Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Yellow Dog Project

BlueDog invites the pups of The Andovers to become Yellow Dogs!

What is the Yellow Dog Project?  The Yellow Dog Project is a global movement that was created to bring awareness to the general public about dogs who needs space while out on a walk.  A Yellow Dog is a dog of any age, any breed, or any mutt who wears a yellow ribbon on their leash to let the public know that they need space and should not be approached.  Yellow Dogs could need space for a number of reasons: they’re in training, they’re shy, they’re recovering from a surgery, they’re reactive around other dogs, they have health issues, or any other number of reasons for a dog to require distance from others. 

At BlueDog, we firmly believe that respecting a dog’s need for space will help them become healthy, happier dogs!  When our caring team walks dogs around town, every dog walker knows to keep our clients’ dogs a safe distance from others.  Even if they’re friendly and social, this helps us ensure that they remain that way.  And we have a number of training clients whose pups already wear a yellow ribbon on his or her leash to make sure their training with us is as successful as possible!

And I even have three Yellow Dogs myself!  My four-year old Collie, Reese, is a little shy around new dogs and needs some time and space before she starts to feel comfortable.  And my four-month old Miniature Poodle puppy, Walt, is still just learning his proper doggie etiquette and good manners.  Keeping him at a distance from other dogs and people will prevent him from using his very silly puppy-antics on anyone who might not like them! 

And my eight-year old Collie, Elsa, well, she doesn’t exactly need a yellow ribbon, but she’s helping me spread the word about the Yellow Dog Project!  A yellow ribbon on a leash is a wonderful conversation starter and has made a number of our clients more comfortable about explaining to others that their pup just cannot say hello.

It’s our goal at BlueDog to help spread the awareness of the Yellow Dog Project to the residents of Andover and North Andover.  By doing so, we will be able to help the pups who need yellow ribbons so that they can feel more comfortable and safe while out on a walk! 

I would like to invite you to visit the BlueDog booth at the Dog Days Festival at Smolak Farms on Sunday, June 9th from 10am-4pm to learn more about the project and to get your pup his very own yellow ribbon.  It’s

a wonderful event for the entire family, and we can also discuss additional tips to help keep your pup happy and healthy!

To learn more about the Yellow Dog Project you can visit their website at or like them on Facebook at  You can also contact Kimberly at BlueDog by phone: 978.208.7933 or email: to get your pup a yellow ribbon and discuss how we can help ensure his walks are always safe, fun, and a positive experience!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tips for Taking Your Pup to a Community Event

Town events such as North Andover's annual Sheep Shearing Festival and Dog Day at Smolak Farms are perfect opportunities to socialize your pup and help him learn to be an active, well mannered member of the community.  My 4 month old puppy, Walt, will be attending both events with me and I plan to make the experience as fun and positive as possible!

The more prepared you are to bring your pup along to an event the better set up you'll be for success, so in addition to everything you've learned from your BlueDog classes or private lessons, I have put together a list of tips and reminders for you to make the very most out of the experience!

1. Pack some super treats and don't forget you clicker!  Oh knew I wouldn't allow you to leave your clicker at home!  The tastier the treats the better...regular kibble or chopped up carrots aren't going to cut it when there are sheep running around.  And your clicker will help you let your pup know the precise moment he's doing something right!

So, what are we clicking for? you might ask.  Well, anything your dog does that you like!  I want you to go there with a list of GOOD behaviors you'd like to see your dog give you.  The moment he does one, CLICK and give him a treat!  You should be clicking and treating at a high rate of reinforcement, we want to catch all the good things!  It could be anything from your dog glancing up to you, walking on a loose leash, or simply nice, calm behavior.  If he's being good let him know, because the more you reward the behaviors you like, the more he'll give them to you.  And don't forget that it's not just all about the clicker and treats, you've got to make it SO much fun for your pup to be with you!  Talk to him, surprise him with a toy in your back're going to have a lot of distractions to compete with so the silly puppy voice WILL be necessary.

What if my dog does something I don't like? you might also ask.  Simply avoid reinforcing it!  If your pup pulls, don't move and work on getting his attention back to you.  He only gets to move forward if the leash is loose, simple as that!

