Archive for the howto Category

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.

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

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

Are your Pets Ready for a Disaster?

Posted in howto, pets with tags , on February 12, 2014 by rattlerjen

Before the Disaster


The key to survival during a disaster, crisis or emergency is to be as prepared as possible before the storm hits. Take the time to make a plan and assemble an emergency kit for you and your pet. By taking these steps now, you will greatly increase your pet’s chances of survival.

Prepare for Everyday Emergencies

These are example scenarios that could happen to you at any time, anywhere in the country. Prepare yourself for these events, and if a large disaster should ever hit, you will be ready and know what to do:

  • The roads are icy, traffic is a mess and you decide to stay with a friend instead of risking the drive home from school or work. Who will check on your cat and feed her?
  • While you were out running errands, a propane truck overturned on the street near your neighborhood and you are not allowed to go home. A police officer tells you the electricity to your neighborhood was shut off. How can you make sure your birds stay warm?
  • Your mother-in-law has had a heart attack and you are going to meet your wife at the hospital. It may be a long night. Who will give your dog his medicine?

The Humane Society of the United States (with some of my modifications) recommends the following actions to make sure your pets are taken care of when everyday events like these prevent you from taking care of your pets:

  • Find a trusted neighbor and give them a key to your house or barn. Make sure this person is comfortable and familiar with your pets.
  • Make sure the neighbor knows your pets’ whereabouts and habits, so they will not have to waste precious time trying to find or catch them.
  • Get your cats and dogs used to being in crates and carriers. Feed them in their carriers so they associate it with something positive.
  • Create a pet emergency/disaster kit and place it in a prominent place where your neighbor can find it. Include pet medications or list their locations and instructions on how to use them inside the kit.
  • If the emergency involves evacuation, make sure the neighbor would be willing to take your pets and has access to the appropriate carriers and leashes. Plan to meet at a prearranged location.
  • If you use a pet sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.

Disaster Supply Checklist for Pets

Every member of your family should know what he or she needs to take when you evacuate. You also need to prepare supplies for your pet. Stock up on non-perishables well ahead of time, and have everything ready to go at a moment’s notice. Keep everything accessible, stored in sturdy containers (duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.) that can be carried easily.

If you reside in an area prone to certain seasonal disasters, such as flooding or hurricanes that might require evacuation, create a kit to keep in your car.
In your pet disaster kit, you should include:

  • Food and water for at least five days for each pet, bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food.
  • Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a first aid kit. A pet first aid book is also good to include.
  • Cat litter box, litter, garbage bags to collect all pets’ waste, and litter scoop.
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transport pets safely and to ensure that your pets can’t escape. Carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down. Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for hours at a time while you are away from home. Be sure to have a secure cage with no loose objects inside it to accommodate smaller pets. These may require blankets or towels for bedding and warmth, and other special items.
  • Current photos and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated and to prove that they are yours.
  • Pet beds and toys, if you can easily take them, to reduce stress.
  • Information about your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.

Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items and household bleach.

Find a Safe Place Ahead of Time

Because evacuation shelters generally don’t accept pets (except for service animals), you must plan ahead to make certain your family and pets will have a safe place to stay. Don’t wait until disaster strikes to do your research.

  • Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size and species. Inquire if the “no pet” policies would be waived in an emergency. Make a list of animal-friendly places and keep it handy. Call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home.
  • Check with friends, relatives or others outside your immediate area. Ask if they would be able to shelter you and your animals or just your animals, if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to house them at separate locations.
  • Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in emergencies; include 24-hour telephone numbers.
  • Ask your local animal shelter if it provides foster care or shelter for pets in an emergency. This should be your last resort, as shelters have limited resources and are likely to be stretched to their limits during an emergency.

In Case You’re Not Home

An evacuation order may come, or a disaster may strike, when you’re at work or out of the house.

