Dog Camp 2016

Dog Camp 2016

If you love spending time playing with and training your dog, then this Dog Camp is for you.

For some time, I have wanted to create a diversified training event geared solely toward the needs of pet dog owners. The goal was to come up with a curriculum that addressed multiple aspects of dog ownership. That intention gave birth to the Dog Camp concept.

This camp does not just focus on training but takes a look at the whole dog. From personality profiling to nutrition, training and problem solving and, of course, lots of fun and games, it is an activity filled three-day event that leaves owners better educated and dog’s lucky to have such owners!

We will also cover the key components of obedience training with a remote collar.

If you’ve been curious about remote collar use and your goal is to have better off leash reliability with your dog this is a great time to get started! If you do not own a remote collar, don’t worry; we’ll help you select the right equipment for your dog. Remote collar training done our way means more fun for your dog and less stress!

Here is a peak at what you can expect if you join us for Dog Camp.

Last year our first camp was here in Dubuque, Iowa and then a second event was hosted in Kelowna, Canada. Dog Camp can come to your location too, so if you are interested in hosting an event contact me for more info.

This year we will be kicking off our Dog Camp camp on Friday, June 10th here in Dubuque. If you want to join us for this 3-day adventure, register now!

*Space limited to 15 dogs, so my staff, and I can give you the personalized attention you deserve.

Register & Sign up now!

Professional E-Collar Dog Training Classes

Professional E-Collar Dog Training Classes: Education and Implementation

Angie Scharpf is a fellow trainer who attended our That’s My Dog! E-cademy Professional E- Collar Training Classes created specifically for dog trainers.

Angie signed up for our professional E-collar training several years ago and has been successfully implementing e-collar training into her dog obedience programs ever since. We chatted recently and she was telling me of a compliment she received from a client so I asked her if we could share the story here on my blog.

Professional E-collar training done right provides that ability to maintain control because tactile cues gain attention reliably even when the surrounding environment jumps into full throttle energy. And that gives everyone more peace of mind.These words seemed like the perfect short and sweet summary of why e-collar training is so popular among pet owners and trainers.This also proves to me the importance of offering professional E-Collar training classes to dog trainers around the world, emphasizing proper education and implementation.

“I have done obedience training with my 115-pound puppy before, but as soon as we were faced with any distractions, it was nearly impossible to get his attention. The ability to adjust the intensity of the e-collar depending upon the distraction level was fantastic and made us feel like we had options when things got chaotic! The ability for Alvie to understand what we want from him makes our relationship with him so much better. We love our puppy more than anything, and are so happy to be able to communicate with him effectively : Thank you.”

-Rebecca Dirks

If you are interested in chatting with Angie about training for your dog contact her at Pack Leaders Dog Training in Marion, Iowa. Angie is one of the many talented e-collar experts listed on our referral page. Angie has attended and graduated our E-Cademy Professional E-Collar Training Classes and now shares her expertise with clients in Iowa.
To learn more about finding an E-Collar trainer click here and you can find an E-Cademy Graduate near you here!

*Updated 1/31/16

Teaching a Dog to Retrieve

Teaching a Dog to Retrieve: A Rewarding Skill to Practice 

Teaching a dog to retrieve is one of the most rewarding skills you can work on. I’m not talking about the game of chasing a ball and bringing it back to you. While that is certainly a fun activity and good exercise for your dog, I am speaking to the task of deliberately retrieving specific items and delivering them into your hand.

Many dogs will chase and pick up something like a ball or toy that we toss for them, but few can be directed to pick up the car keys or remote for the television and bring it to us.

The difference between chasing and grabbing a toy that is moving (which stimulates prey drive) and picking up an object that is still and possibly undesirable, like metal is significant.

Teaching a dog to retrieve is not an easy task, and I do my best to prepare those who sign up for my retrieve workshop to understand that it will likely be the most challenging skill they teach their dog.

However, it will also be the most rewarding.

It is rewarding for several reasons, the obvious being that you will have a great helper around the house! My dogs perform all sorts of little tasks on a daily basis that make life with some physical limitations a whole lot easier. My dogs retrieve my shoes (insert Video of Shoe Retrieve) and pick up things that I’ve dropped, like my keys or a pencil. They can help me carry groceries to the house and can hold their own leashes when I have to stop to tie my shoe.

