Responsibility, Recalls, and Risk Taking

Chrissi's Dog Training

Letting dogs off leash (or not) seems to be the new raw vs. kibble debate. Recalls and off leash reliability are among my favorite things to teach. So clearly, I have an opinion here as well, and I’d like to share it with you. Note that I’m talking about my opinion here, not about The One and Only Right Way to Do Things. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all answer to whether off-leash privileges are a good or bad idea, but I do think there are three factors that can help you make your own decision: your responsibility towards other dogs and people, your responsibility towards your own dog’s safety, and how you, as an individual, feel about the risks of being off leash. Maybe teasing apart these factors will make it easier to understand why other people may come to a different decision than you.

Your Responsibility Towards Others

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It’s not you, it’s me.

The Cognitive Canine

“My dog down-stresses.”

“My dog shuts down.”

“My dog can’t tolerate frustration.”

“My dog hates to be wrong.”

“My dog knows when I don’t have treats.”

“My dog is low-drive.”

And the list goes on.

We’ve heard these things. We’ve said these things. What if it’s not the dogs, but us? What if each time we try to describe our dog’s behavior (or lack thereof) to a trainer or friend we are zeroing in on the wrong end of the leash? And further, if the responsibility rests squarely on the human half, how are we to address the very real problems people are facing with their dogs when they make the above statements? Three words: clarity, confidence, and consent.


Dissecting what it truly means to be a clear trainer and handler is a vital process to solving any and all behavioral concerns in our dogs. 12106724_10156115673385104_8958011528372891814_n Clear communication is the…

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Five essentials for the multi-dog household

The Unexamined Dog


The interwebs are full of helpful tips and tricks for managing multi-dog households. The bulk of which are concerned primarily with two things: preventing squabbles and managing feeding times. Those things are awesome and important, and this blog post has nothing to do with those things. So, to anyone looking for that kind of help, I apologize.

This post is also not helpful for people who live and breath dog training and learning theory and/or who are just naturals at it. Those people have magic beans in their pockets and are direct descendants of Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner. Many of them are also my friends and I resent them almost every day.

I’m talking to us average folk. Those of us who have multiple dogs, a decent understanding of dog behavior and canine social dynamics and a fundamental desire to sit down at the end of the day and enjoy a normal conversation and a drink…

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In Defense of Education

Fearfuldogs' Blog

cartoon of shrugging dog with questionsThe dog training industry may be among the few professions in which people with a lack of understanding and limited or no education are glorified, even given their own TV shows, while those who have chosen to become educated are held up for ridicule. Heaven forbid you know a few big words and have the temerity (temerity: excessive confidence or boldness; audacity) to use them. Chefs probably have a deeper and broader understanding of the science of cooking than many dog trainers have of learning.

Imagine sitting around with a group of pilots and one saying with a sneer, “I don’t know what all this wind sheer and lift is you’re all going on about, I just fly the damn plane,” and the other pilots raising their glasses in a toast and high fiving. Or a physician boasting that they’re not even sure what blood pressure is, they just take…

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Finding the Right Dog Trainer – Harder Than You Think

Never one to disappoint , Jean Donaldson once again offers sage. Advice.


Here’s some advice from Jean Donaldson on how to choose a dog trainer.  After her suggestions, I’m going to take the liberty of telling you how I would want her questions to be answered if I were going to try to find a trainer for my own dog.  You may not realize it, but trainers do, from time to time, attend one another’s classes, participate in working seminars, or take classes from trainers who are experts in dog sports or aspects of training that we are not expert in.  As an example, I can lay a simple track and have my dog follow it for fun, but I certainly am not an expert in lost person behavior or variable surface tracking!  So, if I wanted to know more about scent work of that kind, I might take my dog and go to classes with someone who does.  Anyway, back to…

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