2. Start easy.  Find a place by the edge of the park where there are minimal distractions and begin reinforcing your dog immediately for good behaviors before moving toward the crowds.  You can even start your training in the car...why not?!  Begin by getting his attention with the Name Game, that's one of Walt's favorites, or try some easy commands like "sit" or "touch."  Setting him up for success early on will make the entire experience easier and much more fun for him.

3. Look for signs of stress.  We want public outings like this to be enjoyable for your pup, so if he looks too overwhelmed, he may not be ready for such a busy event.  Signs of stress include heavy panting, ears pulled back, low tail and head, not taking his treats, licking his lips, blinking his eyes, holding up his paw, or lots of yawning.  Of course, some of those behaviors may also represent excitement, but you know your pup and we've taught you if you think he's unhappy, he likely is.  Simply bring him home (or surprise him with a trip to his favorite local trail!) and allow him to calm down.  Then start bringing him to more locations but with less distractions (the park on a normal day would be much better to start.)  Just because he was overwhelmed, that doesn't mean he'll never be able to go to a busy event, he just needs some more time and training before he's comfortable with it!

4. Don't forget additional supplies.  Make sure your pup is wearing his ID when you go to an event and make sure you have a supply of poop bags.  Bring along some water as well, all the excitement might make him thirsty.  If you use a front-clip harness or head halter for training, this is a good time to use it.  And avoid bringing your pup's retractable leash as it will give you limited control and can prove to be dangerous in crowds; opt for his regular 6 foot lead instead.  And fun toy is always a good idea as well in case he starts to get bored with his treats!

5. Be respectful.  It's wonderful that Andover and North Andover are so dog friendly and allow dogs at these events, so let's keep it that way!  Make sure you clean up after your dog and always respect the personal space of others....not everyone loves slobbery kisses like we do!  And as I ALWAYS preach, make sure you ASK before you allow your dog to greet another dog or person, or simply don't allow him to say hello, he's too busy having fun with you anyways!  If you don't want your pup to say hello to another, feel free to throw me under the bus by saying "I'm sorry but he's in training, and my dog trainer is very strict!"  Or if you do want him to say hello, use it as an opportunity to reward good behavior by waiting until he's calm and on a loose leash before you allow him to say hi.

For more about proper greetings, ask me about the Yellow Dog Project.  And make sure to visit us at  Dog Days at Smolak Farms where we'll be talking about the project and handing out yellow ribbons for dogs who need them!

6. If things are going well, practice some of the more challenging behaviors your pup learned in class!  Use the event as a learning opportunity for your dog....if he's giving you great attention and straying by your side, feel free to ask for a little bit more, such as for a "down" or a 5 second "stay."  Or if you've been working hard on generalizing you pup's "settle," bring a mat and spend a couple minutes shaping him to it.  (This could be a great exercise for a couple of adolescent doodles I had in know who you are! : )  This will help your pup learn to generalize the behaviors he's learned in class, so that he'll do them for you anywhere, with any distractions.

Remember, when you bring your dog to a community event, you want to keep things as positive and fun as possible!  I will be thrilled if I get to see some of you at the Sheep Shearing Festival this Sunday, you'll find Walt and I at the North Andover Merchants Association's booth from 2-4pm (and will definitely get bonus points in class if you stop by with your pup and some treats and your clicker!)  The entire BlueDog team will also be at Dog Days at Smolak Farms at the BlueDog booth all day long.  

If you would like advice about your dog and if he is ready to attend these events, feel free to contact me.  And if you came across this blog and would like to understand what the heck I'm talking about because you haven't taken one of our classes, call me and we'll get your pup enrolled in some super fun training!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Great Cookie Debate

Each year as the air begins to turn cold and I must pull out my winter jacket, it never fails that I will find stale dog cookies in my pockets. Search my car and I can guarantee you’ll find bits of dog kibble throughout. I will even (shamefully) admit that during a recent dog training conference I was absolutely convinced and disgusted that the guy next to me smelled of rotten food. However, at the end of the day as I pulled my keys out of my purse, I discovered a bag full of old chopped up chicken that I had used to train my dogs a couple days prior, placed in my purse, and forgotten about. Oops!

The verdict is: I am a dog treat junkie. I have them everywhere, prepared for anything.

