Get out and enjoy the great outdoors this autumn – just leave the retractable leash at home!

Posted in Search and Rescue on October 22, 2015 by rattlerjen


Retractable leashes are best left for long distance training only. Leave them at home when going for a walk. Here is a wonderful article by Dr. Leslie Sinn DVM CPDT-KA

Originally posted on Leesburg Vet Blog:

October seems to be a favorite month among many of us here at LVH. What’s not to love about the fall in Northern Virginia – a crisp nip in the air, the brilliant colors of changing foliage, pumpkin patches, and apple picking – it’s the perfect time to get out and explore Loudoun County with our family and furry friends. But before you head out, take a look at your canine companion’s leash. Are you using a retractable leash? Retractable leashes are made out of a thin nylon cord attached to a spring-loaded plastic handle.  They have the ability to extend 15–25 feet as your pet walks away from you; as your pet gets closer, the cord retracts into the handle.  Retractable leashes are popular with many dog owners because they allow pets more freedom to roam and explore on walks.  However, there are many drawbacks and even dangers to…

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End Barking at the Door Bell

Posted in dog training, pets with tags , on September 21, 2015 by rattlerjen

The door bell rings and you brace for the annoying barking fit.

We all know too well how irritating a door bell barking dog can be.  Your dog is just excited and wants to see who it is.  You just want some peace and quiet, and dare I say the ability to get to the door without being knocked over by an exuberant bowser.

Dogs at door

Here is what you need.

  • A cell phone, tablet, or other computer device
  • Someone to take your dog outside for a bit
  • Your Finger
  • Your Dog

First, find the speaker box for your doorbell.  This object is typically mounted high up on the wall somewhere near the center of your house.  Put your phone down near this strange object.

Find  your voice recording app or even just take a video.

Press play and run to your door.

Randomly press your doorbell for about a minute.  Make sure it is really random and there is enough time for you to calm your dog down in between each ring, 5-20 seconds or so.

Stop the recording and replay to make sure it works.

Now, get your dog.

Play the recording on the lowest volume your dog reacts too.  Just randomly walk around the house with this playing.  Do not go the front door at all.  Your dogs are probably going to run to the door or window to see who is there.  Just ignore them and continue about your day. Do not reprimand, punish, startle, or give attention to your dog in any way. After a while your dog will begin to ignore the ringing noise.  Stop playing the recording for at least 5 minutes.

Then, play again with the volume up just a bit.  Repeat until you are at full volume.  You may even consider plugging your device into a speaker if it does not get loud enough to emulate the real doorbell.

Once your pups are used to this, you may press your real doorbell!  Follow the video below.

desensitization to the doorbell from Lead With Fun on Vimeo.
Desensitization to the Doorbell Video

Teaching Self Control

Posted in dog training, howto, pets with tags , , , on August 10, 2015 by rattlerjen

Your dog barks, lunges, and is driving you mad

What do you do?

Here is a simple, yet powerful method to help your dog learn what to do instead of being a wild one.

dog self control

Mo waits calmly for her bone

Its your job to teach your dog that they have options

Your dog really has no idea that sitting quietly and calming down is a much better decision than jumping around and acting crazy. Once the adrenaline kicks in, the thinking brain (the frontal cortex) shuts off. Biologists call this an amygdala hijack. Simply, your dog cannot think straight or learn new things! Like a well trained fighter pilot, we can teach your dog to make good decisions under excitement and stress. It’s up to us to teach them what that is.

Teach not Force

Our goal is to teach our dogs the correct thing to do so that they can do it on their own. If we force them to sit or lay down, we are only battling with our dogs. This typically ends up with two very angry, exhausted, and frustrated living beings. Nobody learns anything (except maybe you are really scary sometimes!)

Work from Easy to Difficult

Always set your dog up for success.  Start in a place with low distractions. Make sure that triggers that set your dog off are far away and you are not in a place where any can sneak up on you. Never train in a situation where your dog is so out of control that he cannot calm down and listen to you.  Work up to more difficult scenarios in tiny steps.  The slower you progress the faster your dog’s progress will be over all.

