File your nails Part 2

To continue working on filing our own nails down, I covered the piece of wood that I taught Loki to target with his feet, with a medium coarse sandpaper.
I have provided a link below to the video of Loki working on doing his nails.

Video Link 

With the board leaned up against the wall we started our work again, “File” and up his foot when.  As he scratches it down the sandpaper it will slowly file his nails down.  This will be something we work on a few times a day every day to get his nails back down where they need to be.

We don’t always think about our dog’s nails until they are scratching us or snagging our clothes.  The problem is unless you are walking your dog on concrete every day they have no way of taking care of their own nails.  Trimming your dog’s nails can be quite difficult and even intimidating for some owner’s who have dogs with black nails.  You just can’t see what you’re doing with those black nails.

When Loki was a baby his nails were clear and I was so happy.  My last dog having had black nails and it was always a struggle to do his nails.  After a few months, Loki’s nails just like the rest of him got darker.

For more information, you can find me at:
Helping Paws Canine Assistance Training, Jonesboro, AR


File your own nails Part 1

In the spirit of National Train Your Dog Month, I decided that I will be teaching Loki a few new skills this month.  One of our BIG logo_tydm_v3problems with Loki is that I can not do his nails.  When he was little I started doing his nails right after bringing him home.  My last dog Tazie was horrible to do his nails and I really didn’t want to have to go through that again.  While he was a puppy he was really squirmy so I wrapped him in a blanket and did his nails.  Somehow I scared him really bad and caused him to have a fear reaction.  So now he won’t let me touch his feet with anything in my hands.

Today I put a board in front him and started working with his targeting skills and got him to touch the board with his feet.  Then using clicker training we worked up to him actually scratching the board with his feet.  I named it File once he was doing it reliably.  I didn’t have my camera tripod so I couldn’t get a video of him doing it, but I will tomorrow and post it.

Now he will be able to file his own nails down without being afraid, and it will also be providing mental stimulation for him.




What is a Certified Dog Trainer?

January is National Train Your Dog Month, and I thought I would work on a series of blogs about what it all means.  Just like any other profession, there are a lot of crazy terms and acronyms that get thrown around.  For someone who isn’t “in the know”, it can be a bit intimidating.  So let’s dive right in shall we?

What is a Certification and what does it mean?

There are several ways to get a certification, like working for a big box retailer that will certify you to teach their classes.  I have a certification from both Petco and PetSmart.  There are other Professional membership groups that also offer certifications IAABC_newlogo_webAsscCertto their members that apply for and pass the test/application for them.  Such as my behavioral consultant certification from IAABC.

There are school programs to go through as well.  The most popular is ABC (Animal Behavior College).  I chose to go a different route here as well because it suited my situation better.  I was already working with training mentors and getting hands-on experience daily in a training facility.  I chose to take a different online course from Penn Foster and completed an Associates degree for Canine Education Instruction.
The IACP has a list of programs that offer certification for people that want to become a dog trainer.

cpdt-ka-testing-areas-pie-chartThere is also The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) that tests dog trainers for their level of proficiency with learning theory and husbandry skills.  This test is only given twice a year.
One of my goals for 2018 is to actually sit down and take it, I have allowed it to intimidate me for several years now and I need to just bite the bullet and do it.

Both the IAACP and CCPDT require Continuing Education Credits.  We must keep up with our education in new training techniques and our knowledge about the health and care of dogs in order to keep our certifications.

Anyone can slap on a hat and say they are a dog trainer, but it takes someone special with a deep devoted love of dogs and calling to help them, to be a professional dog trainer.  It’s not just something we do, it’s who we are!

Christmas with Dogs

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and also the one of the most stressful and dangerous for our dogs.  We get into the holiday spirit and start to decorate our house with big beautiful Poinsettia’s and Holly and Mistletoe boughs.


Holly, Mistletoe, and Poinsettia are all poisonous to dogs.  The danger does not end with the plants.  Tinsel for the tree may look really pretty, however, it can become tangled in your dog’s intestines and stomach. The pretty glass balls that we hang on the tree can also be a danger as our dogs try to play with them, causing them to fall and break.  Broken pieces of glass can become embedded in their feet or worse yet, they may eat them.

