Author: keschalk

Dog management?

What does it mean to manage your dog? Managing your dog is all about helping them fit into your life in a way that causes the least amount of effort and stress for you and for your dog. Management is not training, technically, since through management your dog is not learning anything new. On the other hand, management is a very important part of training, since if you are effectively managing undesirable behaviors your dog is not practicing and rehearsing these behaviors. Dogs, creatures of habit like us, will always do what they’ve always done, so if you can effectively break the cycle of behavior with a management strategy, you are setting your dog up for success down the road, as well as avoiding pain, stress, embarrassment, and possible danger in the meantime.

A gate across the kitchen was an early management strategy to keep peace in the household when we first introduced Roscoe, otherwise they wanted to play way too much. We still use it!

Management is about choosing your battles. You only have a certain amount of time, energy, and resources to put toward your dog (or anything, really). Your dog has to fit into your life. You want to maximize your happiness together. One way to help your dog adapt to your style of existence is through training. Now, I am a dog trainer, so of course I think training is awesome. In fact, it is one of my favorite aspects of sharing a life with dogs. Training new and appropriate behaviors can be really fun. However, it also takes time, energy, and resources. This is why it’s so important to choose your battles. Pick the behaviors you really need to modify in order to be the happiest with your dog and manage the rest in the meantime (or possibly forever, there is really nothing wrong with management!). Sometimes I feel like I spend way more time training and helping others train their dogs than in training my own! Which causes my own set of management/training woes.

I love to teach stationing on a bed or mat! Once taught, it can now be used to manage doggies while we are cooking, eating, or exercising.

Training or Management: How to Choose? 

I love to travel with my dogs, so it’s pretty important to me that they are both happy in the car. When we first adopted Roscoe, he did not like jumping into the car. After Rio and I experienced a minor car accident, he also went through a period where he did not want to get in the car. It was pretty important for me to work on modifying this behavior and improving the emotional state related to riding in the car. So this is a place where I invested some training time. Nail trims is another one – Rio’s nails tend to split if they get too long. I have to trim them pretty frequently – so for his and my own sake, investing some training time into happy nail trims is well worth the effort.

On the other hand, Rio and Roscoe both like to bark at cats. If the cats run when they bark, they would totally give chase if given the opportunity. Our yard is set up such that there is an unfenced section right outside the back door, a small path leads to our fenced yard. Each time I want to take them out in the yard, I need to leash them both and walk them out to the yard. I do not trust them not to take off after cats, other dogs, people, etc. This is management. Could I invest enough training time so that I could trust them to walk with me off leash from the back door to the fence? Sure. Maybe it would be worth it, but I haven’t been able to convince myself of this, and I’m perfectly okay with that. I have much more fun working on other things. I always go out with them to the yard anyway, so it’s no big deal to clip on their leashes and lead them out. Could we put up another fence? Sure. This would be another management-type strategy to deal with this situation, but this one again would require more time, effort, and resources.

Rio – Off-leash in the safety of our fence.

What about rescue dogs? Some dogs come with behaviors that aren’t ideal, but if we can be more adaptable, they could be adoptable! Here are some examples from the Rescue Dogs at Wags Inn Canine Charities:

Stranger Danger – Management Strategies

Some dogs have a hard time meeting new people. Wags Inn rescue Tucker is one such dog. It takes a lot of effort to help him safely meet new people, but once he trusts you, he will remember you forever and love you dearly. Tucker is not a dog I would ever trust greeting guests in the house, not without a ton of work, and possibly not ever. Out of fear, he has bitten several people. He is a last chance doggy. A management strategy for him would be to always put him away in his safe place – possibly a crate in a quiet room that can be closed – when people are visiting. I would probably employ a double defense by also putting a gate across the entryway that always remains closed, just in case someone were to accidentally walk in before he is safely away. Vigilance and consistency would be very important in keeping everyone safe. He would also not be a dog suitable for someone who likes to entertain, but would do best with a quiet family and a large, safe yard. He is great with other dogs though, and he is a major sweetheart. <3

Tucker the rescue – Still looking for the perfect forever family. He will need someone who can take the time and has the patience to provide both training and management for his anxiety and fear of new people. Seriously though, he is a sweetheart.