The flip side of my appreciation for their help is that the dogs LOVE having a job to perform. I believe it builds a sense of accomplishment in them. The tails wag furiously when they deliver some prize to me. They love it so much they will compete to be first to the item if I am not explicit in WHO is supposed to get the retrieve. A dog that has a “job” to perform on a routine basis is far less stressed by boredom and more fulfilled with daily life.

The other, but subtler, outcome of teaching a trained retrieve is what it does to enhance the relationship between dog and dog owner. Going through this training process will bring to light gaps that exist in how well we understand our dogs behavior. Teaching the retrieve will improve a handler’s ability to know the difference between the dog being confused about the desired task and the dog flat out refusing. That is a key piece of knowledge that anyone wanting to enhance the human-canine relationship through training must learn.

The difference my retrieve workshop has from other forced retrieve methods is that we work from beginning to end using the e-collar. From the start, it is a pressure on, pressure off guidance system that builds clarity in the dogs mind and does not require any significant discomfort to the dog to learn to hold, carry, open the mouth or go out. It is still a “forced” retrieve process but surprisingly gentle on the dog in comparison to other forced methods. So much so, that I can teach in a group format, and my audiences are primarily pet owners, rather than professional trainers.

Intriguing huh? ☺

Enjoy the photos and videos from the most recent weekend workshop and if you are interested in learning more watch the That’s My Dog! Newsletter for announcements of the next seminar.

Retrieve Workshop


Hiking with Your Dog: A Great Bonding and Training Experience

Hiking with your dog is an excellent way to improve your relationship and build a powerful connection.

Hiking with my dogs is one of my favorite activities. I love the solitude of the woods and sharing that time with my dogs makes the experience even better. Being on the trails does us good, both physically and mentally.

I know that the idea of letting a dog off leash makes many people nervous. The thought that a dog might bolt and disappear is a real concern for anyone who has not taken the time to train and build a strong, mutually respectful relationship with their canine.

One of the skills I instill early on in my dogs is the idea of “checking in.” When my pups are young, I take them to various safe locations and allow them to lose track of me. Then I drop back and “hide”. When they realize they have lost visual contact with me, they come looking pretty quickly.

It leaves a strong impression, and they learn to stop and check back when we are out and about. It is a great skill to instill because it means that I do not have to manage their behavior constantly when we are in the woods. They have learned some self-accountability to keep an eye on me rather than me having to do all the work.

You’ll notice in this short video that my youngest dog, Diva, had apparently hung back on the trail, likely distracted by some smell. She came barreling to catch up. Then when she over shot my location and went out of sight, it did not take long for her to venture back on her own. All this happened without me saying or doing a thing. She managed her behavior so that she stayed within a safe range of her pack.

My older guy, Tommy, used to do a similar thing by running ahead, venturing 50 yards or so, before turning back and checking in. As he has gotten older though he seems to prefer the comfort of staying pretty close to me.

Dogs are not dumb. Safety in numbers is one of the rules of pack mentality. Turning on that instinct early in a pup’s life naturally brings you some peace of mind for this kind of off leash enjoyment together.

As a general rule, though, this is a skill that needs to be established early on in a pups life. If you do not play the hide and seek game prior to 4-5 months of age, I’d suggest finding an alternative way to teach the idea of checking in. After five months or so it might not be wise to be off leash in the woods with an untrained dog. By that age, many dogs are confident enough to venture off quite a way on their own and could end up lost.

It is relatively easy to teach with some e-collar training, but we’ll save that topic for another post.

hiking with dogs

Here are a few other tips for hitting the trails with your companions:

Don’t let them out ahead of you when going around a blind curve. Since you cannot see around those blind turns, you never know what might be on the other side. Keep the dogs with you when you approach turns in the trail that don’t provide you a visual of what’s ahead.

Spritz the coat with a detangling product so that any burs will brush right out. I use a product called ShowSheen. A quick application before we head to the woods means I do not have to spend hours pulling prickly seeds out of the dogs tails when we get back.

