Halloween Without Havoc!

Halloween Day By Lizzy Rainey
Halloween Day By Lizzy Rainey

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
~Scottish Saying

Today is the eve of All Hallow’s Eve.  Saying “I love Halloween” doesn’t even scratch the surface of how much I enjoy October, Halloween, Day of the Dead ~ Dia de los Muertos and Samhain.  Over the years it’s been clear to anyone that

Mr. Beaux and Knox are Halloween buddies
Mr. Beaux and Knox are Halloween buddies

knows us; we relish everything about this time of year.  Here are just a few facts about our family: Our dog’s name is Hocus Pocus. We were married Halloween weekend.  We have 2 black cats, one grey cat, and an orange tabby (who’s shaped like a pumpkin).  As much as I appreciate every detail of this time of year, our animal companions do not.

Our orange tabby is the very definition of a Scaredy Cat.  Our dog is the Canine Defender of The Castle.  Our grey cat rules them all, and does not like disruptions of any kind.   All things added up; Halloween night is an assault on their senses.

It’s a very good thing that I have learned a few “tricks and treats” over the years to help them all stay safe and comfortable during this festive night! So I created this post to share what I have learned with you!

Conscious COmpanion_Halloween_amy martin_carlsbad beach 2017_copyright
I love how their Fur Suits always match the decor 😉

 Tips for Keeping Everyone Safe and Secure This Season

DING-DONG! They’re Heeeeeere!

If your frisky feline or peppy pooch has a bad habit of door darting (like our black cat, Mr. Beaux used to do),  Halloween night can be a real challenge.  The best way to avoid this from happening is to place the escapee in their own separate, quiet room to prevent the chance that he/she has a chance to slip out the door as you’re offering treats to your costumed guests at the front door.

If the weather permits, think about setting up chairs on your lawn or driveway and pass out treats there!   We do this every year now, and this “trick” cuts down on the constant pounding on the door, which is upsetting to any animal.  If it’s too cold where you live and you can’t set up Halloween Candy Camp in your driveway, you can avoid animal freak-outs by doing something very simple: Cover the doorbell.

Cover your doorbell to reduce your pet's stress!
Cover your doorbell to reduce your pet’s stress!

Halloween TIP:   If you’re not going to be home on Halloween night, turn off your lights!!  Everyone knows that a dark house means no candy, and that means you will avoid the congo line of costumed kids banging on the door all night, and upsetting your furry or feathered family members while you are gone.

If you still want to give out candy when you are not here, cover the doorbell and put up a sign that says “Please DO NOT knock!”.  Then leave out a bowl of candy with a sign that reads, “Please take one and leave some for the rest of the ghosts and ghouls!”.

The Sanderson Sisters from the movie “Hocus Pocus” are doing a perfect imitation of what our animals look like when Trick-Or-Treaters masquerade the streets and ring the doorbell all night

Keep Halloween Candy Away From Your Pets!

Keep candy far out of reach of the animals!
Keep candy far out of reach of the animals!

Dogs will eat almost anything.   Cats don’t have a sweet tooth, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t try to gobble down goodies that are left out. (We all know that anything left out is a personal offering to a cat).  Birds are just as inquisitive as cats, so birds check things out with their mouths – including candy.

Killer Candy Facts:

  • Chocolate is deadly to pets.  It contains theobromine, which can cause nerve damage and even death.  The darker the chocolate, the more concentrated it is — and the smaller the lethal dose.
  • Explain to everyone in your home how dangerous treats are to animals.  Place the kids’ candy supply somewhere well out of reach of pets.  Caution your children about leaving candy wrappers on the floor.
  • Candy wrappers and candy can cause choking or a blockage.
  • Xylitol (found in gum and many candies) can cause an increase in insulin in the body and can also lead to liver failure.

“Some cats have developed a taste for sugary foods from having been offered them by their cat parents. Additionally, some cats may initially be attracted to the wrapper and then will attempt to eat the candy when playtime is over.” ~Pam Johnson-Bennett

Be a Conscious Companion by keeping the bowl of candy for the trick-or-treaters well out of your animal’s reach. Why take the chance?



Costume Dos and Don’ts

Fun for kids, Scary for our pets!
Fun for kids, Scary for our pets!

You may enjoy watching your kids goof around and run amuck in their Halloween costumes, but your animal companions may have a very different reaction.  Birds, cats, and dogs can become very frightened when they see their normal looking human walk into the bedroom and then later walk out as a monster.

Please discuss with your kids or partner (well ahead of time) about how acting out the part of their Halloween character can be quite terrifying to the animals.  Have your kids show the costume to the animal before they put in on.  Better yet – let the animal watch them “transform”.  I used this technique with the cats and Hocus Pocus when I transformed into a Red Riding Hood Werewolf last year.

