite cookie will have a hard time with the down.

Day 2:
Worked on making sure that he knew he had to stay in the heel position. I also did a little brushing up on his basic obedience skills.

Day 3 & 4:
The rest of the training will be about taking him places. I needed to work on how he reacts to people and things in the real world. So I took him to pet stores and worked on his aggression in the car.

At the Pet Store

At the Pet Store

He did very well on his first visit to the pet store. You could see that he was a little nervous, but the previous training sessions paid off. Buck learned that as long as he paid attention to me and stayed in the heal position or did a sit-stay things were great. He received praise and cookies. Life was good. It was near closing time at the store and when they went around mopping the floor he got nervous and wanted to react. A quick correction and I could walk all around the people mopping the floor.

Our car rides at first were stressful. As I stated earlier he was very reactive and constantly wanted to bark, lung and growl at things outside the car. In the beginning he needed several corrections every time he barked, which for him was every time he saw something new. Another words, “I got corrected for the last person on a bike, but this is someone different. This person doesn’t know that they are supposed to be afraid of me.” The good news is that he hasn’t barked at anyone on the last 2 car trips.

Day 5 & 6:
Time to take him to the city. His first visit to Birmingham went pretty good. You could tell he was a little unsure of his environment. He was fine until a bike went by. I saw the bike before hand and so was ready in case he reacted. I placed him on a sit stay and worked with watch. He did great.

Hanging out in the City

Hanging out in the City

In fact the only time he tried to lung was at a motorcycle. The good news is that once he was corrected he ignored any other motorcycle for the duration of the training session.

Day 7 & 8:
Took him to the city and pet store to interact with people. For safety reasons I put a muzzle on him for this. To be honest I don’t think I needed the muzzle, because he was great with everyone. I can see that he is a little more nervous with men, but he dropped his guard very quickly.

I am a Lovebug

I am a Lovebug

It has been a little hard working him, because of the 100 degree temperatures. I decided to keep him for another 3 days so that I can continue to work with him around things that normally would make him lunged, growling and snapping. I have great hopes for him if he could go to a foster home or better yet a real home. I can only hope that because he is going back to the kennel that he won’t transgress to quickly. I will keep you posted on what happens.

November 27, 2018 at 8:04 pm Leave a comment

Teaching a Dog how to Swim

Kids love to swim and so do dogs. Teaching your dog how to swim can be fun and rewarding. When your dog learns to swim they can cool themselves off on a hot summer day. It is one of the best forms of exercise. In fact it’s the perfect way to rehabilitate your dog after an injury. It is also great fun swimming with your dog, but be warned they can scratch you.

Labrador and Golden Retrievers have an inbred instinct to love water. In fact I caution new puppy owners that they have to watch how much water the puppy drinks. If a Labrador can’t swim in it, they will try to drink up the whole bowl and if there is nothing in the bowl then they will carry it around. Understand that just because they love water doesn’t mean that they know how to swim.

Swimming is Fun

Swimming is Fun

Over the years I have taught many dogs to swim. Some dogs just jump in and start swimming like a pro. Others may jump in, but swim almost vertical. They don’t go very fast and do a lot of splashing. A vast majority of dogs can’t get beyond the fear of not having a bottom under their feet and some can’t even entertain the idea of getting their feet wet. You might get them to wade, but swim no way. I had one Irish Wolfhound that would swim. All the rest would only wade up to their chests. On the other hand they all loved to lie down in a little kiddy pool.

Teaching a Dog to Swim in a Lake
The best way to teach a dog to swim is to take them to a lake were they can walk in and the water gradually gets deeper. The old fashion idea of throwing them in and the dog either sinks or swims can make a dog petrified of water. Also make sure that the water is not to cold. If you live in states where lakes and ponds freeze in the winter than you need to wait until the lakes and ponds have warmed up. March is not a good time to start.

If the dog retrieves than start tossing a ball or a favorite floatable toy in the water. Make sure whatever you use is floatable. At first you toss the ball near the edge of the water so that the dog is just wading in to get the ball. Keep tossing the ball or toy a little further each time until the dog actually has to start swimming to get it. Some don’t even realize that they are swimming. Others stop going towards the ball as soon as their feet leave the bottom. For these dogs, get the ball back and keep throwing it in shallower water for a little longer. You might want to wear some high rubber boots in case you need to go in and get the toy. If possible you can attach a piece of string to the object that the dog retrieves. This will insure that you can get the object back. Don’t progress too quickly or else the dog might get discouraged and stop trying to retrieve the object. Also make sure you praise when the dog retrieves the object from the water.

The buddy system is another possibility. If you or a friend has a dog that already knows how to swim. Great! The dog that never swam before might very well follow the other dog in the water. There is only one word of caution for your more timid dogs. If the dog that swims, likes to make a big leap into the water. They could splash the other dog and scare them. Also make sure that both dogs know each other before hand.