Quiet and Slow

Speak quietly and move slowly.  Your dog follows your lead far more than you think. If you are too worked up yourself to calm down, fake it until you make it!


  1. start with your dog on a short but loose leash
  2. back away calmly away from the distraction so your dog’s back is to it and is facing you.
  3. calmly say sit
  4. If the dog sits quietly praise your dog
  5. wait for your dog to completely relax (this may take several minutes!)
  • slowed breathing
  • hackles down
  • tail relaxed
  • ears relaxed
  • eyes not dialated
  • able to focus on you instead of paying attention to everything else
  • relaxed body

6. Go about what you are doing

7. Repeat anytime your dog gets excited again

If your dog does not sit

  1. repeat the word sit quietly (of course we never do this when teaching the sit cue.)
  2. wait patiently for a second
  3. If the dog has not sat yet – give the hand signal for sit
  4. if dog still has not sat – slowly walk backwards a few steps and ask quietly for a sit again.

Ten Tips for Raising a Dog

Posted in dog training, pets with tags , , , on May 15, 2015 by rattlerjen

Your dog is part of the family. Are you raising him right?

These are ten tips to help you and your dog weather your relationship.

1. Life Balance

balancing dog

Your dog is part of your family it’s important to manage your time properly. We are all pretty busy especially if we are parents shuttling our children around to their various sports and hobbies. Juggling that with work and a dog, it is essential you schedule time in your calendar for you, your dog, and your family.

Be sure to schedule some interactive time with just you and your dog. Spending quality time with your dog strengthens your relationship with him and can relax a busy person like you!

Do not forget to schedule dog free time too. Your dog needs alone time. Schedule time in everyday where he is left completely alone to rest. Crate training your dog can give him a safe space just his own.

2. Foster Good Self Esteem

Dogs have self esteem?  You bet. Dogs are creatures that learn. Mistakes are part of learning. Pet owners need to be careful to let their dog work out problems for themselves.  Do not micromanage or help them too much, especially when they are trying to learn something new.  Just stand back and give them a few seconds to work it out.  If they get confused, just restart the challenge in an easier form or give your dog a hint.

For example, you are trying to teach your dog to sit. Rather than pushing on his hind end, pulling on the leash,  or repeating “sit, sit, sit,” stand silent and wait. If he needs help, restart the problem by backing up several steps, say “sit” once, pause a second, then lure his nose up and back with a treat in your hand. Reward!

3. Set Limits

Just like children, dogs thrive on rules and structure.  Your dog should have a clear and consistent set of rules that everyone in the house follows with the dog. Post them on the fridge!

My favorite is wait at the door.  Teach your dog he may not run through doors to the outside without your permission.  Make sure everyone in the house follows this rule – Always! Keep in mind, dogs are very bad at generalizing.  This means that you should not let your dog jump on you when wearing workout clothes, but yell at him when he jumps on your work clothes. This will only confuse or frustrate your dog and cause naughty behavior.

4. Management vs Relationship

While it is very important to have limits, not every interaction should be obedience. Too many rules, and you will have a stressed out human and dog! Have rules for things that are important to you and the safety of the dog. Going overboard is no fun for anyone and does not help your relationship. Be thoughtful and selective about the rules you will enforce.2013-01-01 07.45.42

5. Responsibility

Responsibility goes both ways.  It is up to you to learn how to positively train your dog so he understands what you want.  Often dogs misbehave because training has not been practiced enough, the instructions were not clear, or you expected too much out of the dog too soon.  Rewards such as treats and play are used as communication with the dog throughout the learning process.  Since your dog cannot ask you questions, he must learn through trial and error.  There will be a lot of rewards given in the beginning.  Then it is your dog’s responsibility to learn that he does not get a reward for every single cue (command) given. Once your dog can follow a cue successfully at least 80% of the time, start fading out the rewards.

6. Giving Space

Dogs need space to be a dog. I often see owners getting frustrated with their dog’s during a walk because they are pulling them from one thing to the next. Other owners have dogs walking down the street in a heel position head down and tail still.

We often forget how unnatural it is for a dog to walk by our side down a street for long periods of time.  It is much like expecting a three year old to walk through a toy store without pulling you to look at any of the toys on the shelves.  Who is the walk for anyway?