  • Make arrangements well in advance for a trusted neighbor to take your pets and meet you at a specified location. Be sure the person is comfortable with your pets and your pets are familiar with him/her, knows where your animals are likely to be, knows where your disaster supplies are kept and has a key to your home.

If you use a pet-sitting service, it may be able to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.

Don’t Forget ID

Your pet should be wearing up-to-date identification at all times. This includes adding your current cell phone number to your pet’s tag. It may also be a good idea to include the phone number of a friend or relative outside your immediate area—if your pet is lost, you’ll want to provide a number on the tag that will be answered even if you’re out of your home.

During the Disaster

When You Evacuate, Take Your Pets With You

The single most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to take them with you when you evacuate. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed. Animals left inside your home can escape through storm-damaged areas, such as broken windows. Animals turned loose to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents.
Leaving dogs tied or chained outside in a disaster is a death sentence.

  • If you leave, even if you think you may only be gone for a few hours, take your animals. When you leave, you have no way of knowing how long you’ll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able to go back for your pets.
  • Leave early—don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order. An unnecessary trip is far better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pets. If you wait to be evacuated by emergency officials, you may be told to leave your pets behind.

If You Don’t Evacuate, Shelter in Place

If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together. Be sure to close your windows and doors, stay inside, and follow the instructions from your local emergency management office.

  • Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say there is an imminent problem. Keep pets under your direct control; if you have to evacuate, you will not have to spend time trying to find them. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification.
  • If you have a room you can designate as a “safe room,” put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet’s crate and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies. If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door, or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape.
  • Listen to the radio periodically, and don’t come out until you know it’s safe.

After the Disaster

After the Storm

Planning and preparation will help you survive the disaster, but your home may be a very different place afterward, whether you have taken shelter at home or elsewhere.

  • Don’t allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.
  • While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes or in crates and keep cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, they could escape and become lost.
  • Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible, and be ready for behavioral problems that may result from the stress of the situation. If behavioral problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.

“Reprinted by permission of The Humane Society of the United States.”

Safely securing a Kong to a crate

Posted in dog, how to, pets with tags on December 29, 2013 by rattlerjen

This is wonderful for introducing a dog to the wonders of his nice safe den, the crate!


  • kong
  • short eye bolt
  • nut (comes with eye bolt)
  • washer
  • one and a half inches of double sided scotch tape
  • carabiner
  • socket wrench long enough to fit into kong

step 1. Put eye bolt through the small hole in the kong.

step 2. Place double sided tape over end of wrench
Step 3 Put nut on top of tape and push the nut and tape into the socket.

Step 4 Place washer over the end of the socket wrench pressing firmly on the tape sticking out of either side of wrench.

Step 5 Place middle finger through eye bolt and pick up kong with big hole facing down.

Step 6 Put socket wrench through the hole in kong. It helps to find the bolt by aiming for your finger through the eyebolt on the outside of the kong and gently feel for the bolt.

Step 7 Tighten the nut until finger tight. Don’t tighten too much!


Step 8 Attach carabiner to the eye hook.

Step 9 Stuff the kong with peanut butter, wet food, kibble, cheese, or other goodies. You may even freeze to make it last longer.

Step 10 Attach the kong to the back inside of the crate near the bottom so the kong is laying on its side. In order for your dog to have the kong he must be inside the crate. Start with the door open the entire time. After many days you may close the door for longer and longer periods while you dog is enjoying his kong.

How to Make A Dog Food Puzzle Toy

Posted in dog, dog training, howto, pets with tags , , on May 23, 2013 by rattlerjen

It’s easy and takes less than 10 minutes!