And I’m constantly recommending that every dog owner has a pocket full of dog treats as well. However, I find time and time again that people are chock full of too many excuses for not using treats. Their dogs will get fat. Their dogs will learn to beg. They don’t want to have to always carry treats with them. They want their dogs to do things because they asked them to, not because of food.

I understand the concerns, and I will gladly dive into each and every excuse later this week (for those of you who want to hear me rant even more.) However, for now I will keep this short and sweet and give you my blunt opinion.

When I take my two dogs anywhere, 90% of the time I have treats on me. I can confidently let them off the leash where it’s allowed, and know that they will come when they’re called. We could be walking past another dog, a squirrel could run by, or they could be indulging in something that I’d rather they didn’t eat. If I called, they’d come running, because they are always rewarded for it.

Of course, there’s that 10% when I don’t have treats on me. Last summer, my husband let our younger dog, Reese, out into the backyard in the evening without a leash and without treats. He wasn’t aware that about 30 feet away there was a skunk strolling across the yard, but Reese saw it and ran right up to it as if it were her best friend. My husband suddenly realized what was going on and called “Reese COME!” in a panic. Reese stopped in her tracks, turned around, and came running back to him; smelling just as fresh as she had before the adventure.

Reese came to my husband that evening because throughout her life she had learned that nearly every time we call her, she receives a treat. Over time, she became conditioned to respond to “Reese come!” because she had done it so often and had nearly always been rewarded for it. If Reese had only been 6 months old when she ran across a skunk in the yard, we likely would’ve ended up washing her in the bathtub that night. She wouldn’t have had enough time in her young life to become conditioned to respond to the command. But instead, she’s spent three years learning that if she comes when she’s called, she gets a treat. So it becomes automatic for her to obey us, even when there’s a very interesting, smelly new friend in her backyard.

I consider the command “come” as a life saving command. In Reese’s situation, it saved her from getting sprayed by a skunk. But in some situations, it can literally save your dog’s life. So if that’s the case, why not always have treats on you? At the least, it could save your dog from getting into trouble like Reese nearly did, or it could simply make your relationship with your dog a more trusting one; don’t we all want that? But in some cases, it could be a lot more than that, and getting your dog to listen to you could save his life.

When you take your dog out for a walk, what do you need? A leash. A poop bag. Perhaps a water bowl if you’ll be out for a while. So then, what’s the big deal about bringing along some treats? Get a treat pouch that attaches to your pants; you’ll look as stylish as me, and you won’t even need to use your hands to carry the treats! Reward your dog every time he is good by giving him a treat: when he comes when he’s called, when he looks at you instead of the dog across the street, when he’s walking nicely on the leash. The more you reward those behaviors, the more you’ll get them. And someday, I can guarantee that your habit of carrying those dog treats will come in handy.

So in the Great Cookie Debate, my vote is YES: all dog owners should carry treats with them. Not only will it create happier, more well behaved dogs, but it just might save lives as well. What’s your vote?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Big City, Good Dogs

I recently enjoyed my second trip to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City this month. And though much of my time is spent at the show itself, my husband and I also make a point to enjoy the city a bit as well. And it's a time like that, when I visit a new place, that I struggle with an unfortunate side effect of being a dog trainer; I analyze every single dog and owner I see. I mean no harm by it, and quite frankly enjoy it very much, you can learn so very much about dogs by watching how they are handled by different people! So as usual, as I walked the streets of New York City, I made sure to watch and critique each and every pup I saw.

And turns out, I was surprisingly impressed by the pups of NYC. And I apologize for using the word surprisingly....I don't mean to insult city folks....but for some reason I had expected poorly behaved dogs. You'd think living in a small apartment and only having busy sidewalks to walk and poop on would be the proper lifestyle for some really serious behavioral issues. Turns out, they're just the opposite!

So what is it about the city that creates dogs that walk nicely on a loose leash, stroll past strangers without hesitation, and even pass by another dog without barely saying hello? Whereas, us Andover residents are being dragged across the street anytime our pup sees a fluttering leaf?

Well, I can tell you. It's exposure to distractions. Exposure to lots of people, lots of sounds, lots of smells, and lots of dogs. It's unavoidable in a city like New York.