For many of our Non-retrievers you may actually have to go in the water with them. Begin by walking in with the dog and then gently lifting them in the water. Make sure you support their chest. If you see that the dog is making the swimming motion then slowly move your hand away. If the dog starts to struggle than place your hand gently under them. Keep repeating this until the dog is actually swimming. It is best to stand on your dog’s side. Otherwise you might get scratched. You can also place a lifejacket on the dog to help them gain confidence. A lifejacket is a must when teaching many of your barreled chested dogs. Breeds like Pugs are one example. A lifejacket helps keep them buoyant, and allows them to learn that they have to kick off with their back legs. Otherwise they end up swimming vertically and will sink. I almost had to go in the water and rescue one Labrador the first time she went swimming. She jumped in and then kept going under water. She was literally going up and down in a vertical direction. Thank goodness just when I was about to get my feet wet. She started kicking out with her rear legs and started to swim.

If you don’t have a lake around you then by all means you can have them learn in a swimming pool, but my best suggestion is to go in the water with them. DON’T JUST PUSH THEM IN THE POOL. This may traumatize your dog to the point that they will never even go near water. A built in pool obviously works the best, because most of them have steps that gradually get deeper. Remember take your time. Teaching a dog to swim in an above ground pool is even harder. If they are small you can of course gently left them in the water. I have taught larger dogs to use an above ground pool, but it is much harder. I first had to teach the dog how to go up a ladder and then with a friend’s help we gently lifted the dog into a pool. In fact my Irish Wolfhound that would swim first learned in an above ground pool. He was 5 months old when we started teach him how to swim.

Some Caution Needs to be Taken
• Don’t have your dog wear a collar while swimming.
If your dog is swimming in a lake that has sticks or branches along the shores edge. Be warned! If your
dog is wearing a collar. The collar can get caught on a branch and the dog will be stuck out there.
• Your dog can injure themselves on sticks if they are big jumpers.
Once again if this is a stick pond and the dog makes this big entry leap. That stick can go right into them.
• Know what is in the water.
Unfortunately some ponds and lakes are full of hazards. Fish hooks, Broken Bottles, Rusted pipes etc.
• In states where there are alligators and poisonous snakes it might be better to stay out of the water.
• Wash your dog after it comes out of a swimming pool. The chlorine from the pool can cause skin irritations.
• If you are using a long line on your dog while they are swimming. Make sure that it won’t get caught on anything.

Once again getting a dog used to water and the pleasures of swimming has many benefits. That is why to me it is definitely worth taking the time to teach your dog how to swim. In fact I have had many clients want me to teach their dogs, such as, Carlos Guillen from the Detroit Tigers who wanted his Labrador to learn. This way when he went back to Venezuela the dog could swim in the ocean. Another client who wanted his dog to swim entered his dog in a Dock Dog competitions and won 2nd place.

October 15, 2018 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

Boxer Mix Exhibits Fear Aggression & Dog Aggression

I'm so cute!

I'm so cute!

Lucy, Lucy, Lucy what a shame that you didn’t have a better start in life. Lucy is a 1 year old Boxer Mix that must have missed out on being socialized when she was a puppy. She is very fearful of new situations, noises, people and dogs. Unfortunately, lately she has been acting out on this fear by growling and snapping at people and other dogs.

Let's Play!

Let's Play!

Once she knows you and feels safe, Lucy is a love bug. She will even play very nicely with other dogs that she knows.She is a rescue dog that is currently being saved by Michigan Animal Adoption Network.

Lucy didn’t do very well at the last two pet adoptions. She was growling and lunging at other dogs and even snapped at one of the rescue volunteers. The big question is what to do with her? I had met Lucy several months ago at the kennel that has so graciously donated a place for her to stay. At that time she was about 11 months and just a wild puppy with no manners. I noticed that she was a little fearful, stubborn and just a wild untrained puppy. As stated earlier she is now acting aggressive in certain situations, so I decided to take put her into Bonny’s Bootcamp.

Day 1

Initially I didn’t introduce her to my dogs and simply reworked her obedience skills. Such as walking on a loose leash, Sit- stay etc.. She was a little rusty. That evening I took her to a group class that we hold at Pet Food and More in Clawson.

What a Good Girl!

What a Good Girl!

She did great. I even had my niece work with her. You would have never thought that she was aggressive. I will admit that she did appear to be nervous. Unfortunately, because of her fear and anxiety she developed diarrhea for the next two days. I didn’t take her anywhere, but kept doing little obedience exercises. Even though I really needed to keep taking her to new places, but I didn’t want to create any stress.

Day 2 & 3

Worked on her obedience, took her for a walk around the neighborhood and let her play with my dogs. She had a blast playing with my dogs and both of us enjoyed the long walk.

Day 4

No more diarrhea, so time to go places. I first took her to downtown Rochester and she did well.

Hanging Out in the City.

Hanging Out in the City.

The next stop was at a pet store and this is where Lucy fell apart. There were many people in the store and one of people who gave her treats really got into her face. It was a man and I have discovered that she is more nervous around men. When this person gave her treats, he put his face 2 inches from her and roughly started petting her. This person also had a beard. She got very nervous, stiffened and emitted a low growl. No lung, just a growl. The problem after that her anxiety level was at its max and the next person that tried to give her a treat. Well she growled and then air snapped. There was no point in trying to socialize her anymore today. We went home.

