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, December 27, 2012

Luna Looking for a Home

Female Pit Bull Terrier (c. 3 years old)

Luna is a beautiful blue-gray, small pit bull terrier who we rescued from euthanasia 1.5 years ago. We and our vet believe she is around 2 and1/2 – 3 years old, and she is around 40 lbs. and will not grow larger (she’s a tiny one for her breed).  She is energetic and excited still (as a growing youth J), loving, incredibly loyal, intelligent and in excellent health now after having suffered abuse in a difficult situation as a puppy.  We love her very much, but unfortunately we are going through a divorce and career changes that involve extended travel, long hours, and “no pet” temporary housing, and neither of us can provide Luna with the home and care that she needs and deserves. We do not want to take her back to a shelter. We are committed to finding her a good home with people who will provide a loving, low stress environment for her and continue her training because she has so much potential and a great personality.  She lives in Andover, MA right now, but for the right home situation, we are willing to transport her anywhere at our expense (she loves road trips in the car!) and can provide all her equipment (toys, new carrier, bed, dishes, and baby gates if needed to restrict access to rooms, etc.)

Luna is house-trained, up to date on all vaccinations, and spade.  She has received group and individual training from the MSPCA and Blue Dog Academy (Andover, MA) respectively and has a great foundation for further training (she can sit, lay down, play “touch,” roll over, etc.).  She is very smart and energetic and thrives when she is working out a puzzle, or practicing new behaviors or “jobs” – she’s likes working, finding hidden things, hiking on the trails – she does best when she’s mentally stimulated.  Because of her troubled puppy days, she does have some lingering socialization issues that she will need continued training and growing to move beyond. She is nervous and reacts defensively around most other dogs (but not all) and does not know how to approach them, often pulling on the leash and barking.  This is likely due to attacks she suffered when she was abandoned in her puppy days. She definitely prefers humans and humans love her!  An ideal home for her would be one where she is the only dog in the household and preferably no young kids (as she’s not used to being around them).  She would do really well if there was a fenced in back yard where she could zoom around a few times a day (although that’s not a requirement of course, as we never had that). We have 2 cats, and she is fine with them.  She requires exercise daily, a substantial walk, and is more relaxed when she is stimulated mentally because she is so smart.  She’d be a great companion for someone who is active, assertive, and strong because she loves that kind of personality!  

If you would be interested in meeting us and learning more about Luna, please contact Carmen Munoz at  We want to make sure she is going to the right kind of adoption situation, so expect a meeting and significant background questions from us, and we’ll be happy to provide as much information as we can about us and our experience too.  Thank you!

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!
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