Can you imagine the animals' fright if I had walked into the bathroom as plain-ole-me and walked out as this monster?!
Can you imagine the animals’ fright if I had walked into the bathroom as plain-ole-me and walked out as this monster?!

Please ask your kids to think about how they can still have fun, but be conscious of their animal companion.  If the pet is still frightened of the costume, you can pair the animal’s favorite treats or toys with your child or significant other in full (or even partial) costume.  If the animal is still clearly afraid, place them in the other room during the costume parade so everyone can have a good time.

Amy Martin_Halloween Night_Copyright_conscious Companion
Me and my hubby on All Hallow’s Eve – We made sure the critters saw us transform, to prevent scaredy cats and canines!


Ask your kids and other adults to avoid getting in the your pet’s face. This may just be a playful attempt to spook your pets, but any animal that sees his or her family members dancing around in crazy costumes, screaming loudly can easily start to feel fear and anxiety.  What your kids and your significant other may see as good-natured fun can easily cause anxiety for the unsuspecting sensitive animal.

kid costumes_pet costumes_halloween tips_conscious companion

Yawns, Sniffs, Licks & Shakes Could Be Signs of Stress! 🎃👻👾💀👹🐾

Conscious Companion_dog behavior_canine clues

As you visit Fall places with your pup, remember to be aware of their stress levels.  For example, sheck out this pic of me & Hocus Pocus.🎃 I’m having a blast at the pumpkin patch, but she is not. She doesn’t want to be up there with people staring at her. She’s clearly uncomfortable. And like most dogs, she doesn’t like cameras in her face.
So we ended the photo sesh quickly and let her run around and sniff to blow off her stress.

🔶How do I know she’s not feeling cool, confident, and comfortable in the pic? Check out her mouth. She’s about to offer a yawn. When a dog yawns, the dog may not be tired. The dog could be displaying signals that she is stressed, conflicted, or frustrated. Hocus is doing just that by trying to tell us that she is uncomfortable at this moment.

Read more about how you can decipher the canine clues here!

When it comes to pets and costumes, please consider their feelings and sense of safety.  Please refrain from dressing your pets up in ridiculous costumes. It can be very stressful to them, and it’s often not safe. 

Please refrain from dressing your pets up in ridiculous costumes. It's not cool.
If you really feel the need, take a quick picture of them in the costume, then let them go on their way in their natural fur suit.


Halloween Tips That I Have Learned Over The Years!


Tricks and Treats That Help! 

Give them things to chew on and play with to occupy them while they are in their “safe hideout”.
Give them things to chew on and play with to occupy them while they are in their “safe hideout”.
  • Reduce Noise:  Cover the doorbell so it’s not ding-donging all night!
  • White Noise:  Turn on classical music or animal-friendly T.V. shows to muffle the noises outside.
  • Exercise:  Get your pets T I R E D before Trick-Or-Treaters arrive!  If they are happily tired from healthy play and exercise they are less likely to be on alert and energetic all night.
  • Rooms of Refuge:  Be sure they have a room to hide in that’s safe and quiet!
  • Keep Them Inside:  Keep ALL animals inside around Halloween!  Having to temporarily endure your animal’s vocal complaints is nothing compared to risking his or her safety.  Check out the 12 Reasons to Keep Your Cat Indoors!

    Enrichment toys/ chews can help your bird to be less anxious on Halloween
    Enrichment toys/ chews can help your bird to be less anxious on Halloween
  • Desensitize Well Beforehand: If you know that your animal is reactive to doorbells or door knocking, you can learn how to Keep Your Dog Calm When the Doorbell Rings.  Please note: Halloween night isn’t the time to start working on polite greetings, “quiet” commands, or acceptance of masks and costumes without any prior exercises!


Have a Happy Halloween … Without Havoc!


Avoid turning your dog into a fearful hound from hell by removing him/her from the scary sights and sounds, or prepare them ahead of time by desensitizing techniques with a professional, force-free trainer


Conscious Companion_Hocus Pocus_Amy Martin_copyright
Hocus Pocus is well-desensitized to the fright and sights of the season.  There’s no scary “Boos!” for her … maybe just hoarding bones and being bored while we decorate 😉


Do you have tricks and tips that have worked for you and your animal companions on Halloween night?  Please share your suggestions in the comment section below! Together we can help to make Halloween Havoc-free for ourselves and our animal companions!

grey cat halloween

When black cats prawn and pumpkins gleam, may luck be yours on Halloween! – Anonymous

unnamed (2)
Halloween at our house – Carlsbad Beach, California, Oct 2017

Dog Language


So often we interpret dog behavior through our human thoughts and experiences.  But dogs do not communicate using our language.  Canine language consists of a large variety of signals using body, face, ears, tail, sounds, movement, and complex expression.  If we study the signals dogs use with each other, we increase our ability to communicate with, and understand dogs.