After constant jerking on the leash “nagging” the dog just gives up and does what he wants.  Or even worse the punishment causes the dog to “shut down” no longer enjoying his time out with his people.

So how is this dilemma solved?  Have two walks! One with the dog wearing a harness he can pull in and another with his normal walking flat collar or front attaching harness on. Yes! Dogs can tell the difference!  My dog even has a special mushing harness and leash she wears while pulling me on my bike!  Once her normal collar is attached to the leash, she walks nicely.

Keep the fun walks long and the training walks short!

You may also teach your dog using the “free shaping” method.  This is the fastest way to teach your dog how to solve problems and learn.  Even better it wears them out and is lots of fun!

7. Do Things Together

It’s why you got a dog in the first place, right? This tips is the quickest way to turn a frustrated owner into their pet’s biggest fan again.

So, what should you do with your dog?

skateboarding dog

  • play games
  • fetch
  • tug
  • fun walks
  • group training classes
  • hike
  • dog sports
  • nose work – search work for pet owners
  • dock diving
  • agility

There are so many fun activities you can do with your dog!

8. Model Your Values

Remember, you are your dogs advocate. It is important that you teach people how to properly greet and interact with your dog. Never let anyone get away with being rude to your dog, even if your dog seems to not mind at the time. Rude is leaning over, sticking their hand in the dog’s face to sniff, patting on the head, or hugging your dog. What people learn from you will affect their interaction with other dogs they meet in the future. Walk away if someone does not follow your rules, no exceptions.

Along the same lines, you are an advocate for other dog owners as well. Keep your dog on a leash when out in public and clean up after your pup.

9. Have Age Appropriate Rules

Whether you just brought home a puppy or adopted an adult dog, your rules should fit the dog. It is always best to have strict rules at first, then relax them later after dog no longer makes mistakes.  This is especially important when house training a dog. Keep them in a safe confined place like a crate or dog safe room when you cannot watch them 100% of the time they are out.  Most accidents happen because a dog slipped out of sight for only a second.  Never leave anything out your dog can destroy. Set him up for success. If your dog is difficult to manage while out, consider tethering him to you until he learns the ropes.

10. Love Your Dog

cute terrier

You have this dog for the rest of his life. Sometimes it is hard to enjoy your dog after he misbehaved. Remind yourself to love your dog independent of his behavior. He loves you unconditionally.

“Strive to be the person your dog thinks you are; especially to your dog.”

5 Tips to Perfect Training Technique

Posted in dog, dog training, howto, pets with tags on January 30, 2015 by rattlerjen

Training is like learning a sport

Can you play your favorite sport by just watching your favorite superstar on TV?

Dog training is just like learning a new sport. The skills, timing, and technique can only be learned with practice and a coach to help with your technique.


Does it seem like your dog knows what you are saying?

Dogs are masters at learning body language. They are always watching us for clues to what we are doing or what we want.  They probably have no idea what we are saying with our voice, but they sure do know what we are saying with our body! This is why proper technique is essential when teaching your dog something new.  Extra body movements can be confusing to a dog, often they just give up trying to pay attention to you and become frustrated.

There are 5 Techniques

1. Hands in Neutral Position


Keep both of your hands at your waist.  Only move them if you are delivering a treat or giving a hand signal.

2. Bend your knees


This gives the dog a visual at their eye level that a food reward is coming right now! Bend your knees enough so your extended hand will be at your dogs mouth without bending over.  Which brings us to…

3. Back Straight


Keep your back as straight up and down as you can.  Imagine you have a wire coming out of the top of your head.  Like a puppet, you are suspended by this wire from the ceiling. As you bend your knees into a squat, your back will remain upright.  This prevents us getting into the dog’s space. This can be confusing to many dogs, “Does the person want me to lick his face, play, or backup?”  For some dogs, leaning over them can even be threatening.


Have a dog that ignores you unless you have a treat? Read #4

4. Click, Pause, Straighten

Your treat hand is loaded with treats and kept frozen in neutral position. As soon as your dog does the behavior you want, you click, pause, then straighten your arm directly to his mouth and give him the treat.  Be sure there is a pause between the click and the movement of your arm.