Think of when we raise a puppy here in the Andovers. Sure, we've got our neighbor's dog for him to meet. And the kids' friends come over once in a while. Walks are fairly limited to the neighborhood loop that you take him on, but you'll bring him to the park once in a while. He gets exposure, but is it enough to prevent him from going absolutely crazy at the end of the leash every time he walks by a new dog? Probably not.

In New York City, a dog steps out of his apartment and is bombarded with distractions. There are so many people rushing by ignoring him, he learns that there's no point to say hello to them all. And with the rush of people going by, some have dogs, but once again, they're usually not stopping to let their dogs say hello (which is why I've taught my dogs How To Be Snobs.) And even stopping to sniff a fire hydrant would be difficult with the heavy foot traffic. In New York City, there's a place and time to stop and say hello, it's called the dog park. But when you're out for a walk, there's just no slowing down. The lifestyle creates structure, routine, consistency, and a whole bunch of well mannered dogs.

So what can us Andover dog residents do to get those good manners? Exposure to distractions! Bring your dog everywhere. To the park, to the bank, to the pet store. Sign him up for training classes even if he already knows some basic commands, it will teach him to listen to you around other dogs. And when your dog sees another dog, another person, or stops to sniff, just keep walking. Allow him the chance to sniff in the yard before and after your walk, and perhaps a quick break as a reward halfway through your walk. But if you stop for a distraction for him, he'll learn that you'll likely stop next time, and the time after, and he'll begin to anticipate it. I never allow my dogs to say hello to another dog on the street simply because I want them to learn that during a walk, we don't stop. And you know what? We walk past another dog and they barely blink an eye.

So even though the pups in New York City may have it easier than our dogs because their exposure to distractions is unavoidable, that doesn't mean we can't help our pups get just as much exposure. It's just a matter of committing the time and structure into our dogs' lives!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Big Time BlueDog Pup!

In my opinion, all BlueDog pups are superstars. But it turns out, we actually have a doggie celebrity in our BlueDog family!

Meet Hunter, a BlueDog pup who will be competing at the 2012 Westminster Dog Show! And I will have the pleasure to cheer him on from the sidelines!

I was fortunate enough to be able to take care of Hunter a little while back. He is a fun loving, goofy boy who loves to play. He lives with three other Samoyed pups - Kallie, Cooper, and Pinky. They are a wonderful group of dogs and are so much fun!

And apparently good looks run in the family. Hunter's mom, Kallie, received an Award of Merit at the 2004 Westminster Dog Show!

Once I found out he'd be competing at the show this year, I asked his mom to answer a couple of questions about him. This is what she had to say:

Hunter's show name: “GCH KallieCo’s On The Hunt”

Favorite toy: Lamby and Raccoon (he insists on bringing them outside with


Favorite hobby: chasing squirrels and chipmunks (and even caught a real raccoon in the backyard!)

Favorite TV show: All the commercials with dogs in them. He also likes checking out Samoyeds on the internet too (as seen in the picture)

Favorite Treat: pork liver or Butcher Boy calves liver

Skills: Exceptional bed warming, singing & digging skills

Dislikes: the blow dryer

Next Tuesday, Hunter will compete against 15 other Samoyeds to try to win Best in Breed. If he wins, he'll then compete against the winning dog of each breed in the Working Group. That winner will go on to compete against the top dog of each of the 7 groups to win Best in Show!

You can watch the show live on the US Network next Monday and Tuesday from 8-11pm.

So please send good vibes to the BlueDog pup competing at the Westminster Dog Show! And even if he doesn't win Best in Show, Hunter will certainly be Westminter's top dog in my book : )

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

4 Years, 14 Lessons

Once upon a time there was a girl who ran a dog walking and training business, and in her spare time she would blog, sharing valuable information about how to raise a happy, healthy dog. And then one day she became way too busy with her business, leaving her with absolutely no time to write.

Yup, you guessed it, that was me!

But I’m back, not because business is any slower, but because I finally have some help in place that will allow me the time to blog once again. For those of you who have never read my blog before, or have forgotten about me (common, it hasn’t been that long has it?) I’m Kimberly Palermo, proud owner of BlueDog (and now BlueDog Academy!) For those of you who remember, hello again!

Since my last blog I’ve learned an incredible amount about dogs. That’s the beauty of our relationship with them – we’re always learning and they’re always learning. I also took a certification course at Gail Fisher’s All Dogs Academy, discovering a tremendous amount about training dogs. I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with you!

