Get your dog business sailing again!

Professional Dog Trainers, is it time to hit the refresh button on your career?

Have you been struggling with burn out and you’re ready for some vacation time?

Do you feel like your business could be doing better but you’re just not sure how to get there?

Then join me for this Education at Sea event! This is the second time I’ll be cruising the Caribbean with the goal of helping you realize your true potential in the training profession. The last time we sailed, we accomplished some amazing things. Yes, we went zip lining in the rain forest, shared camaraderie over food and drink and snorkeled with the sea turtles, but we also dedicated ourselves to focusing on how to build a better business. The feedback I got as a result was pretty astounding. Here is just one example:

I sailed with Robin on her first voyage aboard the Celebrity Constellation. The ship was amazing, and the amount of time we had to enjoy it was perfect. The seminar Robin put on was well thought out and useful in helping me realize ways I could set goals for my business that would help me to stay on track and succeed.  After the cruise, I was able to achieve my financial goals in 6 months!  I was also able to finally make a decision on an idea I had had for my business for at least two years, but kept waffling on. Shortly after coming home from the cruise I set the idea in motion and it came to fruition a month later. 

Now, I’m again looking forward to continued success in my business thanks, in large part, to Robin MacFarlane.    

Carolyn Weinbaum – The Developing Canine, Columbus, GA

dog trainer workshop
Creating Big Plans

If you are ready to create similar results, then join me for this training event; Charting a New Course: Creating Success on Your Terms. We will be departing from Ft. Lauderdale, FL on Nov 5th for a 6 night cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean ship, Freedom of Seas. Our two mornings at Sea will be spent in a workshop setting laying out YOUR individual plan for growth. The ports of call will provide opportunity for adventure as we visit Grand Cayman, Puerto Costa Maya and Cozumel.

dog trainer workshop
Our snorkeling guide!
dog trainer workshop
Chatting with other dog people in Cozumel!

Afternoons and evenings are free time for you to enjoy with your traveling companions or network with the other dog pros embarked on this journey. You will have time to relax, rejuvenate and explore what the next steps should be in your business strategy.

Bill Wittrock is our host. As a retired dog pro and experienced traveler, Bill is the perfect person to guide us on this excursion. Cabin fares start at $361.00 per person based on double occupancy so this is a very affordable get-away. Contact Bill via email at or 440-567-1082 for all details regarding the cruise and associated fees.

For any questions about the workshop sessions email If your ready to register for this exclusive continuing education event, sign up now! I’ll see you on board!!  Deposits MUST be made by end of April in order to reserve a cabin on board the ship.

dog trainer workshop

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!

Just Right! Remote Collar Dog Training Guide Two-Volume DVD Set

Your Own Personal Remote Collar Dog Training Guide

If you are looking for a remote collar dog training guide to help start the training process with your dog, here are some suggestions:

First off, if you can, find a professional trainer in your area that has experience with this tool. An experienced pro can help  you through the remote collar conditioning process and get you on your way to enjoying off-leash adventures with your dog.

If you are trying to find a pro in your area, check nearby E-cademy graduates near you hereAll of these dog training professionals have dedicated time and effort to spend ten days studying at the That’s My Dog! E-cademy Program.

Since 2002, I  have been teaching the “how-to’s” of using a remote collar for training dogs to other professionals. However, since not all trainers make it a priority to learn these valuable techniques, you may not be able to find a skilled trainer in your area.

If that is the case, pick up a copy of my Just Right! DVD set and get your dog started on the right track. Remote collar dog training in a safe, efficient and humane way to train with my step-by-step approach.

Just Right! is a two volume DVD set that provides dog owners a remote collar dog training guide starting with the basics. You will learn everything you need to know as a remote collar beginner such as, properly fitting the collar, and determining the just right level of stimulation for your dog and understanding how that varies according to the distractions present.

You will be able to teach your dog to:

  • Walk nicely on a loose leash
  • Come back when called
  • Learn to Sit and stay
  • Learn to Down and Stay
  • Learn to remain on a Place (dog bed or mat)

You will also understand how to use the remote collar training to stop nuisance behaviors like:

  • Jumping up
  • Nipping and mouthing
  • Inappropriate chewing
  • Excessive barking

With the 2-volume DVD, you will have your very own personal remote collar dog training guide to reference whenever you like.  Both you and your dog will be less frustrated by ineffective training methods and on your way to more freedom and off leash fun!