This picture is an excellent example of a dog that is stressed and very uncomfortable. How can we tell? Well, the dog is displaying at least 4 very important behaviors:

1.  Licking lips
2.  Showing the whites of eyes
3.  Panting when not overheated
4.  Turning head away

I would even dare to say that the dog might be thinking something along the lines of, “I am not enjoying this! Please make it stop!”.

It’s not just enough to make sure your dog is never left alone with a child; as the dog’s guardian, you must be able to recognize when the dog is uncomfortable or stressed and remove the dog from the child’s presence.  This is how we can be a conscious companion.

Please educate others by sharing this with your friends and family! You can learn more about how to understand dog language here.

Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs.

Ladder of Aggression

The Ladder of Aggression:  What every dog guardian needs to know

Do you know the subtle signals that dogs give when they are stressed?  Did you know that if you don’t help your dog, they can escalate? Here’s a great way to see how your dog’s behavior can escalate into aggression.  Think of a ladder with many steps.  Each step represents a behavior that dogs will display when they are becoming more and more anxious, stressed and fearful.  If the dog continues to reach a maximum level of stress, aggression can result.  Aggression is the top rung of the ladder.  Since all dogs are individuals, every dog has a different way that he/she responds to stress, so we need to be aware of their individual behavior clues.

Ladder of Aggression

How a dog reacts to stress or a threat can be represented as a series of ascending steps on a ladder.  These gestures are responses to an escalation of perceived threat only and are NOT expressions of a ‘submissive’ or ‘dominant’ state.  The choice of strategy (whether to escalate to a bite or not) will depend on the circumstances (time, target, interactions, previous experience) and on the severity of any underlying physical disease.  Pain frequently converts a ‘flight’ response to ‘fight’.  – Ladder of Aggression by Kendal Shepherd

The behaviors on the lower rungs of the ladder (yawning, blinking, nose licking, turning head away, etc.) communicate in dog language, “I am feeling worried”, or “please calm down”.  The behaviors on the higher rungs of the ladder (growling, air snapping, biting) mean “Stop! Leave me alone right now! Go Away!”

Understanding what dogs are trying to communicate when they are stressed is how we become Conscious Companions, and prevent our dogs from moving up the Ladder of Aggression. This included our felines, too!

I would like to share something else with you:  A dog bite NEVER happens out of the blue.  Let me repeat that; a dog bite never happens out of the blue.

Why is this important to know?  Well, it means that all dog bites can be prevented if we learn to recognize the stressors and behaviors that a dog exhibits as they are becoming stressed.  Dogs will display specific behaviors (listed above in the image) well before they lunge or bite.

Make no mistake about it; it’s our job, our role, and our responsibility as their guardians to learn these behaviors and recognize these stages.  Prevention and safety begins with you!  Setting ourselves up for success is how we do this.

Set yourself and your dog up for success!  You Are Your Dog’s Advocate!

Can you think of a time when your dog was stressed?  How did you respond?  

Related Material about Body Language:

YOUR Role In Dog Bite Prevention

When you know better you do better. – Maya Angelou


National Dog Bite Prevention Week is here!  This entire week is dedicated to educating people of all ages about how to becomes more Dog Aware, and increase the safety of kids and dogs.  We are focusing on the facts, not on creating fear.

NOTE: There is a lot of information in this post. I recommend bookmarking this page, so you can read through it all when you have time, and so you can reference it when you need it later!

Dog Bite Prevention
(Graphic provided by Dr. Yin)

The Humane Society of the United States reports that 50% of children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday.  Children under the age of five are most likely to be bitten and most of these bites come from a dog that the child knows; the family dog or that of a relative or friend.  Children are most likely to be bitten in the face as they are closer to a dog’s eye level making it easier for a dog to feel threatened by eye to eye contact.  Children love to kiss and hug dogs, even though these expressions of affection do not translate well in the dog world.  Fast movements can stimulate a dog’s prey drive and/or chase instinct.  Higher pitched voices can sometimes startle a dog and make it fearful.   A dog can be frustrated through rough play or by teasing and a child can inadvertently inflict pain with the pull of a tail or a poke in the eye.  It is also hard for a child to read and understand a dog’s body language, therefore missing vital signals that can put them in harm’s way.