Day 5

In the morning I took her over Karen Biddinger’s house for a little work on doggy socialization with the dogs at Karen’s house. Lucy was first introduced to Kodi, a Caucasian Shepherd. She growled and tried to lung. After two corrections, she calmed down and would take cookies with him there. Next was to introduce her to Karen’s two Pit Bulls. We placed a muzzle on Lucy and introduced her one at a time. Initially she growled and once corrected was okay with them. While muzzled she was also introduced to a wonderful little poodle. Her first response was again to be nervous and to growl. After corrected she kept trying to get the poodle to play with her.

Good Job.

Good Job.

In the evening I took her to a group training class. Lucy did great. Her first response was again fear and when placed near the other dogs she emitted a very low growl. Again she was corrected and by the end of class wanted to play. She was also introduced to many people at Pet Food and More. Again at first she was fearful, but by the end of a half hour she was laying in peoples laps to get petted.

I have 2 more days to work with her and then I will take her on Saturday to the next pet adoption event at the pet store. It is a shame to see a dog so afraid of anything new. The sad part is that Lucy has so much potential. To see her interact with dogs or people that she gets to know is beautiful. Being a foster dog her life is literally on a thread. My concern is what will happen to her after the training, since she doesn’t have a foster home to go to. After the training Lucy will be going back to the kennel and even though it is a great facility. She will not have the opportunity to be continually exposed to new people, places and other dogs. Check out my blog in a couple of days to see how Lucy does at the pet adoption.

January 20, 2011 at 6:58 pm 3 comments

Miami and Angel the perfect Golden Retrievers

Angel is a 4 year old Golden Retriever and her sister is an 8 month old Golden Retriever. They are both wonderful sweet dogs. Angel is simply wonderful and is a great pleasure to work with. She learned what was expected of her very quickly. The problem is once she learned it. She then doesn’t want to do it anymore. I also need to work her around distraction and other dogs. Apparently she had issues with other dogs, but so far she has been great with every dog I have put her with.

Lets Play Catch!

Lets Play Catch!

This makes me think that the real problem was freedom frustration. Sometimes when a dog is on a leash they develop freedom frustration. This is a situation where, because the dog doesn’t know how to walk on a loose leash. They see a dog, try to pull towards the dog, can’t get to the dog and get frustrated. The owner pulls the dog back which tells the dog that other dogs are bad. Another situation is where a dog when on a leash, feels that they can’t run away, so they growl hoping that the other dog will leave them alone. Once Angel came to my house she learned very quickly how to walk on a loose leash. Because of this there hasn’t been any incidences of her getting agitated by another dog. She went to the pet store today and even though there were other dogs she did great.


Miami is another story. She is a sweet loving exuberant powerful Golden Retriever who wants everything her way. The good thing is that she is not very dominant. In fact she is very sensitive, but because she is so strong; Miami has learned to get whatever she wants. Some of her hyper behavior obviously has to do with the lack of exercise, but I also think some of it stems from her sensitivity. Being sensitive makes her get anxious when she doesn’t know what is expected of her or when she gets yelled at for doing something wrong.


See I can walk on a loose Leash

See I can walk on a loose Leash

The first 2 days we addressed teaching them to walk on a loose leash. Believe it or not even Miami was walking perfectly by my side within 2 minutes. The biggest challenge is finding distractions and having them still walk on a loose leash. From the notes about Angel it states that she lunges and barks at other dogs. So far even when I take her places and there are other dogs she has not exhibited this behavior.


The rest of the week was filled with working on sit, sit-stay, down and down stay. By the fourth day we started working on off-leash control. Initially I have been working them separately. They both are learning at different paces and it is important that they understand what is expected of them before we throw them together. Angel learns very quickly, but then thinks that she doesn’t have to do it anymore. Miami on the other hand is different. When we first started the training she thought that she just didn’t have to listen. She is very strong and would just refuse to do what was expected of her. Miami would throw a doggy temper tantrum, but in a passive way.

Can't I go Christmas Shopping!

Can't I go Christmas Shopping!

If she couldn’t drag you down the street she simply would lay down like a dead weight and refuses to move. Now because she is sensitive it is important to show her what is expected of her the first several times using cookies and after that if she refuses then reinforce. She is now doing awesome. Yesterday she went to downtown Royal Oak and she did very well. She has had several trips to the pet store and once again is doing great. Now this isn’t to say that when she sees people her tail isn’t wagging back and forth. No. After all you don’t want a robot, but she stays in the heal position. She no longer jumps on me or my husband. I’ve had 2 guests to my house and she didn’t jump on them either. Okay she tried, but once corrected didn’t jump any more throughout their visit. Teaching her place (go to your dog bed lay down and stay.) will help with this.


In Miami’s case the last phase is addressing her chewing issue. I believe her chewing stems from lack of exercise along with nervous behavior. It is like someone who is nervous starts biting their nails. This nervousness is from her looking for a leader to tell her minute by minute what to do.

Miami & Angel walking together

Miami & Angel walking together

Because she chews in your presence; we can rule out separation anxiety. The final phase of bootcamp is to work with teaching “Place” and working with them together on and off-leash.

December 11, 2010 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

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