2 Ball Fetch

Fetch can be a very rewarding game to play with your dog. It engages both mind and body and can be used as reinforcement for other behavior. You sit for me and I’ll send this tennis ball flying through the air so you can chase after it.

Fetch by the Rules

Most of the time, when I play fetch I have the following two ground rules:

  • Please plant your paws on the ground.  I like my legs without scratches thank you.
  • Please drop the ball so I can pick it up or put it in my hand and release it.

If one of the ground rules are broken, play ends (not forever, but for at least a little while).

Enter 2 Ball Fetch

2 Ball Fetch is a great way to help teach the rules of the game.

Materials needed:

  • A Dog
  • 2 Balls (sometimes the ones with squeaker help encourage dropping)
  • Clicker (optional – you can just say “yes” the minute the ball is dropped)
  • A couple of treats


  • Ask your dog to sit, lay down, or do some other behavior he knows well.
  • Toss the ball the minute he does the behavior.
  • As he returns, as long as feet stay on the ground, show the second ball (if it has a squeaker you can do that too).
  • As soon as his mouth opens to drop the ball, click, and throw the other ball.
  • Pick up the dropped ball as he is running off.
  • After several repetitions, he will start dropping the ball as he approaches.

Tip #1: Remember, if his feet come up, simply walk away and end play. You don’t have to say anything and no need to be upset.  Ending play is enough of a consequence that after a few times he won’t be doing that again.

Tip #2: Some dogs will run around a few minutes with the ball, ignore the behavior and wait for the drop, click and reinforce.  It won’t take long before they get bored with playing all by themselves.


Don’t Judge a Dog by His Fur! – The Story of A GSD in the Shelter

We walked into the doors of a different shelter this week.  They were exited to have us and we were excited to be there.  The director was a nice gentleman and the staff was fantastic.  The shelter was clean and the animals well cared for.  The staff was extremely friendly, knew the animals well, and seem to find joy in their work.  They showed us thru the dog runs and the kitty rooms and introduced us to the amazing German Shepherd in the back.  A gorgeous, but fearful young man who had been running free on the streets of our little town.  His hair had fallen out along his back, he had a couple of small tumors, and his goopy green eyes glared at us.  I could see fear in Sam’s face as they asked us to evaluate this guy.  With the promise to my mentee and sister we would not take any dog out that I felt posed a danger to someone inexperienced with body language and handling, I knelt down.

This boy, still without a name, stood in the back of the kennel, growling and barking at others who passed or looked at him.  We sat down with our sides to him, and tossed a few tiny pieces of hot dog to him.  Clearly hungry, he gobbled them up.  Within minutes, he came to the front of his kennel, and I tossed a few more.  He was nosing my flat hand pushed against the kennel and licking gently, so I placed a few more tiny pieces into his ever gentle jaws.  Sam then tossed a few of her hot dogs and soon those two were as comfortable as he and I.  It was time…


This boy was eager to come out when I placed the looped leash inside the kennel.  With a hot dog piece buried deep in my fingers I was able to bring him thru.  Out he came, a big ball of energy.  Once into the gated yard, we transitioned him to collar and our make shift harness. Off we went for a nice long walk.  He responded well when we saw another dog.  He responded well as we passed others.  He knew sit, although you could tell his energy was up high enough he wasn’t quite ready to do it every time (unless there was a
chance to nose dive in water).


A young lady approached open hand and I saw his tail drop as she neared, asked her to step back and just as she did, he let her know he was scared with a few barks and a pull forward.  Sam walked over handed her a few pieces of hot dog and she tossed it to our boy who eagerly started to approach her and shortly thereafter was taking a few more from her hands.  We then walked on.  When a gentleman came outside I walked ahead to greet him, and gave instructions to Sam to walk wide around us several times and slowly we closed the gap.  This boy wasn’t Cujo, he was a Prince.  He just needed us there to protect him and show him humans aren’t so scary after all.

On Day 2, we were greeted with a jumpy little juvenile who just wanted his new friends to take him on a walk.  The entire staff laughed as Prince jumped all over the trainers while they put a real harness on him.  They shot photos (which we forgot to ask for) of what must have looked like a circus act, but we didn’t care.  At that moment, his crazy was refreshing and I knew with some training (both in leash skills for Sam and “sit for harness”) the jumping would be a thing of the past.  This boy can go to a real home after a bit of training!  And so it began… Prince’s love affair with Force Free, Fear Free Training.


“Dog Friendly, Scientifically Proven” Techniques

“Dog Friendly, Scientifically Proven” Training

My Jack Russell has had a hip issue since she was very young. When her hips bother her, it causes her to lash out like the dog from the “Mask” at those she loves the most. We manage the pain with medication, but because of her young age we give her the bare minimum to keep the pain at bay, but not overtax the system and build up immunity. I use holistic alternatives to help as well. I wish I could say in time it will get better, but I can’t predict that.

My job is to love her and take care of her the best I know how. She struggles with some behavior problems because when this issue first started we didn’t know that was the problem. Her aggression was treated behaviorally when in reality it was a medical condition. To make matters worse, at the time I didn’t know there were alternatives to traditional based training which is based on letting the dog know what she is doing wrong in a rather threatening (and to be honest, sometimes painful) way.