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


5 Ways to Mess Up Your Dog

5 Ways to Mess Up Your Dog

Most of the time, dog trainers invest effort trying to teach dog owners what to do to have a well- mannered, well-adjusted companion.

But sometimes it is helpful to look at things from another angle so let me share a few thoughts on how you can wreak havoc with your dog’s mental health and have a negative impact on their behavior.

These are some of the top ways that you can mess up your dog. After messing them up you can invest lots of effort, and sometimes large amounts of money, fixing the problems.


Top Five Ways to Mess Up Your Dog:


1. Leave Your Dog Tethered or Unattended Outside.

Doing this is one of the best ways to build aggression problems. A dog left unsupervised, outside while you are inside or not home often learns to take on a “guard duty” role.

It is instinctual for most dogs to feel protective of territory, so if the dog is alone in the yard there is little choice left for a dog other than to scare intruders away by barking, lunging or chasing.

It is important to remember that just because you know the neighbors are not threats, does not mean your dog understands that fact. Your dog is likely to view the mailman, the skateboarder or your children’s friends as scary intruders. Once a dog realizes that the actions of chasing, barking and lunging make people “go away”…it can be a rapid path to building serious aggression issues.

2. Provide Little Physical Exercise or Mental Activity.

This is easy. Get up, feed the dog, leave the house for a day at work, come home tired, make your dinner and take care of the kids, let the dog go out to the bathroom, collapse on the couch, yell at the dog for pestering you, watch t.v. then go to bed. Get up and repeat day in and day out.

Don’t bother with any walks, outings to the park or games of fetch because the dog already has a ‘big yard’ and dozens of toys to play with for entertainment. Treat your dog like an inmate. A penitentiary with plenty of books and an exercise yard should be an adequate living arrangement for years of exceptional mental health. ;-0

3. Enforce No Rules, Structure or Expectations.

Be sure not to crush little Fluffy’s spirit by actually stopping her from barking at and jumping on every guest that comes to your home. Allow Brutus to drag you wherever his heart desires when you walk him. This is especially true when Brutus just wants to “say Hi!”. Expecting your dog to actually to pay attention to you and walk nicely might stifle their exuberance.

As for treats, affection and new toys, dispense them liberally for no good reason other than how cute the look on Cujo’s face is when he barks at you.

Also, make sure you pet him and tell him everything is “ok” when he behaves that way.

While we are at it let’s apply the same philosophy to children. Hand them a candy bar or bribe with the potential of a new toy when they have a meltdown, or temper tantrum because at least it will occupy them for a while.

4. Yell at your Dog.

Anytime your dog is pestering you, getting on your nerves or doing anything other than being a couch potato, start yelling. Profanities will help, and the occasional whack on the nose for added emphasis will go a long way toward creating a cowering creature that finally learns to leave you alone.

If the above doesn’t work, just tie the dog outside so you do not have to deal with it. (see #1) Don’t bother to expend energy teaching the dog good behavior. Dog’s should just “know” how to behave properly.

5. Let Sympathy Rein.

When your dog shows hesitation, nervousness or anxiety around people or other dogs, pick him up, snuggle or stroke to reassure him it will all be ok.

Coo, coddle and dispense affection, otherwise known as “reinforcing the behavior.” This will ensure that the dog’s anxiety will worsen, but at least you will feel better when sharing the story about your poor dog that must have been abused before you rescued him.

DO NOT pull the big girl panties on, hiding your own emotional state from the dog to help it overcome past issues or lack of social skill. To do so would mean you have to act in your dog’s best interest much like a physical therapist does when they help people rehab from horrible accidents and physical limitations.
There you have it, the perfect recipe for a neurotic dog!

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!

A Hero’s story

We lost a friend today. His name was Hero. A Belgian Malinois of 13 years and 5 weeks. It doesn’t seem like he got to stay with us long enough, but it was enough to turn me into a different person and enough to help two kids grow up.