The tree itself is even confusing for our dogs.  “WE” have taught them to go outside and do their business and they often pee on the trees of our yards to let others know it’s their territory.  Now we have brought a tree into the house!!!!   Oh, My!!!!  Our dogs think…  “need to put my address here”.

Now let’s talk about all the goodies that go on the table.  Ham or Turkey? Both are staples

christmas dinner

of holiday dinners, and both can cause problems for our dogs.  Small poultry bones can cause choking hazards at best and splinter and perforation of the stomach and intestines at worst.  It’s perfectly safe to give our pets some lean white meat and veggies, but no skin.  With pork, just as with us, make sure it is FULLY cooked.  Dogs can get Trichinosis just like us, so no undercooked pork.

We must also beware of the all the chocolate that will be around for our pups to make off with.  Here is a list of other foods that you need to be careful of around your dog.

Raisins & Currants & Grapes
Walnuts & Macadamias
Onion and Garlic
Xylitol (sugar substitute)
Yeast Dough

The stress of having so many strangers in their home and so much commotion going on dreamstime_l_21787619can cause even more problems.  Be aware of the doors as your guests are coming and going.  If your pup seems to be stressed, give them some time alone in a room by themselves.  A special chew toy or treat to keep them busy will help them feel more relaxed.


Email me at with any questions and I will be happy to answer them or write about them in the future.

Service Dogs and Vets

Last Tuesday night I was honored to be a part of an appreciation dinner for our local veterans by the Rotary club.

KAIT 8 article

The other purpose for the dinner was to help raise money and awareness for the PAWS4VETS program that I’m a part of with the Beck PRIDE Center at ASU.  We help local vets train (mostly) shelter dogs as PTSD dogs.  The Vets get a non-judgmental companion, that helps restore their independence and the dogs get forever homes with a partner to spend their every moment with.

dancherryWe were blessed with getting to hear Retired Brigadier General Dan Cherry the author of “My Enemy My Friend”.  His story of what it was like in Vietnam made me think of my own dad.  He was one of the lucky ones that got to come back home.  My father came home in 1972 and married my mom 4 years later I was born.  As a child growing up my father was what I have always described as emotionally absent.  He didn’t show much emotion and I didn’t really know much of anything about what he went through as a young man in the Army in a foreign country fighting a war for his country.  The first time I ever talked to my dad about Vietnam was after going to a college history class and hearing my teacher tell us to forget everything our history book told us about Vietnam because that’s wasn’t what


My dad, circa 1972



As I’ve gotten older and had to deal with my own emotionally turbulent life, I’ve learned what the effects of PTSD are.  Although service and therapy dogs started being used in 1945 with veterans coming home from WWII they were not as well-known as they are today, which still isn’t great.

The horrors that our service men must face every day just to survive scar their minds for life.  They are unable to cope with day to day life, outside the context of combat.  The effects of PTSD are life-altering.  It makes living life and doing simple things harder than it has to be.  Any little thing can be a trigger, a car backfiring can sound like a gunshot.  Just going to sleep at night can be stressful as they are the nights are full of nightmares of their experiences.  Sometimes those nightmares don’t even wait for sleep.

I’ve been asked many times what makes me do this? Or what I get from this type of training?

The simple answer is all about independence!!  The more complex answer has to do with my own childhood and my dad.  With my dad being a veteran himself it’s my way of honoring him but helping other veterans learn to live in a way that can regain their independence.  As I mentioned I have had an emotionally turbulent life, I have PTSD myself.  I know how it feels to lose a piece of yourself and your independence because of


Tazie 2011

some irrational fear of something happening again.  I know the feelings of needing to lock away my emotions to protect myself.  Life was made so much easier with my Tazie.  He would alert me to an oncoming panic attack.  He would ground me and help me center and relax before I lost control of my emotions.


The Importance of Socalization

As a dog trainer, I broke a cardinal rule and yesterday I paid the price for it.  I always, no matter what tell my puppy parents how important it is to get their puppies out there and make sure they see tons of people and sights and sounds and walk on different kinds of surfaces too.

babylokiOne of the more common sayings about dog trainers is that we often have some the worst dogs.  Wither that is because we take on the more behaviorally challenging dogs, or we spend all day training everyone else’s dogs and when we get home we are often too tired to work with our own dogs as much as we would like.