Pvc toy materials

  • Drill
  • 1/2 inch drill bit
  • 3″ Diameter PVC cut down to 18″ long
  • Two PVC 3″ end caps
  • small piece of wood at least 19″ long


1. Put the end caps on either end of the PVC pipe.

pvc endcaps dog toy

2. Drill a hole several inches away from the edge of the end cap.

drill hole pvc dog toy

3. Rotate the PVC a 1/4 turn.  Drill another hole 4-5 inches away from the first hole.

drill hole pvc dog toy

4. Repeat step 3 two more times to drill a total of four holes in the PVC.


5. Take the end caps off. Place the edge of the piece of wood along side the PVC pipe and under the edge of the end cap. While holding the wood and PVC together, tap the end of the wood on the floor. The lid should pop right off.  Repeat on for the other end.

6. Run a towel through the PVC several times to get the plastic shavings out.

towel through dog toy

7. Put one end cap on.

8. Fill with a few cups of dry kibble.

9. Give to dog.

10. Sit back and enjoy the entertainment.

Tinkering with the Robot

Posted in dog training, howto, pets with tags , on January 28, 2013 by rattlerjen

This is what my husband got me for Christmas

Manners Minder Kit

Manners Minder

It has turned out to be a very cool way to train my dogs from a distance.

Here is Grom playing with his new toy.

My husband is a genius!

Our new little puppy, Molniya seems to have trouble staying quiet in her crate.  She has learned to bark in there and throws some pretty nice tantrums.  In order to reward her for being quiet, we needed a way to reward her.

Sure, we could drop a few treats in her crate every time we walked by, but wouldn’t it be more fun and rewarding for her to get treats even when we were somewhere else in the house?

My hubby found a great solution with a little bit of work.


  • dremel
  • funnel
  • board
  • rubber bands
  1. First, cut a hole in the top of the crate just big enough for the end of the funnel to fit through.
  2. Measure how far the funnel drops into the crate.
  3. Then measure the thickness of the board you will be using on top of the crate. (see video) We used a sheet of plywood. Cut a hole in the plywood the same size of the hole you cut in the top of the crate.
  4. Remove the food tray on the Manners Minder (it comes off easily for cleaning.)
  5. Bend the funnel flat on one side so that it lies flush with the manners minder tray area.
  6. Then, cut the funnel so that is not sticking into the hole in the crate and lies flush with the roof. The funnel will be cut at an angle since it will be lying against the Robot.
  7. Tie together enough rubber bands to fit around the back of the manners minder to either side of the funnel.  Drill a hole on either side of the funnel where the rubber bands will attach to.  Tie the rubber bands to either side and adjust so the funnel lies flat in the tray area.  Make sure the funnel is not blocking the hole where the treats come out!
  8. Put the board on the top of the crate and line it up with the hole in the crate.
  9. Place the funnel in the hole.
  10. Place the Manners Minder up against the leaning funnel and pull the rubber band loop around to the back of the robot to hold it on.
  11. Fill er up and let er rip!

Watch this baby at work!

Video from the top

Video from the front

Up the Stairs in an Odd Way

Posted in dog training, howto, pets, Search and Rescue with tags , on October 23, 2012 by rattlerjen

Exercise the muscles your dog rarely uses

Grom has learned to climb the stairs in a very unusual way.  Why has he learned this silly thing?  It is as important to exercise and stretch out your working dog as it is for the human half of the team.  Exercises such as climbing the stairs backwards works out muscles that your dog rarely uses.  This give his body the strength, stability, and flexibility to prevent injury and keep in tip top shape.

Steps to teaching your dog to climb the stairs backwards.

  1. Teach your dog to back up by holding a treat in front of his nose and moving it directly towards his chest so he must back up to follow it.  You may also try walking towards your dog while holding the treat under his nose.
  2. Say the word “Back” as your dog steps backwards, give him the treat.
  3. Repeat this several times. Always waiting until he takes a step back before you say the word “Back.” Practice this over several days with very short 3 minute training sessions
  4. Say the word “Back” and wait. When your dog takes one step back, click, and treat. (If he doesn’t, go back to step 3)
  5. Wait for two steps back, then three, etc before giving a click and treat.
  6. Now do this in front of the stairs. Wait until his back foot goes up on a step before rewarding. Once he puts one foot up on the stair when you say “Back” regularly, wait until he gets both back feet up until you reward him.
  7. Wait for your dog to go farther and farther up the stairs until you click and treat.  Eventually he will do the whole stair case with only one command of “Back.”