So, I set out to find a better way…

I read every book I could get my hands on, researched every trainer who wrote a book I liked, conducted “tests” with a variety of training tactics reading my dog’s body language that I also learned about.  I went to back to school to work towards a master’s degree in applied animal behavior and counseling.  I took seminars.  I attended workshops.  I took courses from professional dog trainers who were using the much friendlier, scientific based training I was learning about in my master’s courses.  I became a Pat Miller Certified Trainer and am currently enrolled in the Karen Pryor Academy.  I attended several conferences including the Clicker Expo, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and the Pet Professional Guild Summit.  And that’s when I decided to use…

Dog Friendly, Scientifically Proven Training Methods

What the heck does that mean? “Dog Friendly” means that when you look at your learning dog, his body language and facial expressions indicate he’s “happy”. “Scientifically Proven” means the training techniques I use have been proven to WORK by researchers (I’ll spare you the long boring peer reviewed articles and statistics that only statisticians can understand). In training, your dog will experience all kinds of new things he may not have experienced before. I use management techniques, such as baby gates, to prevent unwanted behavior while your dog learns what is appropriate behavior. I use new sounds, words, yummy treats, toys, or life rewards (such as going outside) to say to the dog “yes” that is exactly what I wanted you to do. And yes, there will be times when we might use ways (such as closing a door) to indicate to the dog, “you just lost an opportunity for a yummy treat or toy or to go outside, but if you do this you can still have it your way.” And I take the time to change his mind about the aliens that live in our home, i.e., the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner, etc.

What do you as the “pet parent” have to do?

Don’t worry about your training, you won’t be learning how to be alpha, we can leave that term to the fraternities and sororities. Your dog won’t be forced to roll over, but he might learn “rollover” as a fun party trick. You won’t have to hit, choke, or yell at your dog, but you might need to finger shoot him if you want him to “play dead”. You won’t have to walk him 100 miles a day to burn off his energy, but you will need to implement a creative, time saving, energy draining, designed for your life plan (unless you can figure out a way to harvest and sell his energy for profit… in which case you can quit your day job thus having the time to walk him 100 miles!)

There’s more to me and my training than just this little short article about how I came to be a dog trainer and behavior counselor, but we will save that for another time.  AND as for my Jack Russell… she thanks you for reading this. The more people that know of my dark past, the more in place to help in her scheme to take over the world.  (She has no idea, I have more TRICKS up my sleeve to prevent the takeover.)

NOTE:  If you suspect there is an underlying medical issue causing your pet to misbehave, see a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Becoming a GPS for My Dog


A little while ago Tic Tac and I took a road trip to Maryland (from Florida) without my husband. When I got into my car and plugged my destination into the GPS I realized I wasn’t nearly as nervous as my last road trip a few years ago when I ventured out with the dog by myself. While there were many reasons for this, the GPS was a big part of it. I started to ask myself a question: why is it that the GPS makes me feel a sense of security and how can I give my dog that same feeling about me? In other words, how can I become a GPS for my dog?

Life with Tic Tac has been a journey. From aggression to fear to who she is today there were many bumps and detours along the road. Just like my GPS, my job has always been to get her to the next destination. In our case, the destination may be a new behavior, a new criteria for an old behavior, a new state of relaxation, or just simply a new experience with pleasant or at the very least neutral feelings. Along the way I’ve made my share of mistakes and so has she. But just like the GPS I’m not perfect, but we can always be rerouted and end up in the same place we were heading to.

The GPS lets me know in advance when it is time to turn, and if the road is changing or if there is a detour ahead it reminds me to stay on course. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, it is my job to plan ahead and let Tic Tac know it is time to change direction in our training, on our walks, or in fun games. If she becomes distracted it is my job to guide her back to the activity at hand. On the other hand, I can let her choose to stop and smell every hydrant. After all, I often ask the GPS to find a restaurant along the route.

When I’m in a new area and want to just explore, I can safely venture off knowing that when I’m ready my GPS will get me back to my home away from home. The same is true with Tic Tac. I know that she will follow me, come when called, and understands my “directions” which allows me to let her off leash to explore new places.

The GPS measures my speed, the traffic ahead, and estimates my time for arrival. Our “reward contract” provides her with this same guidance. If she’s going too fast or too slow I can change how often behavior gets rewarded. If the distractions are greater I can give her a larger reward and if there aren’t any distractions perhaps I can skip a reward or use something less valuable. Finally, I have tools available that let her know a reward will come even if it is not exactly right at this moment.  Rewards are not necessarily food, toys, praise, or activities.  A shift in my body language, a sigh of relief which lets her know I’m relaxed, brief eye contact, and even a look away are all a part of our reward contract.

One of my favorite aspects of the GPS is that it allows me to have choices. I can avoid tolls, highways, and more. I do that for Tic Tac as well. She almost always has the freedom of choice. That doesn’t mean she gets rewarded for not doing as asked, but I don’t force anything on her she’s not ready for. That’s not to say I won’t encourage her (not thru bribery) to do what she is being asked, but if it isn’t necessary at this moment we can try again later.

Not all GPS units do it, but mine updates often making it more efficient for my journeys. Just like it, I’m always learning new information or exploring new training techniques. The more information at my fingertips the better I will be as a guide, parent, leader, and trainer for her.

The GPS is there when I need it just as I am for her. It’s not always in working mode, but ready to support me when I need it.  The same is true of me. When it is on it is consistent. Right means right, left means left, keep going straight always means keep going straight. It is important for me to strive to be just as consistent. And when my destination changes, my GPS can be reprogrammed. I need to be just as flexible to see her through all of life’s changes including her transition from adult to senior, as I’ve seen her through puppy hood, adolescents, and thru times of healing (surgeries).

But the biggest advantage of my GPS has been the arguments it has prevented when discussing the best way to get somewhere with my husband. As her GPS, I can provide her with direction, skills, and behaviors that will allow her to interact appropriately with guests and other people and dogs. And God forbid something should happen to me, she will know how to behave without me just as I can get around without the GPS once its already shown me WHERE TO GO.