Putting your dog away when company comes could be a successful management strategy not only for a dog who is scared of strangers, but also for a dog who is overly excited, jumpy, or one who barks, or begs too much when you have company. Make sure his safe place is a happy one by having him practice settling there before you need it as a management strategy. Feed him stuffed, frozen Kongs and treats in his safe place frequently. He could go here to eat dinner several times a week, relaxing with a dinner-stuffed Kong.

Managing Expectations

It is very important to know before you think about adopting a particular rescue: what are the most important reasons you want a dog? What are types of behaviors that would interfere with having a successful life with them? What kinds of behaviors would you be comfortable managing? How much training could you afford to do with them? Think about the costs in terms of time, effort, and resources. Do you need an easy dog? Or would you be comfortable and capable of providing a home for a more challenging rescue who might need more in terms of training and management?

If your family is busy and often rushing, you’re not going to want an easily spooked dog who needs extra time to make decisions and feel comfortable. If you love having dinner parties and you want your dog to be a part, you are probably not going to match well with a shy, reserved dog who does not like to meet new people. But you might like dog who is everyone’s friend like Opie!

Opie the rescue Beagle wants to be everyone’s friend.

Do you love to walk, run, or hike with your dog? You’d love Pepper.

Pepper loves to run, but watch out, she also loves to chase after squirrels! An easy walk harness is a good strategy to help keep her under control.

Do you live in an apartment and have to manage barking carefully for the sake of the neighbors? A quiet dog will be best. These are all things to think about when considering your new best friend.

Penelope is a dog who does not really like meeting new dogs. She does play well with her suite-mate Petey, but he is currently her only dog-friend. She loves people – bouncing and playing outside and cuddling on the couch. Penelope is not going to be your dog-park pal, but she is working on being comfortable passing by other dogs on leash at a comfortable distance. She will make someone a super sweet companion in a one dog household (or you could adopt Petey too!).

Penelope – No dog parks for me!
Petey – Penelope gets me. My feelings about other dogs are the same as hers!

Nail Trims – Management and Training

Lots of dogs dislike having their nails trimmed! Management might look like taking lots of long walks over rough terrain or on pavement to wear down your pup’s nails. It might look like scheduling nail trims under sedation at the vet. Training could involve getting him to scratch his nails on a nail board to wear them down. Training could also involve counter conditioning to the process of foot handling and eventually nail trims. With my two boys Rio and Roscoe, whenever I pull out the nail clipper they are getting in line to be first to offer their feet! They both know a cooperative nail trim is a well-paid behavior, making it easy on everyone involved.

Crates and Potty Training

Crate training is a great way to manage overly rambunctious dogs – giving them time to chill out and settle. Crates are also great for potty training. Management is a huge part of potty training. When you are working on potty training, it is very important to prevent as many accidents as possible. You basically do this strictly through management – it might be keeping a puppy in a crate when you can’t watch her, tethering her to you with her leash so she is always under your supervision when out of her crate, and slowly opening up her freedom by using gates and puppy pens. The other side of potty training, of course, is giving lots of opportunities to get it right and lots of positive reinforcement for appropriate elimination. I love crates as management tools! But make sure management doesn’t go too far. Puppies can’t spend eight hours in a crate. If you have a long day at work, a management strategy you might employ could be daycare for a dog who likes to play with other dogs, or a dog walker or enrichment visits for dogs who are happier one-on-one.

Opie again! He is probably going to do well with crate management to help him make the right choices when he first moves in with you. What can you expect, he is still a young, energetic pup?!