Dog Play Ideas When It’s Hot Outside

Posted in howto, pets, Search and Rescue with tags on July 10, 2012 by rattlerjen

It’s hot outside baby.

It is dangerously hot outside and your dog is driving you crazy.  What in the world are you going to do?  Here are a few activities to keep yourself and your pooch happy and cool in the heat.

Wet and Wild

What better way to spend a sweltering day than to splash around with your pooch. Kiddie pools are an inexpensive and fun solution to any hot day.  I keep one filled with fresh water on my deck all throughout the summer.

Kiddie Pool Capers

Some dogs take to a kiddie pool right away while others are a bit hesitant.  Simply throw a few of your dogs favorite toys in the pool filled with a few inches of water and let the dog test the water on his own. Go ahead and sit in the pool yourself and calmly have fun with the dog toys.  If you are patient and do not force your puppy into the water, he will eventually jump in.  Experiment with toys that float and toys that sink and play a game of fetch with a pile of different toys.  My dog’s favorite toy in the pool is a big hard plastic ball he cannot fit his mouth around. He will kick it around like a soccer ball in the water for hours if we let him.

My dog also likes fishing for ice cubes in his pool of water. I am not sure if he likes crunching the ice cubes or pushing the floating objects down in the water with his paw more.

Filling the pool is often a fun game in itself for my dogs.  Grom just loves biting the water as it comes out of the hose.  Go ahead and set up some sprinklers in the yard and run through them with your pup. Splashing around on a hot day can be lots of fun!

Freezing Fun

Keeping an active dog calm even in hot weather can be quite a challenge.  Sometimes our working dogs just don’t know when to stop putting them in danger of overheating and bloat. Why not combine the quiet-calm activity of bone chewing with a little bit of cooling joy? You can get really creative with different shapes of frozen treats.  I like to freeze different sizes of ice cubes using rubber muffin tins, paper cups, rubber bunt cake molds, and more. Be sure to fill your mold with something delicious to chomp on. Ingredients may be:

  • dog food
  • dog treats
  • peanut butter
  • low sodium beef or chicken broth
  • tiny hot dog pieces
  • low sugar yogurt
  • blueberries
  • carrot pieces
  • anything else your dog likes

Be sure to avoid ingredients toxic to dogs including onion, grapes, and chocolate.

Go on a Cool Field Trip

Who says you have to stay home when it is hot outside? Pile your pups in the car, turn on the air conditioning, and go to a cool place. If you live near the ocean, look for a dog friendly beach to visit.

If there is no ocean nearby, go find a nice lake, shady forest, or stream.  Both of our dogs enjoyed riding in our canoe or even balanced on a kayak in a shady part of the lake.  Be safe, buy your dog a life preserver with a handle on the back to fish your dog out of the water in case he goes overboard. Stay out of he sun.  It can be hotter on the water than on land.

Indoor Icing

Perhaps the safest thing to do for your dog and yourself on a hot day is crank up the air conditioning and have a bit of fun indoors. Don’t think being stuck inside limits your options of fun.

Buy a big bottle of bubbles and watch your dog chase and bite the floating orbs all over the house.

Try setting up an indoor agility course using broom sticks, boxes, sheets, step stools, and furniture. Have fun luring your dog through the course with yummy treats and encouragement. Teach your dog to search for his toys by hiding them around the house.

If you do not like the idea of your rough rover climbing all over your furniture, try teaching him a new trick with a clicker and treats.  The variety of things your can teach your dog are endless!

Have a Hound Hangout

Are you bummed at being in the house alone?  How about inviting all of your doggie friends over for a puppy party?  Search the internet for dog friendly cake recipes and make a hot hound cake.  Many pet stores now sell frozen yogurt made for dogs to include with the cake. Play puppy games, share toys, dress up in silly clothes, take pictures, blow bubbles, and splash around in the kiddie pool together!