He came to us on a flight from California in July of 2001. A young pup who’s future I envisioned would be full of all sorts of ‘greatness’, thus his name. He was my first Malinois and I expected he would fill big shoes transforming me from Podunk dog trainer into a name that would be noticed in the industry. Perhaps I should have been more concerned when his shipping had to be delayed because he had Demodex, but I had high aspirations and started right out from 9 weeks old taking him everywhere, including on his first of many family vacations. We even made it to the Leinenkugels lodge by the time he was 12 weeks old. 🙂 That was also a flash moment in time I noticed more than average apprehension about noises and ‘strange stuff’. The fluttering of a ‘buried wire’ flag marker was pretty disconcerting and we made a game of it to help him realize it wasn’t much to be bothered about.

And we continued on and trained and traveled and within his first year he’d been to several workshops and learned to retrieve and started bite work. But those trips were never without some event, some car backfire or other disruption that caused him to quiver or begin to pant. He’d carry on but always with some concern that maybe, just maybe the sky Would fall.

By two years I was a bit beside myself that somehow I had ruined this dog that I had intended for greatness. Why could I not overcome this issue of quivering when ever there was environmental stress?  So I traveled to Long Island New York to a seminar given by Bart Bellon, someone whose work I admired and who probably knew Mals better than most anyone on the planet. On day two of the workshop Hero and I had our turn in front of the audience to discuss my struggles…just as a plane took off from the nearby airport and my Hero turned to jello! Imagine my shame. And after the noise subsided Mr Bellon announced to the audience, ” I observed this woman and her dog training in the parking lot last night and she may think she caused this but she didn’t. The work was sound. This is a Beta dog.” And he looked at me and explained if you want a top dog you must start with a top dog and explained the importance of genetics and how nerve is inherited and then built upon.

And after that both Hero and I were free. I was free to find another ‘demo’ quality dog and free to allow Hero to have the life he was intended to live. The life of family companion, nanny to children and holder of secrets. He could lick away tears of disappointment or send them streaming from laughter. His animal impersonation tricks of Be an Alligator or Be a Kangaroo were party favorites and his gentle demeanor allowed him to accompany my daughter trick or treating when she went as Red Riding Hood and him as the Big Bad Wolf in grandmas cap and nightgown carrying her basket through the entire town and collecting the candy.

He was my go too for teaching young pups the rules of behavior. A playful bow if they were shy and a gentle squish if they needed to be brought down a peg or two. Always fair and always patient. Thunderstorms made him shiver but he could hunt and swallow shrews and other small rodents in a single gulp. He grossed us out with his occasional explosive diarrhea but astonished us with his ability to get even the most dog phobic folks to warm up to him. He taught many foster dogs the ropes and held the tears of children’s burdens as they grew into young adults.

He was a Hero to this family that loved him.

And such is the life of a dog. A simple life that touches so much.

Hero was not a dog of strong nerve. He was a dog of enormous heart and the words that “You don’t always get the dog you want, sometimes you get the dog you need.” could not have rung more true. His heart is what ended up teaching me what I really needed to know about this profession. That it isn’t about greatness, or flash or even fearlessness. It is about perseverance and giving your best and remembering each day to be there with a smile and support for those who need you.

It is about heart, and that was the embodiment of a Malinois named Hero.


Woof!! and Happy New Year!

We’ve been pretty bogged down here in Iowa with cold, COLD weather and LOTS of snow….but it didn’t stop my 10 year old Malinois, Tommy from wanting to go out and play! A good reminder for me to just keep moving forward and making the best of what ever comes. Dogs are fabulous for being that constant ‘in the moment’ presence in our lives.

So what ever your New Year’s resolutions or hopes for self- improvement include this coming year  here’s my reminder to add a little something in there designed especially for your dog.

In fact I came up with a few possibilities for your consideration:

Learn a new trick or two.

Take your canine pal on a monthly visit to someone who needs their spirits lifted.

Include walks that allow you both to ‘just be’ and sniff out all the wonders of the woods, the beach or the quiet park at the end of the street.

Commit to a better weekly grooming routine (fur, feet, teeth and ears) so Fido looks, smells and feels good.