 If you move your treat hand towards your treat pouch or toward your dog’s mouth at the same time or before you click, he will learn to only do something if he thinks he is getting a reward.  This will train your dog to watch your hand after you say a command to see if you are going for a reward or not.  If your hand only moves when you are going to reward him, he will learn to ignore you when your hand does not move.

So, keep your hand still until after the click.

5. BAM!

Straighten your arm with a flash to your dog’s mouth.  Your hand should be a blur.  If you move too slow, you dog may begin jumping up to meet the treat half way.  Yes, they can get bored that quickly!  Keep your hand at your dogs mouth until he has the treat in his mouth. Then, return your hand back to neutral position.


Do your best to mimic the correct technique.  Video tape yourself and practice over and over again until you have it right.  A good dog trainer can coach you through the process and help with your technique.

Happy Training.

Reference: Dr. Sophia Yin DVM

Leave it! While walking

Posted in dog training, pets with tags , on September 5, 2014 by rattlerjen

(Please see the post about teaching off before teaching this step.)

Your dog can now leave treats alone in your open hand

Leaving Treats on the Ground

  1. Place a treat on the ground right next to your foot.  Be ready to cover the treat with your foot in case he tries to go for it
  2. Say Off
  3. Click and treat out of your hand if your dog leaves the treat alone
  4. Continue clicking and treating a few times to reward continuing to leave the treat alone
  5. Pick up treat and repeat

Walking Towards a Treat then U-turn

  1. With your dog unable to follow you. (Tie the leash to a doorknob, around post or furniture, in a crate, or have someone hold the leash)Place the treat on the ground
  2. Say “Off”
  3. Walk towards he treat, click and reward before your dog starts going for it
  4. If your dog goes for the treat, turn around and try again at a much further distance
  5. repeat walking towards the treat, clicking, reward and turn around to start again
  6. Never let your dog get the treat, body block or use your foot to cover the treat.  Avoid using the leash to prevent your dog from getting the treat
  7. Repeat until you can get about 3 feet away from the treat without your dog going for it

Walking Past a Treat

  1. Walk past the treat from about 5 feet away. Make sure to walk in between your dog and the treat.  Get ready to take a step backwards to body block your dog if he tries to go for the treat
  2. Click and treat as you walk past the treat
  3. Repeat, getting closer and closer to the treat. (Be sure to randomize the distance so you are not getting closer all of the time.)  Example: 5 feet, 4 feet, 6 feet, 4 feet, 5 feet, 3 feet etc.
  4. Click and Treat lots if you must in order to get past the treat at first
  5. Keep training sessions short and always end on success.



Teaching Off or Leave It

Posted in dog training, howto, pets with tags , , on May 29, 2014 by rattlerjen

Your dog sees a chicken leg on the ground

He goes for it, you trip, and your dog is snacking on someone’s garbage. Yuck! Teaching the word “off” is a great command that can save your dog a trip to the vet. To start:

  1. Put a yummy treat in your hand and close your first. Put your fist right under your dog’s nose. The instant he stops trying to get the treat, say “Yes” or Click. Then give him the treat. (You might have to wait awhile just be patient.)Repeat several times.
  2. Repeat, but give the dog a treat from your other hand.  Be sure to click or say yes, before moving the reward towards your dog.
  3. After your dog stops trying to go for your hand. Say “off” before presenting your treat filled fist.  We add the word after practicing steps one and two a few times to prevent our dog from thinking “Off” means you try and get the treat first.
  4. Now, keep your treat fist in the same position and mark (say “yes” or click) several times for continuing to leave your fist alone.
  5. Try opening your fist, then say “off.” If your dog goes for it, quickly close your fist and try again.
  6. Move your hand around in different locations.
  7. Put the treat on the ground. Be ready to cover it with your hand if your dog tries to go for it.  Don’t let him get it!

Next Post we will learn how to teach the dog to leave things that are on the ground while we are walking!

We are busy at Lead With Fun Dog Training – Serving Northern Virginia


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