For me, it’s a case of my husband and I moved in with his mother to help take care of her.  She is terrified of dogs, and this makes it very had on me having  2 dogs, Cattle dogs at that.  Rough and tumble boys who love to wrestle and play, jump around and pounce each other.  The slightest vocalization and she thinks they are fighting because she doesn’t understand dogs.

While training at a large retail pet store I wasn’t allowed to take my pup with me to work to socialize him, like I did with my last pup 10 years ago.  Also having a 2yr old at home I really didn’t the time I thought I would, and I kept saying I’ll make time to do that next week, and well next week never came.  The next thing I knew he is 8 months old as of last week and is spooked by a dumpster!!  Yes, I know excuses… excuses… yet sadly it’s the truth.

I took him out to a festive for dogs yesterday, I was supposed to do a dog training demo and early on I saw that it really wasn’t going to work out because he was so distracted he wouldn’t even listen to his name.  Poor puppy couldn’t even go to the bathroom, he got so distracted every time he tried and just couldn’t do it.  I was starting to fear he had a blockage of some sort.  Then my anxiety of talking in front of a crowd took over and well, to say the least, it was not good.  Thankfully several of my former students were there to vouch for my training abilities.


Anyway, back to the subject of socialization.  At first, as we set up our table anytime someone walked by I was having to cue him to Leave it and try to get him to relax and settle.  Then he started just lay under the table in the shade and relax while I treated his being quiet as people approached.  Sometimes he got so overstimulated he wouldn’t even take a treat from me.  What I mean by overstimulated is that there was so much going on that he couldn’t mentally process it all without getting into a mental state where he was unable to control himself and remember his training.  Treats meant nothing to him during this time, so I just offered him lots and lots of petting and praise to let him know I was pleased with his quiet moments.  When he got too wound up, we excused ourselves and when for a little stroll in the potty area to let him sniff and see if he would go potty.

I am very proud though that through all the walking we did yesterday, not one time did he pull out ahead of me or jerk on his leash.  He stayed with me and walked beside me the whole time.

I  feel as if I have let my pup down, this is not the type of trainer I am, I normally put a lot of work into my training and I need to make sure I start putting that work into him to give him everything he needs.  As trainer’s we are human too. After 11 years of work and 4 years of feeling like I was in a rut, it’s time to pull myself out of this rut and embrace this new chapter of my training journey with Loki and help him be the amazing dog I see when he and I are training alone together.


Service Dogs – The cost of Training

It had been aservice_dog_in_training while since I looked at the cost of training / obtaining a trained service dog, so this morning I’ve spent some time milling around the internet looking up the costs.  Now there are two ways of getting an SD we are going to look at both.

Option #1

Buy from a training facility.  You find a group that trains the type of SD you need and you purchase one from that group and you then do team training after that puppy is ready to be placed with its handler (you).  Now the cost of this can run you anywhere from $13,000 on the low side up to $35,000 on average or higher in some cases.

Option #2

Owner Training.  Now owner training is what I offer so you might think I’m a little bias to towards this option because of that, but just let me finish and then look at the numbers.

So you have a dog/puppy already or find one that you think will make a perfect service dog help with your disability.  Now you have to decide if you will try to go it alone, as many people do and some are very successful because they are driven to learn about dog training and have a lot of time to devote to their dog.

Or the other option is you find a trainer like me, who coaches you on how to train your dog.   You get the benefit of my experience and knowledge to help you along this journey.

Now the cost of this type of training is going to cost a little more than doing it by yourself but nowhere near the cost of $13,000 to buy a trained.

When I charge a student for an SD package I charge $2600 which is 26 private lessons at $100.  I teach them all of their Basic and Intermediate Advanced obedience skills. Public Access Skills they test for the Canine Good Citizen Test and learn 2 individualized tasks to help with their disability which is what the ADA requires.