How to Hover in a Helicopter With Your Search Hound

Posted in howto, Rescue Training, Search and Rescue with tags , on June 28, 2012 by rattlerjen


Helicopters can be a wonderful resource as eyes in the sky, communication, and as transport.  They can get you to a search quickly and even fly you to places inaccessible to other vehicles.  Introduce your Search and Rescue dog to flying safely in a helicopter.

Parts of a helicopter

Dog Safety Gear

doggles muzzle muttmuffs

Helicopters are loud, blow debris, and filled with sensitive equipment.  There are four items your dog will need for a safe flight.

Eye Protection

Eye protection will save your dog’s eyes from the dust and debris kicked up by the rotors while loading and unloading. I have found Doggles work quite well and come in a variety of colors and styles.  Grom really likes his and barely knows they are on. You can buy them from the manufacturer here or at many area pet stores.

Ear Protection

Dogs have more sensitive hearing than we humans do.  I imagine the noises from the helicopter engine may be quite bothersome. I chose to solve the problem with using ear protection for horses. It is made from a sort of memory foam that expands and comfortably fills the ear canal providing a nice fit.  Grom is no horse, so I simply cut them in half and then down to size. Once I put them in his ears, he completely forgot about them.

If your dog hates having his ears messed with, try MuttMuffs. Daisy the GSD mystery mix is sporting a pair in the picture above.  She absolutely hates having her ears touched, but gladly trotted around with these professional looking “ears.”


Even the sweetest dog will use her mouth when terrified. An unexpected bump of turbulence can cause your dog to react and turn the inside of the cockpit into chaos.  Protect everyone with a properly fitted muzzle on your pup. Make sure your dog can comfortably drink water and pant while wearing his muzzle.

We decided to have an online company custom make a ventilation wire muzzle to fit our Malinois after several failed muzzle fittings at our local stores.  He looks like Hannibal Lecter, but fits beautifully allowing Grom to fully open his mouth and has great airflow.  Here is where we got it:


The most important piece of equipment is your dog harness.  It must be very sturdy and able to handle your dog’s weight and stay ON no matter how much your dog wiggles, trashes, or pulls to get out of it.  His harness is what will keep him in his seat during the ride, a possible handle for loading and unloading your dog from the aircraft, and something to safely grab and secure your dog. We thought our dog’s very thick search harness would do the trick, but he managed to wiggle out of it to get away from the wash of the helicopter.  It made my heart stop I tell you.  His agitation/tracking harness did a much better job at keeping him secure.

I would suggest an agitation, tracking, or rappelling harness to do the job.  Look for harnesses that have a handle or somewhere to grab, fit him properly for it, and make darn sure he cannot get out of it no matter what.  The harness is where you will attach your leash and where you will run the seatbelt through to keep him secure to the seat.

Practice at home

The sight and sound of a running helicopter may not be something easily simulated at home, but there are some things you can do to get ready.

First, practice loading and unloading out of the back seat of a car.  In the picture above, I am teaching Grom to put his paws up in the car and wait. This position gets him out of the wind and sound created by the rotors calming him down.  If I step up behind him, he is in the perfect place to allow me to load up my gear and prepare to load while blocking movement away from the helicopter.  I can grab his collar or harness with one hand easily if he gets spooked.

Practice running a seatbelt through his harness in the back seat of the car.  Seat belts in choppers tend to be similar to those found in airplanes and cars. See if you can quickly put your headset on, latch him in, nestle your gear in place, and latch yourself in safely.

Take your dog to a safe place next to busy train tracks.  NEVER let him off leash here.  The loud sound of the train and the wind does a good job simulating some of the effects your dog will feel when approaching a running helicopter.  Give your dog tons of pea sized treats (like cut up hot dogs) one at a time every time a train goes by.

