Posts Tagged ‘my’

dog and hunter


Back in the late seventies I was, as my Uncle Eldon would say,. still wet behind the ears.

I decided that I no longer wanted to train dogs in the fashion that was prescribed by my Uncle, who was the dog trainer in the family.


I had become disillusioned with the practice of dominance based dog training, and began to form my own way of thinking about dogs and as it turned out my philosophy was the polar opposite of what Eldon believed.

Eldon was of the old school mind-set that said if the dog did not obey, or showed aggression to family members, he needed to be taken in a notch.

Which didn’t mean Eldon injured the dogs in any way,  no, he was very careful about how he dispensed what he considered discipline,.because they were highly valued assets that required care and protection.

In his words, “ A well-trained dog that can hunt is worth his weight in gold.“

His go-to punishment for bad behavior was,  if he thought the dog was being disrespectful, or willfully disobedient, he would give it a swift kick in the ass, and give the dog the veiled threat,

“If I have to talk to you again, I am going to let the ax handle do the talking.“

I had come to realize that what Eldon saw as respect in the dogs was really fear. The dogs always obeyed but they would come to him low to the ground, ears back, tail tucked in.

I could see the stress the dogs were under, and it made me feel bad for the dogs, and frankly pissed off at Eldon.

I did not voice my concerns, because to do so would have been an exercise in futility, and to my Uncles way of seeing things, disrespectful, therefore worthy of a swift kick in the ass.

At this point I had already trained a couple of my neighbors dogs to herd cattle, and I had brought home an eight week old , female Australian Shepherd pup, who I named Tiny, and had trained her to herd the cattle, my way.

Now back in 1978 my way of training a dog was not a method that could be named, and for the next 35 years remained un-named, and I was not even thinking about dog training philosophy, methodology, or even why dogs did what they did,. I was not that deep of a thinker,.. I just let the dog be true to his temperament, and I shaped behaviors, like come, sit, down, and stay.. as they presented themselves during daily life,.. and I based all this on those times when I saw that the dogs were their happiest and most dog like.

When they were hunting or herding.

The idea struck me one evening as we readied our weapons and moved from building to building, gathering traps and the supplies we would need to spend the night in the camp we had built at the end of the trap line, some eight miles up the stream.

I suddenly noticed the dogs were much more vocal than usual, with was not unusual,  I just had never noticed it before, and then…

The thought hit me like a ton of bricks.

When my Uncle`s dogs were not working with either hunting or herding they would just lay around and never showed any what I would call enthusiasm for what was going on,.unless someone came in the driveway, or a deer would come out into the field., then they would light up like a Christmas tree.

I realized that the dogs seemed to know what we were going to do, that preparation for the hunt was happening, and they seemed to perk up in spirit, they had an anxious anticipation about them… their normally fearful nature seemed to disappear,..and they became more vocal in their attempts to communicate with us.. and it wasn’t until much later that I further realized that the dogs knew what we were going to do, even before we did.

Then the thought I had earlier suddenly solidified, and I understood.

The spirit, or heart of the dog resides in the hunt.

The next morning the dogs would be electric with energy and enthusiasm to get started.., they required a little coaxing to settle down enough to eat, and sometimes we just fed them by hand along the way.

They acted like puppies again, full of life and energy.

They would walk behind and then charge ahead searching for things to run up a tree or corner,.

They would respond to our whistles and calls, circling back, moving through the brush, and with every bound through the snow you could see the layers of stored stress melt away as they used it to organize themselves in concert with our movements,..reading us like a book.

I observed the dogs after the hunt and regardless of if it was successful or not, they seemed to be re-born, and the fear and stress that had burdened them was suddenly gone…at least for a short time.

I began to train my pups with the hunt in mind, I would take them to the woods and walk around, play with them, and  let them be dogs, games like hide and seek, find the stinky cheese, tug of war, and I always let them win, because it made them so happy to run off with that old sock tied to a rubber hose.. I never considered that I should teach them that I am the boss.

I was not their boss, I didn’t want to be.

I was the one they depended on to provide outlets for their stress, by teaching them how to hunt, and to shape their behavior with the words I used to communicate my intentions.

All this I accomplished simply by playing with my dogs in a way that spoke to their true nature as hunters.

In return they give me respect and life long trust.

I knew dogs lived in the moment, but I was missing some information that if I had know about it back then would have changed my perception about not only dogs,.. but myself.

I now know that what I was seeing in my Uncles dogs was stored emotional energy that manifests itself as stress in the dog’s body and mind, and that energy is jam-packed with information that is vital to the dog’s ability to learn, and they are only truly able to release it and connect with us when they are free to express their true nature as hunters, and work with us as team mates.

All the best,




It’s not that hard to train your dog to like the leash.

First let me start by saying that your dog was not born with a collar and leash, so it is perfectly understandable that he or she is going to react to this new experience with some concern.

If not done properly it can be very dramatic for both you and your furry faced friend.

I have seen dogs buck and jump, bite at the leash, pull and squirm trying to get that alien contraption off their neck. I have even seen them just lie down and scream bloody murder.

Some just shut down and refuse to move a muscle.