However, before I indulge in the wonderful world of dogs, I wanted to begin with an announcement that I am so incredibly proud of. On February 2nd, 2012, BlueDog turned four years old! It seems like it was just yesterday when I began with a handful of business cards, a newspaper ad, and a dream. Now my dream is a reality! I absolutely enjoyed every moment of the journey and I learned many lessons along the way. Lessons that, in my opinion, should be shared with others.

So for my first back-to-blogging blog, I’d like to share some of those lessons with you. Some are dog related, some are business related, and some are life related. Hopefully some will pertain to you.

1. Dogs rock! (Ok, I knew that before I began my business. But either way it’s totally true.) No explanation needed.

2. Marry a rich spouse. Or at least a passionate, supportive one. I chose the second, though I couldn’t complain about my husband’s income either. But having a partner to support me through the past four years as a business owner was the best thing I could’ve asked for. Because starting and running a business isn’t always easy - just as life isn’t always easy. There are ups and downs and quite frankly, at times there are lows. Having my husband by my side supporting my business is what brought me to where I am today.

3. Grow because you want to, not because you have to. I learned the hard way not to hire hastily. Two years ago, as calls came pouring in for walks, I desperately searched for a new employee, hired quickly, and then got burned. I was stuck with too many clients and not enough walkers. I don’t like to turn new clients away, but now I will if I don’t have enough help. I’m also always looking for the right person to join our team now, whether I need to hire or not. That way I’m patient about who I pick, and it’s the right choice for my business.

4. Sweat the small stuff. But then learn from it and do something about it. I know this goes against what everyone else says. The thing is, the small stuff - the little details - they really do matter. After each dog walk, my walkers and I have always leave notes at my clients’ houses, filling them in on the details of their pup’s adventures with us. But last year I began noticing that my walkers were taking a really long time writing out notes, and they’d use any kind of paper they could find, including scraps of paper. It didn’t seem very professional to me, and was quite time consuming. But really, how important are the notes? Well to me, they were important. So I worked with a graphic designer and printer and created journals (or BlueDog DogLogs as we call them!) to leave at each client’s home. In it my walkers can check off what the pup did, leave a short note, and even include a sticker when a pup is extra good! Sure, it costs more than using scraps of paper, but the feedback was phenomenal; my clients absolutely love their journals and my walkers appreciate the time saver. It was just a minor part of our business, but I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of details because of it.

5. Never put your phone number in a help wanted ad. Talk about learning the hard way! 62 voicemails in one weekend. Stick to your email addresses.

6. There’s always tomorrow. Yes, I just quoted Annie. But it’s totally true. Recently I had a walker break her leg, another have her tonsils remove, then a third get sick with the flu. All within days of my certification program during which I would be unavailable for five days. I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it through the week. But guess what? I did. I took what I’ve learned in the past during tough times, I improvised a bit, and I got through it - and not a single dog missed a walk!

7. It’s OK to talk out loud to your dog. My neighbors must think I’m crazy. Actually, probably anyone who sees me walking a dog does. Because I talk to them, a lot. And I do it because dogs love it (OK, it’s also because I have no one else to talk to.) But if you want your dog’s attention on a walk, tell him how wonderful he is, be silly, and act like a dork. Your dog will totally love you for it; just ask any dog that I walk.

8. Stay humble, but be proud. It’s my husband who has to remind me of this one time and time again. When I get frustrated by the everyday of running a business, it’s easy to forget why I’m doing it and how far I’ve come. I just dwell on the little issues and forget about the big picture. It takes him reminding me of what I’ve accomplished to bring me back to a positive outlook. Even the little accomplishments mean a lot – a new client, a training success story, a nice compliment on one of my walkers. Be proud of what you do, it’ll help you continue to be successful.

9. Trust people. I was reminded of this lesson when I met with my accountant this week. After talking about my business’s growth over the past couple of years, we began laughing about the first time I came into her office. It was about 8 months into the start of my business and my husband and I were just about to get married. All I had to document my sales was a mess of Excel spreadsheets and I was totally freaking out about leaving the business while we went on our honeymoon. My plan was to have my sister and mom run the business for me while we were away. Why I was afraid that something would happen in the hands of my family was beyond me, but I was scared out of my mind! Fast forward four years and on our last vacation, I had a dog walker staying at my house with my own dogs, another taking care of all phone calls and emails for the business, and a third managing my employees. If I couldn’t trust others, not only would I not be able to grow my business, but I certainly would never go on another vacation again!