Meet the Crew

The pilot is captain of his ship.  Do absolutely everything he tells you.

The flight officer is responsible for your safety.  If you are lucky to have one, they will help you load and unload yourself, your dog, and your cargo. Due to temperature, weather, altitude, and weight restrictions, you might not be accompanied by anyone other than the pilot.

Cold Run

Before you try to load yourself and your dog into a “hot” running helicopter, go through a cold run with the engine off first.  A cold run is your chance to get the rules, safety, learn how to communicate, ask questions, and familiarize yourself with the craft. Pay special attention to the order in which you will need to do things when approaching and loading.  Observe how doors lock, unlock, open, and latch. Be sure to note where everything is located; often the headset is put away, doors are locked, and seat belts are latched at all times. You should also experiment with where your gear goes.  Ask yourself several questions, such as:

Can you reach and operate things you need to while holding your dog with your other hand? Where are you allowed to step? What things should you avoid?

Notes Before you Approach

TV shows have given us some pretty silly ideas about what to do around helicopters.  Here are a few things of note:

The pilot sits on the right seat of the cockpit. (Yeah, it’s backwards.)


Rotors are the spinny bits that give the helicopter lift and go. Despite what you saw on TV, you do not typically need to duck down low to avoid the blades.  Beware, a very strong gust of wind or landing on a slanted hill may cause the rotors to dip down lower than normal so don’t go jumping up and down or waving at your friends until you are well clear.

Rotors do create quite a gust of wind when they are spinning.  Watch for debris  blown around and protect your eyes.

Speaking of debris, make sure to secure all lose items on your body.  Take off and pocket, pack, or secure your hat, sunglasses, jewelry, cellphone, clothing and other items.  Loose items can be sucked up into the rotors and effectively kill your helicopter.


First, stay back at least 100 feet keeping in view of the cockpit.  Next, give a thumbs up signal to indicate to the pilot that you are ready.  Wait for him to return the signal before approaching the aircraft. Then, approach the aircraft from the front staying within the pilots view and look him in the eye.  Never approach the aircraft from the tail end or the tail rotor will be your end.  Keep your dog very close to you using a leash or even hold on to his harness while you walk. Be aware that your dog may decide to bolt at anytime especially when you get close to the aircraft.


Loading and unloading are the times you are most likely to have problems.  With so much going on you don’t want to accidentally drop  your dog’s leash while opening a door and have a scared pup loose on the tarmac.  Until your dog is belted in his seat, have your hand on your dogs leash or harness at all times.

The first thing you should do after opening the passenger door, is put your headset on and put the mic all the way up to your mouth. (Eat the Mic) This will allow the pilot and you to communicate. Secure your dog in the seat with a seat belt through the harness and an additional tie down on a secure point nearby to keep him in his seat.

Next, secure your gear in its place and belt yourself into your seat.  Finally, make sure the door is properly closed, latched, and locked.  Notify the pilot when you are ready.

The ride

The ride is the wonderful part of the journey where you get to relax and let the pilot do all the hard work.  Keep your pup’s muzzle on for everyone’s safety while in the cabin.  Make sure he is comfortable and relaxed.

Remember, keep your hands to yourself, touch nothing in the helicopter.


To unload, if you have a flight officer wait until she comes to your door before attempting to exit.  If you have no flight officer, wait until the pilot says it is ok to leave.  After opening the door, be sure to take off your headset first.  Get all of your gear out of the cabin and situated so you may grab it with one hand after closing the door.

Re-latch your seatbelt. Then, untie your dog and get him out of his seatbelt. Be sure to re-latch his seatbelt. You may lift or lead your dog out of the helicopter while always keeping a secure hold on his harness or leash.  This is a fine time for him to take off. Your dog should be the last thing out of the chopper. All you have left now is to close, latch, lock the door, grab your gear and go.  Just make sure to wave goodbye only after clearing the rotors.

Have you ever ridden in a helicopter? What are your tips?

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