Now I ALWAYS tell my students that in no way is their dog fully trained at that point, however, they are ready to go out in public and continue their training with their handlers.   They always know they have the option to come back to me at any point in time and do another private appointment to work on a new skill or to refine a previously learned.

The cost, however, does not end there.  Then you have vet Bills and food and treats, and toys.  Your new companion still has needs.  I participate in a program to train PTSD dogs for some local Veterans.  A survey was done before we started and midway thought, that showed they were more stressed while in training than before we started.    I can’t help but wonder how much of that was not realizing the commitment that it takes to have a service dog.

With PTSD which is mainly what I specialize in, just having the dog gives the handler a chance to interact with others again.  You have to go out and train in public, go to vet visits, shop for your dog’s needs, walk your dog, feed your dog, and most importantly bond with your dog.  There are things that the dogs needs and the handlers are the only ones that can give those things.

The rewards of having a service dog are way too many to list, but the most important one is having a return of a sense of independence.

To me, it’s well worth the investments of emotion, time, effort and money.

Operant Learning

063017_1442_OperantLear1.gifSo first let’s look at the basic terms used here and what they mean in this context.

Positive simply means something is given to the learner.

Negative means to take something away from the learner.

Reinforcement is something that will increase the chances of a behavior being repeated.

Punishment is something that will decrease the chances of a behavior being repeated.

Positive Reinforcement is adding good things that the learner finds appealing and that they are willing to work towards getting to increase the likelihood of a behavior being offered. (food, petting, praise, toys, play)

Negative Reinforcement is taking away or delaying those good things in decrease the likelihood of a behavior being offered.

Positive Punishment is adding something that the learner wishes to avoid, increasing the likelihood of a behavior being offered. (leash corrections, time outs, scolding, shocks)

Negative Punishment is taking away something that the learner wishes to avoid, decreasing the likelihood of a behavior being offered.

When it comes to punishment though there are many punishers that are bad, we must not think of it as being, Punishment = bad things.  The value of reinforcements and punishers, lies in the opinion of the learner.  Not every punisher is an aversive.

Let’s use the example of a dog lunging towards a stranger and break it down to the science of learning.

Fluffy and her dad are out walking in the park when she sees a stranger coming toward her.  Fluffy loves attention and so she lunges out to the end of her leash, standing up on her back feet trying to reach the stranger to greet her.  Dad sees what is happening, and askes the stranger to wait and not pet Fluffy until her feet are back down on the floor.  As the stranger moves away Fluffy sits down to wait for her to come back and is rewarded with getting some attention and petting from the stranger.

When we look at this example there is nothing that should be considered a bad thing right?

Let us first look at the basics and where everything falls on the above chart.  The Positive Reinforcer is the stranger’s attention, and the Negative Punishment is the stranger backing away and withholding that attention.

As Fluffy jumps up and lunges out, the stranger backs away taking with her the attention that Fluffy finds very appealing (thus why the attention is a Reinforcement). Then when Fluffy sits the stranger approaches and give the desired attention, teaching Fluffy that if she keeps her feet on the ground she can get the attention she wants.


Let’s look at another example, barking at other dogs.

Say Fluffy is out walking with his mom and every time he sees another dog, he explodes in a barking fit.  Mom yanks up on the prong collar he is wearing and Fluffy stops barking for a moment, so mom stops giving the leash corrections.

When Fluffy barks at the other dogs, his mom starts giving Positive Punishments of popping the leash with the prong collar.  He stops barking, and mom stops giving the leash corrections.  Negative Reinforcement mom removing the leash corrections after Fluffy has stopped barking.

PTSD and Service Dogs


Today I want to talk about service dogs, but not just any service dogs- PTSD dogs.For many people when the thought of a service dog comes to mind they think of someone that has a disability that they can clearly see, but not all disabilities are able to be seen. PTSD is a stress disorder that is affecting millions of Americans every year. The current statistic is that about 8 million cases are reported every year. Of those 8 million cases a year, 6500 of our Vets commit suicide because of PTSD related issues. What if a dog, a constant non-judgmental companion could ease those burdens?