Management should help you meet your dog’s needs as well as your own! A dog’s needs include – exercise, appropriate potty breaks, mental stimulation, play, social stimulation (with you, other dogs, or humans), training to help understand and fit into human society, rest, healthy food, fresh water, basic vet care, as well as others you may think to add. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go play with my pups. 🙂

Everyone loves playing tuggy in the yard!

Does Your Dog Tell You “No”?

Do you listen to him?

Rio lip licks – Is the camera stressing you out?

How do you get him to say “yes” to things that might need to be done?

Clicker Expo St. Louis 2018 – I was at a presentation by Eva Bertilsson, Emelie Johnson Vegh, and Peggy Hogan and this one line sticks out to me, “in order to hear more ‘yes’, start listening to smaller no’s.” On the surface, it might not make sense. But in practice it makes all the difference. Listening to small “no’s” is one of the bases of trust.

A dog who trusts you to listen to his ‘small no’s’ is the dog who turns his head from you and yawns rather than curls his lip, snarls, or snaps. Or maybe further up the ladder of aggression it is the dog who air snaps rather than grabs your arm.

People sometimes ask me, “if you stop when he pulls his paw away/gets up/jumps off the mat/fill in the blank __________, then aren’t you just teaching him to do more of that?” First of all we need to back up the plan and look at how to further break down criteria in order to keep him comfortable in order to have success. Secondly, and this is what I’m focusing on here, we don’t want our dogs thinking, “I need to speak louder in order to be heard.” This is especially important for procedures that might be scary or uncomfortable – things like nail trims, baths, grooming, restraint, or even just basic handling for some dogs.

So first we must learn to listen when our dogs ‘speak softly’. This is no small feat given that our languages have little overlap. Every dog is a little different (just like people and their language!) and context changes are very important (again, much like our language).

Some of my favorite books on the subject: Brenda Aloff – Canine Body Language A Photographic Guide, Turid Rugaas – On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Patricia McConnell – The Other End of the Leash

But let’s just run through some quick examples:

  • Head turn away
  • Stiffness or stillness
  • Yawning
  • Breathing changes – e.g. open mouth panting to closed mouth
  • Avoidance
  • Lip licks
  • Blinking
  • Ears pinned back (in general, changes in ear position)
  • Hiding
  • Owner ‘clinginess’
  • Whale eye (whites of eyes visible)
  • Sniffing the ground – ‘checking out’
  • Sudden scratching or self-grooming
  • Lowered body carriage/ position – ‘slinking’ behavior

Observe your dog – I think it was Patricia McConell who talked about the ‘laboratory of your living room’ – use this laboratory to make some observations and record some data about your own dog when he is relaxed/frightened/frustrated/excited. Sometimes it’s really hard to put a name to what they are feeling – how can we truly know? – but we can make observations about their behavior and how it fits within the context of their lives.

There are a couple places where Rio tells me “no.” A while back he had an injury to his declaw. Evidently it was very painful. I had him soak it in a Epsom salt solution to help with healing. Now I could have left him no choice; I could have just taken his foot and made a compress, restrained him and put it on. However, I thought there is a some chance we’ll have to deal with a foot injury again in his lifetime. I don’t want to add to his trauma and it would be awesome to end up with a behavior we could use again in the future should it be necessary.

I went back and made some videos of the pieces long after his foot was healed. It was useful to go back and revisit, but since the behavior was already known and he was not experiencing pain, I dropped the value of the treats back to plain old kibble (we used delicious canned food initially).

First, I used the process of shaping with the clicker and his long history with shaping (in addition to playing the ‘paws up’ game with anything and everything), to get him to step into an empty container in the kitchen. Then we generalized this behavior, taking it into other rooms.

Next, we took the empty container into the bathroom and put it into the bathtub. This was just to keep the whole soaking process from being super messy. Rio is not a huge fan of baths, but he will jump into the tub for me. (This is actually another place where choice is important to him, and listening to ‘no’ is important for me.)

So since writing this and taking the first two videos, Rio got a little sore between his toes and I decided it might be a bad idea to do the foot soak again. It was really small and it looks much better now, but I was able to take some video as we worked through it. Roscoe cameos. 