10. Give yourself some me time. This one is a challenge as a business owner, especially for someone who works from home. It’s way too easy to work from 6am to 9pm at night, and still feel guilty about not getting enough work done. I’ve learned to allow myself some time to get away. This means literally getting out of the house to do something. Of course, for me that usually means a walk with my two Collies. But a date night with my husband is nice as well. Of a Friday afternoon lunch with my mom and sisters. Whatever it is, I need it at times, we all do.

11. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it’s important enough to be repeated. When I held our open house for our new training facility, I was literally astounded by how many people showed up to support our business. Friends, family, clients, business associates, even people who I had never met before. Everyone was so excited for our next step, and if I didn’t have the support of those people, I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to open a dog training facility. You need those people, and you don’t need someone who doesn’t support you. They will only bring you down.

12. Check for holes in bags. All you dog owners out there know what I’m talking about. Never let your guard down before you pick up dog poop. There could be a hole in that bag.

13. Take risks. With a down economy and people unable to find jobs, it’s hard to see the reality in taking risks. But it’s also hard to live out your dreams if you don’t take them, which is why I quit my straight-out-of-college sales job to start my own business in 2008. And as my business grows I continue to take risks all the time. Most recently my husband and I took the greatest risk of all - he quit his full time, stable job to work for BlueDog. Talk about scary stuff! It was a discussion with my in-laws that really convinced us that it was the right move to make. My father-in-law had taken numerous risks, both successful and unsuccessful, as an entrepreneur throughout his entire life. But the biggest one he took was when he was in his late forties; he sold his stable dental lab business and went back to school to become a licensed denturist and open his own practice in Maine. They told us it wasn’t an easy decision, but they wouldn’t be where they are today – proud owners of a thriving denture practice (shout out to Denture Solutions!) if they hadn’t had the guts to take that risk.

14. And if you’re stressed out, go walk a dog. One of the greatest lessons I learned was from my younger brother. One day I was ranting on and on to him about how the business was stressing me out. Finally, he looked me in the eye and calmly said “Kim, what do you do when you’re stressed out? You go for a walk or you play with your dog. You walk dogs all day long. Get over it.” And he’s totally right. So if you’re stressed out, go find a dog to take for a walk, I know plenty who would be more than happy to join you!

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's All About the Energy!

Well hello there! It's been quite a while since I've been able to write. I'd like to say it's because I've been lounging on the beach all summer long with a margarita in my hand, but that's not quite the case. I've been busy spending my summer days with dogs (which in my opinion, is even better than the beach!)

Ah, but I've finally found a moment or two! As usual, just when I think I know as much as I can about dogs, the wonderful pups that I work with have taught me even more. And of course, my favorite thing to do is share what I've learned.

If you've got a dog and if you watch TV, then I'm sure you've watched an episode or two (or a lot!) of Cesar Millan's The Dog Whisperer. And if that's the case, you've heard of his famous suggestion to portray "calm, assertive energy" while working with a dog. And yes, he's completely right. A calm, assertive energy is going to help you handle your dog better.

However, that doesn't just apply to people. Our dogs are surrounded by other dogs. There's the neighbor's dog, the dog that you run into at the park, or the dog that you pass on the street. In the Andovers, they're everywhere! But not all of them are taking Cesar Millan's advice to stay "calm and assertive."

This became quite clear to me when our other dog trainer, Amy, and I recently worked with a Golden Retriever named Duncan. Prior to his next training session, his mom had emailed me saying that though his training has been nothing short of astounding, he's still very reactive around other dogs; lunging at the leash and barking if they pass another dog on their walk. The embarrassment and frustration had gone on long enough; she was ready to tackle the issue.

So next time we met up, I brought along my two dogs, Elsa and Reese. Amy stayed with Duncan and his mom, while I drove down the street to prepare my dogs to walk past them as they went for a walk. I started with my older girl, Elsa.