Dress appropriately. Here in the Midwest, being in the woods in the fall also means hunting season.  I wear blaze orange, and the dogs have either a vest on or a bell attached to their collars. Making your presence known depending on location and time of year is something to be aware of.


Happy trails!

Dog Training Help: New Resource

Dispensing dog training help and advice has been high on my list of priorities for a long time, but you probably can’t tell it from my presence (or lack of!) here on my own blog!!

I have a good excuse.

I’ve spent much of my time this past year writing and filming for my friends at Gun Dog Supply. Together we’re creating some awesome dog training tips through a series of articles and videos. It’s FREE stuff, so how cool is that?

Take a look at all these articles and let me know if you find some useful information. Knowing that a few words or a video made a difference for you and your dog is the ultimate positive reinforcement for me! Plus, feedback helps me to know if if I’m going in the right direction or not. If you have topics you’d like to see covered, please make a suggestion.

While you’re at it, you might want to pick up a copy of the latest training DVD. This new release has over an hour on the topic of e-collar training for your dog. Commonly asked questions, tips for training and lots of exceptional footage so you can see various examples and problem solving situations that can help with the e-collar training for your own dog.

To Use an E-Collar or Not? Is It a Question of Too Many Dog Training Tools?

To Use an E-Collar or Not? Is It a Question of Too Many Dog Training Tools?

There are many dog training tools available to help us find solutions for training problems. I’m grateful for that, but recently I had an evaluation with someone who’s response to the idea of using a remote collar surprised me.

The new puppy owner was seeking help due to concerns over the puppy’s biting behavior. While play biting is normal puppy behavior, this little guy would resort to the higher end of the intensity scale if he decided he didn’t want to quit. The pup demonstrated a rather strong propensity for wanting to do things his way and yielding to human desires was not high on his list of priorities. Any type of restraint against his will brought out a willingness to use his teeth to assert that point.

There are several techniques and approaches to dealing with the issue. However, one of the possible dog training tools we discussed was the use of a remote training collar. I have found the e-collar to be an extremely easy way to interrupt puppy biting. In this case I felt particularly confident it would be a good choice because the owner also has her hands full with young human children.

My goal with puppy biting is to interrupt and then redirect. The redirection teaches the puppy what it is okay to chew on (and human skin or clothing is not included on the list of acceptable items) Interruptions need to be well timed, meaning in the moment the behavior is happening. OR better yet, the moment the thought is processing in the dog’s mind….so for a busy mom it is easy to have a remote collar TX on her person so she can tap a button (the vibration feature works well for many pups) as soon as those razor sharp puppy teeth make a move for the toddlers hands or pant leg. The weird sensation interrupts the dogs focus and mom can then encourage the pup to grab a toy to gnaw on. Behaviors that are interrupted and not rewarded tend to disappear rather quickly so it is a fairly fast track to teaching a young dog that chewing on his own stuff rather than the kid is a much better option.

It is not unusual for the suggestion to sound extreme to some people. But that is only because they have yet to actually experience how gentle the sensation is from many of today’s remote training collars. Visions of a shock collar and dogs jumping in pain or fear are still prevalent in some peoples mindset. Because of that misconception I am always aware of how the suggestion might be received.

However, I was more surprised by this young mom’s desire to not have to use a remote collar and try doing it other ways first because she seemed to feel it was a more valiant or authentic effort to try other less gadget oriented ways first.

This is a mindset I encounter from time to time and I sort of get it since I too try to be guided by a more holistic, less cluttered approach to life.

Yet, I certainly recognize the value that modern day conveniences add to our daily routine. I love my smart phone and appreciate driving to work rather than walking, especially now that the temps remain in the teens and 20’s most days. I also juice daily as part of my way of maintaining a better diet, but I know there is no way I would do it if I had to squeeze and pulverize everything by hand.

I think it is about deciding which gadgets actually serve to enhance our life experience and which just become extra weight.

As we discussed the pros and cons of various dog training tools and the approaches in using them, I pondered the idea of “is it more valiant” to approach training a dog through limited tool use?  The conclusion I came up with was a yes, in regards to professional dog trainers having a more thorough appreciation for all approaches and tools.

But for an average pet owner I don’t really see the point in taking the longer journey. I don’t believe it makes one a better person or makes for a better dog.