During the foot soak process, Rio got a pretty high rate of reinforcement for keeping his feet in the container in the bathtub – a little classical conditioning for you. At any point, he was free to take his feet out and even jump out of the tub and leave the room. A few times he choose to do this. I just waited for him to come back, hop back in and resume, which he did. It took him less than 30s to make that decision; he knows where the value is. I don’t know how painful his paw was; I have no way of knowing. I wanted to give him some control over the process rather than using force to get the job done.

With him, and for this, it worked really well, and ended up strengthening our relationship rather than becoming a battle and straining our bond. I know this is not always going to be possible; sometimes emergencies happen and we just need to get something done quickly. Restraint may be needed; choice may have to be removed. But whenever it is possible to take it slow, to work together, to listen to and respect our dogs when they tell us “no, please stop,” whenever it is possible to find a way to help our dogs feel comfortable and in control enough to say “yes,” it is the kindest course to take.

Bonding 101: Maximize FUN, Minimize FRUSTRATION

Or A Walk With No Expectations:

Have you heard we are fostering Roscoe?

He is a big sweet heart. If you are looking for an active dog to add to your household, get in touch with me (quick)! We are fostering him through Wags Inn Canine Charities.

But . . .

I don’t know if I can give him up at this point. (I believe that’s know as ‘foster failure’).

When you first bring home a new dog, it’s all excitement and newness, especially if it’s a puppy or young dog. However, you quickly realize that a puppy is an upheaval in your life. As is an older dog. They just throw off the nice little balance you’ve worked so hard to establish in your household.

I don’t know about you, but change isn’t super easy for me. And home is my little sanctuary. A new dog changes the energy, rearranges the timeline, and sometimes overturns the quietude. Frustrating.

Frustration is not good for the relationship. It is a withdrawal from the bank account.

But it’s also bound to happen from time to time, especially as you are learning how to fit your new dog into your old life. It’s a shaping process. It requires teaching some new behaviors, reinforcing good choices (on both your parts), and rearranging your own expectations.

You both adapt to each other. A new dog changes the shape of your life.

As this process unfolds, you are bound to come up against frustration and resistance to change. Better make sure you are making plenty of deposits into that new relationship bank account! But how do you make deposits? Any positive experience is a deposit into that account. Any negative experience is a withdrawal.

Today, we took walk with absolutely no expectations. No training goals. No fitness/exercise goals. Just going out for a walk with my two doggies. Anything could happen. We laughed. We sniffed. We got soaked. I didn’t even know it was going to rain.

When you welcome a new dog into your life, things have to move around a bit. Sometimes I resent that Rio and I don’t have as much training time together. Sometimes Rio resents it too. But finding ways for the three of us to have fun together is a great bonding experience. It fuels the relationship.

It takes me back to when Rio was young and Kavir and I were integrating him into our lives. There were some bumps along the road.

Bonding happens when you have fun together, when you can let go and laugh and be silly together. It happens when you learn together. It happens when you overcome challenges together. Camping was a great bonding experience for Rio and me (not to mention for Kavir and me <3).

Today, a rainy day walk in the park brought me and my two pups a little closer together. I laughed and ran with them. They ran, stopped, sniffed and ran some more. We all got soaked. No expectations resulted in lots of FUN.

So Roscoe and I are bonding. Is he here to stay? To be continued . . .

Roscoe – Are we home yet?

Just look at that pretty boy. <3

So Roscoe the rescue is still looking for his home. He stayed with us for a week when Lori was away so he could have some alone time, away from the hustle and bustle and all his friends at Wags Inn. He is a sweet and handsome boy who has been doing fantastic during his stay.

Some highlights:

He has been working on hopping into the car.