You see to your dog, a leash and collar means the end of their freedom, so it is only natural that they will protest.

If this has been your experience then I am happy you found my post today. I am going to break it down for you so that your dog will form positive associations with the leash from the very first time you clip it on.

Let me show you step by step how easy it can be to train your dog to like the leash.

Start in the house

The first thing you want to do is make the leash a fun and rewarding thing for your dog. I accomplish this by putting a little peanut butter on the clip end of the leash. ( dogs and puppies love the peanut butter)

Next call your dog to come to you..don’t go to them, you want them to get used to coming to you when you call. If your dog hesitates a little and roams around some don’t be to concerned with that, just keep encouraging them with high-pitched happy tones, and soon enough they will smell the peanut butter and come to see what that wonderful smell is.

When your dog gets to you take his collar in your free hand and let him or her lick the peanut butter off the clip end of the leash.

By holding onto the collar you are conditioning your dog to be comfortable with you taking hold of his collar, something you will no doubt do many times in the up coming years.

Hold the collar while poochy gets all the peanut butter, and when he is finished..don’t try to clip the leash on, just release the collar and tell him to go play.

Give him 10 minutes or so and then repeat this process, but this time as he finishes the tasty treat, without making any fuss or saying a word, and while still holding his collar, clip the leash to his collar.

Drop the leash on the floor, let go of his collar and tell him to go play.

For the next 10 minutes you will need to supervise your dog as he moves around the house dragging the leash with him. You will want to make sure he don’t get snagged on something or it will cause the leash to get tight and your puppy or dog is most likely to freak out.

Avoid this at all cost.

After the ten minutes is up, with scooby snack in hand call your dog to come to you, take his collar in your hand and give him the snack, and unclip the leash..then release him to go and play.

Now the next time you practice this exercise, every so often reach down and pick up the leash, don’t pull on it or put any expectations on your dog to perform, not just yet. Just pick it up and drop it. Say something like “good dog” and give him a rub on the head, or a scratch on the ears.

Remember to make everything about having the leash on a good experience for your dog.

Positive, and rewarding association with the leash is what you are striving for.

Now the dog has began to like the leash, it means that good things are coming.

It is now time to put a little pressure on the leash when you pick it up, nothing that will confuse the dog, just a little tug, or slight pressure.

Reinforce the positive association with a snack or with verbal praise.

Once the dog is comfortable with you picking up the leash and applying pressure, it is time to start walking your dog around the house, use the furniture as obstacles to help your dog to pay attention to you and get used to moving in different directions as you lead them with the leash.

Every so often stop and have your dog sit, and give him a food reward, then move on with the exercise.

It is important to not jerk the leash or attempt to correct the dog with high levels of pressure. If your dog wants to go one way and you want to go the other, just stop, and when the dog turns and looks at you then simply move in the direction you want to go. Your dog will follow you.

Well that’s it in a nut shell, this is the easiest way that I know of to train your dog to learn to like the leash. If you have comments or questions just leave them in the section below.

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You can find my page here..  River Valley Dog Training

all the best.


anxious dog








What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a part of life for both us and our canine companions.

For us anxiety might mean that feeling you get when you are going to start a new
job and can’t sleep the night before.

Or that gut wrenching feeling just before you parachute out of a perfectly good airplane.

Then there are those people who truly suffer from severe anxiety, and in some cases the anxiety
can be so severe that it causes some people to never leave their homes,and need therapy and medication
just to cope.

What does anxiety mean for our dogs?

Quite often a dog will be anxious about people,children, other dogs, noises, and generally
anything that the dog has not been socialized to accept as a normal part of their lives.

What I find disconcerting is that in a lot of cases dog owners are very cavalier about their dogs anxiety
and they force their dogs to interact with the very things that cause their taking a dog that is anxious about strange dogs to the dog park where they have no choice but to deal with strange dogs, or letting a bunch of random people come up and pet a dog that is anxious about people.

When we talk about separation anxiety in our dogs I often hear people say my dog destroys the house when we leave because he has separation anxiety.

I think it’s important to understand that while destructive behavior can be the end result of is more often a
behavior issue that often is the result of dogs owners punishing their dogs for certain behaviors which teaches the dog that the only safe time to indulge in these behaviors are when the owners are away, on the phone, or taking a shower, and training your dog is the answer.

That being said, destructive behavior can also accompany anxiety..a truly anxious dog in most cases has become anxious because they have unlimited access to their humans..and get so emotionally attached that they fall to pieces when the owners go away.

They will pant,pace, and sweat..and this ramps up the tension and loads the dog does the only thing they can do to alleviate the anxiety, they go through the house like a hurricane..ripping up the garbage, door frames, beds, couches, and relieve themselves where ever they want.

If you find it’s a case of when the cat’s away the mice will play then training is needed..if it is true anxiety then the
owner must help the dog.

This can only be done, by building confidence in the dog so they can be on their own..

To accomplish this you need to crate train your dog and do it in a way that makes him simply love the crate..

First you would put the crate in the same room as you..and put the dog in with a chew toy filled with his food.