Now, as a side note - Elsa is perfect. Ok, I'm bias. Perhaps she's just a well-behaved snob. See, Elsa could care less about other dogs. She's been around them her entire life, attends daily dog walks and training sessions with me, and has more friends than I could ever imagine having. So quite frankly, a new dog means nothing to her. In addition to that, she's extremely obedient. And for those reasons, Elsa barely blinks an eye if we walk past another dog.

So as Duncan came towards us, Elsa and I walked by. Elsa kept walking, and Duncan kept walking. And not a thing happened.

You'd think Duncan's mom would be happy about the turn out, but she was not at all! Her dog had just made a liar of her! She had gone on and on about how bad he reacts to other dogs, and then Duncan walks right past Elsa as if it's nothing. So I suggested a twist. I'd bring out Reese.

Now, about Reese. Reese is a social butterfly and absolutely loves to have fun. However, just like Elsa, she's very obedient. So we could have easily walked past Duncan without a hitch. But we were there to tackle Duncan's problem, so that's not what we did. It doesn't take much to get Reese to play, so play we did! She leaped and jumped and barked as I egged her on. She had a blast! And Duncan totally wanted in. So the lunging and barking began.

See, Reese wasn't expressing the calm, assertive energy that Elsa was. Elsa was boring. But Reese was exciting and playful and quite frankly, a bit out of control at times. So Duncan reacted by pulling and barking, his go-to behavior when he walks past another dog with unstable energy. And because we were in a controlled situation, Amy was able to coach his mom on how to get Duncan to stop the bad behavior. By the end of our session, Reese was exhausted, and Duncan was comfortably walking past her distracting behavior.

So how does this relate to your dog? Well, it means you've got to give him some credit! I hear it all the time, "my dog is fine around most dogs, but he hates the neighbor's dog." That's because that particular dog isn't expressing the right energy and your dog is feeding off of it.

Now of course, there's sometimes more to it than just the other dog. Many of our dogs are conditioned to react to all dogs, no matter what their energy, because we allow them to. That's why I've literally taught my dogs to be snobs. (To learn how to do that, read
Why My Dogs Are Snobs.) It could also simply be a matter of a lack of socialization. And you have to remember that if your dog is reacting inappropriately to another dog, it's not just the other dog exuding the unstable energy - it's your dog too.

I told you Elsa is a snob. However, she will make friends and play with a pup who approaches her correctly. But if there's a dog lunging at the leash, she just turns and walks the other way. Fortunately, she's learned to disregard such distractions, but not all dogs have. And it's not easy, so give your dog a break. I can assure you that your neighbor's dog who he absolutely hates is totally egging him on!

So how can you teach your dog to react better to other dogs, especially those who are not exuding the right energy?

  • Start by staying calm and assertive yourself. If you see another dog coming, don't tense up and tighten on the leash. Your dog is going to sense your energy and get tense himself!
  • Keep treats on you. When you see another dog in the distance, start getting your pup's attention by saying his name, and then giving him a treat. Teach him that when there are distractions, you have something that's even better - food!
  • Avoid the problem dogs. If you see your dog's nemesis approaching, turn around. Don't set your dog up for failure; begin by walking past only the dogs who are exuding the right energy and work your way up to more difficult dogs.
  • Plan some play dates. Talk to some friends who have well socialized dogs and arrange for your pups to play. Start by walking as a group with your dogs on a leash, and then reward their good behavior by allowing them to play.
  • Teach your dog to be a snob. Don't let your dog say hello and meet every dog you pass, because he's going to begin to anticipate it and pull towards every dog. Teach him that he only says hello once in a while, and it's only if he's behaving well.
  • Avoid having your dog face the other dog and make eye contact. That position is confrontational to dogs. Unless the dogs are already friends, they should meet by approaching each other to the side and without much eye contact. If you allow your dog to face forward, you’re setting him up to appear threatening to the other dog.
  • Work with a dog trainer. If you can't seem to get your dog under control no matter what you do, try getting professional help. A trainer will not only show you how to properly control your dog in those situations, but can also teach your dog how to react correctly to other dogs.
  • And most importantly - keep things positive and have fun! When your dog passes another dog without reacting, that's a BIG deal! Let him know how happy you are by lavishing him with praise. Just as much as you want to understand your dog, you want him to understand you - so let him know that you're most happy when he's well behaved!
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