Upgrade to a healthier diet. Yes, for both of you! 🙂

Donate some time or resources to a rescue or shelter in your area.

Find a weekend get-away where you both can have some fun. (like our Dog Camp in June!)

More exercise. Yes, for both you! 🙂


robin macfarlane


or as the sign in my office says: Bark Less, Wag More & Play Often!
Happy New Year to everyone.

Robin, Tommy & Diva


This dog understands Tap = Attention!

Just wanted to share some photos from this weeks video shoot. One of our regular day care attendees, Sam got into the act while shooting some short clips for the  iQ Pet training collars.


If you think the idea of Tap = Attention doesn’t work then you need to have a conversation with this Golden Retriever!


photo 1

He nailed it by very effectively  interrupting our shooting numerous times.  When the director called “Action!” and we went to roll, he gave me the gentle paw nudge as soon as I started to speak. And it worked, I laughed, lost my line and we had to start again! He is most certainly, Tap literate!


Tap = stop that,this human needs to focus!

So, I pulled the tried and true move…hand on his collar to stop his interruption…but apparently couldn’t keep my eyes open and talk at the same time. 🙂

Tennis ball saves the day!

And finally we found the magic green orb. (note the tennis ball in director’s left hand) to solve the problem. Sam sat mesmerized for the total minute, we got the shot, he got his ball. 🙂




Just Right E-collar dog training

A few years ago I created a very basic instructional DVD about e-collar training, Just Right Training.

The goal was to provide viewers with the basics of how to safely and humanly collar condition their dog. I hoped to help people understand how to properly fit the e-collar, figure out what level is appropriate for training and how to avoid creating confusion for the dog.

It was titled Just Right because of my continual reminder to users that there are ONLY three stimulation levels to concern yourself with when training the dog, Too low, Too high and Just right…and the dog makes that determination, not the numbers.

The DVD covers a few basic ideas (recall, loose lead walking, place) and helps resolve some minor, but frustrating behavior problems like jumping up and nuisance barking. The intention was to provide some simple, but solid instructional material to those who wanted to add an electronic dog collar to their training routine but struggled to find a knowledgeable professional in their area who could help.

Stefano is one of those people. We’ve been corresponding about the possibility of starting his dog on an e-collar. He was doing his research before starting (which I applaud!) and had several valid concerns like how to get a great recall without creating a dog who would be worried about leaving his side. After getting the Just Right DVD and a bit of e-mail coaching he got started and I was happy to receive the following message.


great techniques, I began the e-collar training today, my dog picked
it up straight away

I think maybe cause he already knew commands but starting the loose
leash walking it only took like twice changing directions then he was
shadowing me like crazy.

But then I said ‘release’ his free command and he went off straight

So then I just went for a walk and did about 3 recalls broken up over
about 10mins and he did great recalled away from water (which is
massive he is a lab that loves water)

no velcro dog at all except for when I gave the heel command, also I
was working him on 13 and only had to go up to 15 for the water
recall. And he came back tail wagging and everything for his treat,
wooohooo I’m sooo psyched.

I’m now going to train my cousins rottie x staffy with the e-collar,
his untrained mega strong and locked away in a backyard, my cousin
said if I can train him with this he will purchase one and I know it
will work. I know I could train him with other methods but its so
draining because its physically tiring but this is awesome, man I was
shocked how responsive he was on such a low level and I’m still going
to take my time working up and have the leashes attached for at least
2 weeks.

Anyways just wanted to let you know how excited I am and happy with
your dvd as it is an awesome easy way to train.

I’ll send a video in a couple weeks of both dogs my lab was already
highly trained but with selective hearing, but the rottie x is hardly
trained so will be awesome to see how he goes, I’m very patient so it
should be great.

Great job Robin


Stefano and his crew


I certainly appreciate his kinds words but what tickles me the most is that he took the time to research and learn rather than:

a) dismiss the possibility of e-collar training entirely because of the negative hearsay he’d heard.

b) purchase an e-collar and slap it on his dog without first learning how to use it.

Two thumbs up for Stefano plus ball tosses and belly rubs for the dog! Thank you for letting me know how your new training skills are going with the addition of the e-collar.