Leave him in there for 5 minutes, then 10 then 15..then move the crate to the next room..then to the farthest end of the house, and repeat the procedure, as the dog gets more confident, begin to leave him longer..and always feed the dog his meals from a chew toy..this will give him something to do in his crate and before you know it he will be looking at you as if to say..can I please go in my crate.

It is the same way I taught my children to spend time on their own..I give them a video game and tell them to stay in the room and play..and they gladly do it..and actually look forward to the time when I would tell them go to your room and play your video games.

Your dog will learn to see chew toys and his crate in the same manner..he gets to chew on something to relieve any stress or anxiety, and he gets a tasty munch while doing’s a win – win situation.

I hope you found this post helpful, and if you did you can let me know by liking my Face Book Page

River Valley Dog Training

all the best,


fenton 005
















I want to share with you one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had with one of my dogs that proved beyond a doubt how important having a strong bond with your dog truly is., and it happened today.

I have always worked hard to communicate with my dogs, through body language, energy and gestures, that when put together is like a second language.

I have this kind of relationship with Lola my 6-year-old Blue Blood German Shepard.

You see Lola just had a litter of pups 7 days ago, it was a small litter of two males and one female.

I have a building especially for her to tend to her babies without being bothered. It is important for her to have the first 12 days to nurse and care for her pups, without any outside stress, and yes when she is protecting new-born, even my presence is a little stressful for her, although if I have to I can go in the birthing room and handle both her and her pups without getting her too upset.

Anyway to get back to telling you about what transpired between me and Lola this afternoon that made me realize that the lines of communication, loyalty, and trust between us is rock solid,..she reinforced to me that I am her leader and she knows that when she needs me, I will understand what she wants and provide it for her.

I always open the door to the birthing room in the mornings and leave it open so she can go out and do her business, and she is just beginning to leave the pups for a minute or two to help develop their independence.

Well I was doing some work up stairs on my computer when suddenly my Uncle Fenton called up the stairs, “Hey, your dog just barked at the door for me to let her in.”

I immediately thought this was strange because she would never leave her pups alone for that long. I told Fenton to let her in, and she came charging up the stairs like her tail was on fire, and again I knew something was up because she never runs in the house, it was how she was trained. She got to me and before I could say, “What’s up girl?”, she forcefully threw my arm up in the air with her snout, and yipped at me. Ordinarily this behavior indicates dominance and I would consider it disrespectful,  but I know her better than to believe that and  I could tell she was very anxious and excited,,something she never is unless I kick in her drives.

She ran to the top of the stairs and looked back as if to say hurry up and come with on..

So I followed her out of the house and out to the birthing room with her leading all the way, again something she never does, she always follows me except when I give her free time, and when I got there I found that I had forgotten to pin the door open and the wind had blown it shut..she couldn’t get in..

The door was scratched up a lot where she had tried to open it herself, but when that wasn’t working she thought of me,and came to the door and barked to let someone know she wanted in and then came straight to me and communicated to me clearly that she wanted me to follow her and she wasn’t taking No for an answer.

The fact that she is smart enough to figure things out comes as no surprise to me, what I had to write about was the honor I felt when she came to me for help…just knowing that she trusts me that much….validated all my years as a dog trainer and what it means to the people and dogs that I have met.


Have you ever had one of these uplifting moments with your dog,I would love to hear about it.
All the best,


Dog training 172 (1)

Every dog is unique, they have very different personalities and quirks. Some follow direction easily while others would rather set the rules for themselves. If you find you are asking the question, why is my dog so hard to train?, the answer lies in the understanding of your dog.


You might be thinking that your last dog was so easy to train, that it just don’t make any sense that this one should be more difficult. You must understand that there are a number of traits that may be the cause. The reason your training efforts are being hampered boils down to your dogs independent nature and the level of dominance he is displaying.


Let’s examine the issue of Confidence.


A confident dog likes to do things his way, he struts around with his tail curled high up over his back, and he will not take orders very well. He will definitely make you jump through hoops to prove that you deserve his attention. Prepare yourself for the growling when you try to take a favorite toy for him, and maybe even snap at you. This type of dog is trainable, and if you set clear, reasonable rules, boundaries, and limitations, and be consistent with what you want, your dog will learn that you are clearly in charge and your training efforts will get easier.


Let’s examine the issue of Independence


An independent dog may love you but will seem like he could care less if he pleases you. He will most likely be a loner, chooses not to play with other dogs, and not want to be petted, or groomed, and may protest when you try. He may turn away from you when you try to correct him.


Do not try to use physical force, ie, yanking the leash, yelling, ect, when trying to train an independent dog, they will resist and your training will go no where. The best way to train this kind of dog is to find what they like the best, ie, treats, or a toy, and use this to your advantage. When he is getting what he wants he will be more likely to be compliant.


If you take the time to learn about what makes your dog tick, your training efforts will be more successful, and you can stop asking the question, why is my dog so hard to train?


If you have questions about this or any topic, I would love to hear from you. You can contact me through the form beneath this post. Grab a free copy of my training report on How to have a well-trained dog in 4 easy steps. Just contact me through the form and I will send you a copy as soon as I can.