Our Vets return home from horrors we can’t even imagine and are unable to even talk about the things they have seen, but how do we help them process and heal from those traumatic events?
The very act of being a pet parent has mental health therapy written all over it. Not only does it give the handler someone else to live for, which in itself is huge, but it helps to get people back out into the world and reconnect with others. Wither it’s taking the pup out for a walk, going to a vet appointment, or preparing food, all these acts give someone with PTSD a reason to get out of bed or even just out of their own head every day.

Having a companion that is right there with you to help you with the day to day tasks that we take for granted can ease the feelings of lost independence, and that is the underlying idea of a Service Dog.

PTSD dogs not only help with navigating through crowds of people, which for some can set off a panic attack alone, but they also help with things like alerting their owner to the presence of someone being behind them. Helping to wake them from night terrors, or from a grey out. They can be taught to alert to when their handler is disconnecting with reality into traumatic memories. They can pick up medication pouches and bring it to their handlers as well as other items. There are so many things that they can learn to do that we could spend all day just talking about that. According to the American’s with Disabilities Act though, a dog is considered to be a service dog if they are trained to help and individual with at least 2 tasks that help ease the handler’s disability. Many of these dogs do much more than just two tasks.

The physical and emotional support that these service dogs give are even capable of restoring family relationships that are in danger of falling to the effects of PTSD. When we must ask another person for help, we often feel like burdens. Even the most patient and loving family members are not able to be there 100% of the time. The dogs have a way of helping the handler manage their disabilities with that restoration of independence.

US Army Captian Luis Carlos Montalvan wrote a book called Until Tuesday about his life and recovery with his Service Dog Tuesday. In an interview about his book he said “The pain is real, but so is the healing. This is a friendship and partnership but also Medical therapy. Please do not look down on someone for having a service dog or deny them the basic rights afforded to others like access to businesses, restaurants, or public transportation.

It’s important to remember that Service Dogs have a job to do, please when you see a service dog out in public don’t distract them from their job – someone’s life may be depending on them.

When you see someone with a Service Dog, Smile and nod to the handler but don’t try to pet their dog.  Some dogs wear a patch that says, “please ask before petting.” For those dogs by all means ask if you can pet.  Their handlers are comfortable with their dogs getting social interactions with people.

It is important to note however, that the ADA however does not require for Service dogs to wear anything that denotes them as a service dog.  Service dog handlers just ask for understanding and a respect of their privacy.

National Train Your Dog Month

January is the month that the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) has chosen as

logo_tydm_v3National Train Your Dog month.  So, in honor of that, I thought we would talk about some basic obedience skills that make for the best manners possible in our best friends.

The following are the five best behaviors that all our puppies should learn no matter what age they start learning at.

Sit –  Simply put, place your bottom on the floor.  There are so many unwanted behaviors that our pups simply cannot do if they are sitting for us.

Down – lie down with your tummy touching the floor.  This is one of the behaviors where we do have to give our pups some leeway.  The down position puts our pups in a very vulnerable position.  It takes a lot of energy for our pups to come back up from the down and they don’t always know when they are going to have to defend themselves.  We know they are safe, but if they have any anxiety or fear they may not want to lay down for fear of not being able to get into a defensive stance in time, should the need arise.

Recall – come to me when I call your name.  This behavior is so very important not o


Here Loki

nly because we use it daily but it is what I call a lifesaving behavior.  Teaching out dogs to come to us when we call their names means that we also need to teach them that their name has meaning and it is important that when we say it that they pay attention to see what we need.  It’s so much more than just come here when I call your name.


Stay / Wait – Sit/down here and wait for me to tell you what to do next.  There is a very distinct difference between Stay and Wait.
Stay – Stay means Stay means Stay means Stay means Stay right where you are until I am right beside you and say your release word.
Wait – means I need you to just sit your lay down here and wait for me to you what to do.

Loose leash walking – Walking nicely beside us with a loose J in the leash
Now this is something that takes some time, repetition and patience to work on. One of the biggest problems of leash walking is that we don’t consider that our pups have an instinct to pull.  It’s what trainers use to train dogs to pull carts and sleds and weights.  We must teach them that the walk is the reward for staying with us. leash

Put these 5 behaviors together and you have a pup who is well on their way to being a very well behaved pup who will be a wonderful addition to your family!