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Meditation with Dogs

There are probably as many personality types of dogs as there are personality types of the people who live with them. Which is to say there are either many or just one, depending on how you cut it. Are you a lumper or divider? Maybe we are all just dog-people and our dogs are just dogs. But there are also vast differences between all of us dog-people and between all of our dogs. I like to the think that dogs acquire some of our personality, they mirror us to some extent, or perhaps we acquire dogs that are similar to us. I’m thinking of the movie “Best in Show” and the neurotic couple with their neurotic weimaraner. This movie took a humorous look at the idea that dogs mirror their people or people mirror their dogs.


I am certainly not exempt and I think I have something to learn from Rio’s specific neuroses if I look closely. He is high-strung and excitable. I certainly can be too. Kavir says my spirit animal is a hummingbird. I tend to flit about from one flower to the next and rarely sit down for long. Rio is especially excitable in new and busy environments. He doesn’t handle changes in his routine very well, or at least changes get him worked up. He will start to scratch from the stress. When I take him to the pet store or hardware store to try to help him acclimate and cope with new environments, he needs constant feedback about what to do. He will look to me and if I am not helping him he might start barking at me. In a high stress situation, he does best with lots of cues to follow and a high rate of reinforcement. With these things in place he can thrive and even enjoy himself. He absolutely loves to work and delights in the tasks I give him. But he is easily overwhelmed if it is not clear what he should do next.

Who are you calling neurotic?
Who are you calling neurotic?

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Pup Treats

Rio did have to control himself while I took pictures, but he got plenty of goodies in the process!

I tried out a new recipe for some treats! Salmon and sweet potato. I found a nice collection of dog treat recipes here:

The recipe I used is one that list here is the link to the recipe:

I train with Rio’s kibble as much as I can, but sometimes you just need to up the reinforcement value such as when you are working in a more challenging environment or when you have a particularly difficult training task, a so-called “expensive” behavior 🙂

Just a little closer . . .

Pup really likes these and they were very easy to make. Mine turned out really soft and gummy but I had a pretty large sweet potato. If your dog is on a special diet, be sure to talk to your vet before trying out new foods. Canned fish can be high in sodium so keep this in mind when using these tasty treats.

Okay, buddy you earned it. Now let’s go hiking!

A Dog’s Perspective – How it Deepens Our Empathy and Our Capacity to Love

Pup has his own plans. He has his own needs and motives. The emotions he feels are as real as anything I’ve ever felt. I just can’t know exactly how they feel to him. I can’t know exactly what it is like to be a dog. The things that are important to him I might not even see. Everything looks different through a dog’s eyes. Maybe everything is more real and present. I can try to imagine the scene made up of scents and the sounds that drift in from far away, the ones I don’t even hear or smell. I can try to imagine, but I bet I can’t even come close to appreciating the differences.

How do you see? What do you know?

Try to imagine this before you start a training session. What is going to matter to doggie in your environment right now? What is he going to be paying attention to? What will motivate him to focus on you? What makes him angry?

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Paws for Peace – Reinforcing Calmness

Who? Me?

Rio had a rough start after our move. Sometimes he still goes back to barking at every little thing. He can be a very reactive dog. Reinforcing calmness along with managing inappropriate barking helps him to become calmer and more confident in his new environment. When he was young it was hard to catch him during any sort of calmness. For him at least confinement seemed to increase relaxation. It still does. I can put him in his crate after a barking fit and he might settle right down and go to sleep.

When he was a pup we sectioned off a portion of the house with a playpen fence so he only had access to the kitchen and dining room area. He learned to be calm here first. I remember watching movies on the sofa in the living room and periodically walking over to reinforce Rio for lying on his bed calmly while we were on the other side of the fence (in plain view) watching movies. Sometimes I wouldn’t even be able to pay much attention to what we were watching because I kept looking over for moments to reinforce. Every time we let Rio out of the fenced area into the living room he would get a bit nutty. He would want to play or rub his muzzle all over the floor excitedly. Gradually I started letting him out in that room for longer periods of time and looking for times to reinforce calmness in this new area.

This is what you want, right? Pup on the floor.

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