For me it is like believing Thanksgiving dinner is superior only when the cook raises their own turkeys, grows the root veggies & pumpkins and prepares all by hand over a crackling fire. Personally I don’t care if the turkey came from the freezer section as long as someone else does most of the cooking. I just like to eat and enjoy the final outcome. 🙂




Remote Collar Training for Puppies?

Training for Puppies: “Never shock a puppy?”

If you have a new pooch and you’re looking for some help with training for your puppy, you can find a lot of great information out there. You’ll also likely find some strong opinions like; “never shock a puppy”.

Those are some scary words, meant to entice emotion and title to one of the anti e-collar campaigns…and I agree with that sentiment. I would never shock a puppy. I would NEVER advise someone to run out, purchase an electronic collar put it on their 6 month old pup, wait for them to be “bad” and then push the button. That, in all likelihood would cause some adverse fallout including possible superstitious behavior around people, other dogs or even objects.

However, I would use an e-collar as a communication device to guide a pup into behavior that can be rewarded. I would collar condition a pup so they have an understanding of what the stimulation means and how they could control the sensation. Then I would use the tool to encourage behavior I want and discourage behavior I don’t want.

Now you might ask why I or others like me would do such a thing and the answer is “because if you actually know what you are doing with this piece of equipment it is the fairest, fastest, most humane tool you can use to train your dog.” As part of well-rounded training for puppies approach, the remote collar can be a wonderful addition.

I believe remote collar training done well works the way a GPS system works when you are driving your car. You receive information for when you are off course and information of what to do to stay on the right route. No one seems to feel it would be more appropriate to create a GPS unit that ONLY tells you when you make the right turn while ignoring your “off route” moves. If you think about that it is pretty humorous…but I imagine it would also be rather frustrating if you actually want to arrive at your destination on time.

Imagine for a moment that I tell you “hey, lets get in the car and drive to the destination I have in my mind and I’ll only tell you yes when we are on the right route and I’ll give you a dollar every time you make a correct guess in direction” we might have a grand ole’ time for a bit, but I’m thinking we won’t get there any too fast. Now add in the criteria that getting to the destination correctly also means only then do you get to get out of my car, go home and back to your life you might get a tad frustrated about how long the task will take. It seems that when time begins to matter…we prefer more constructive feedback.

That is my perspective on reliable training for puppies or training for any dog for that matter. It is feedback, yes and no are both communicated to the dog. The challenge with educating about e-collars is helping people understand that “no” does not have to be painful or startling. I honestly try to understand the viewpoint that the never shock a puppy advocates are coming from. I really get it that there are some who will use a tool out of frustration and I am keenly aware that there is some lousy equipment on the mass market. Neither of those points are going to be debated by me (in fact they are part of the reason I keep speaking out)….but those points alone don’t convince me that the tool should be banned from the market. If that is the “ban stuff” criteria, than there is a lot of stuff that needs to be banned in the world.

In place of e-collar bans we need massive education and we seriously need the manufacturers to step up and take a lead role in this…the quality e-collar trainers out here are doing the best we can but it is time for some support.

Now this is just speculation, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and question that perhaps what the anti e-collar advocates are really worried about is the fact that some of us can do things so much faster, with so much more reliability with this method of training that it is threatening to their careers. If they can’t compete with these type of results with their preferred tools and methodology then perhaps it makes sense that the easiest solution is to ban the tool that provides an advantage?

As far as making up your mind about if one should Never Shock a Puppy….tell me what you think of this little guy. He’s six months old. He came in because he puppy play bites, chases people, pulls on leash, does some nuisance barking, is scared of other dogs, jumps up a lot, and likes to play “catch me if you can”. This short clip was taken on the second day of his 2 week board and train program. As you are watching, pay really close attention and tell me how many times did I push the button on the remote collar? (cause Yes, I DID push the button, however I never shocked the dog)

Now here’s the disclaimer. If you have not used a remote collar before and you think this looks cool, it is but find HELP if you want to learn to do this with your dog. Training for puppies, or training for dogs, for that matter need not be that difficult. With a bit of time, education and commitment most anyone can achieve a well behaved companion.