Here’s the Good News:  We can change the statistics!  And, the majority of dog bites, if not all, are preventable.  That’s where YOU come in.  It’s our duty as dog guardians, parents, educators, and family members to learn how to read dogs better, and teach children how to learn dog “language” and to teach children to respect a dog’s space. The graphic below from Doggone Safe shows us a few signals that dog display when they are stressed.

Dog bite out of nowhere myth
Graphic provided by DoggoneSafe

 Researchers found that “Children from 4-7 years misinterpret dogs’ facial expressions.” They found that a full tooth display from a dog is not an effective way to teach a child to back away and leave them alone.  Their research suggests that young children might be interpreting an offensive tooth display on a dog’s face as an expression of friendliness rather than a threat.  Given that so many bites are to children, this is an important piece of information. ~ Dr. Patricia McConnell

Check out this video about Dog Body Language:

Pet. Pause. Respect.

A very handy technique that I’ve learned, and now share with my clients is the “Pet-Pause-Respect Test”.  This helps everyone in the family to know if the dog really wants attention or NOT.  I highly recommend that everyone use the Pet/Pause/Respect rule when interacting with all pets.


This is not cute. This is dangerous.
This is not cute.  This is dangerous.  The dog is being forced to interact with the child, and has limited options to get away.

Doggone Safe shares 5 Important Tips to Teach Kids:

1. Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses — Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face.  Hugging the family dog or other face-to-face contacts are common causes of bites to the face.  Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.

2.  Be a Tree if a strange dog approaches — Teach kids to stand still, like a tree.  Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away.  This works for strange dogs, and any time the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.

3.  Never tease a dog.

4.  Never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating, or protecting something.

5. Teach your kids to Speak Dog, and only interact only with happy dogs! Watch this short slideshow that shows you how to read dog body language, and other safety tips.


Familiar children were most commonly bitten in relation to food or resource guarding and “benign” interactions such as petting, hugging, bending over, or speaking to the dog. 

Dog bite prevention week

What Parents Can Do:

1. ACTIVELY Supervise — Passive supervision is something we are all guilty of, even if you don’t have kids.  But active supervision is a must when there are pets and children in the home!

Supervision means different things to different people. To some parents, supervision means just being home, to others it means watching out the window while the kids play with the dog outside while to others it means having hands on and being part of the interaction between the child and the dog. Many dog bites have happened to children while the parents were ‘supervising’.  – Jennifer Shryock, Family Paws Parent Education

2. Know signals that dogs display.  If you see these behaviors, intervene quickly (but calmly) and redirect the child or dog onto something positive.  These behavior signals include:

3.  Learn the Dog Behavior Continuum:  We hear it all the time, “Kids and dogs should never be left unsupervised”.  That’s great advice, but what else should we be doing??  Supervision only works when we know what to look for and when it’s time to intervene.  We have to know when a dog is going from “Enjoyment to Tolerance, to Enough Already“and back again.

4.  Don’t assume your dog is “good with kids”.  All dogs have their breaking point.  We all do.  Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten before, why take a chance? Toddlers, babies, and dogs don’t need to physically interact!

5.  Train your dog positively Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down, or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson.  Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on other family members.

6.  Involve older children with positively training your family dog (while supervising).

7. Don’t allow children to punish the dog, and don’t punish the dog yourself.

8. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

9. Understand and learn to recognize Trigger Stacking.

10. Understand and recognize the Ladder of Aggression. 

What’s Your Style of Supervision?

Actively Supervise! Supervise your dog around children at all times.  If visiting children are bothering your dog (or other pets in the house), put the pets away safely, or send the children home.   Be your child and your dog’s advocate.    Parents and guardians must be responsible for their dog at all times, without exception, and especially around children.  A child should NEVER be left unsupervised with any dog at any time and dog and child should only be together when a responsible adult can actively supervise.  This keeps both children and dogs safe.  

A child should never be left unsupervised with any dog at any time
A child should never be left unsupervised with any dog at any time

To learn more about what you can do check out:

“My dog would never bite anyone!” Are you willing to bet your dog on that statement?
“My dog would never bite anyone!”
Are you willing to bet your dog  or your child on that statement?  Why take the risk?

There’s no better time than now to educate each other about how each of us has the power to keep everyone happy and safe. This week is the perfect time to reflect on how we can ensure our canine companions, children, and others steer clear of unwanted and preventable circumstances.  Education is the key to safety and well being for everyone in the home.  Please share this to help educate others so we can all work together to keep dogs, kids, and families happy and harmonious 365 days a year!

 Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ― Nelson Mandela

Hello Doggie!


 MYTH:  When greeting a new dog, extend your hand towards its face for it to sniff.

 FACTS:  Dogs don’t sniff each other’s paws when greeting, and similar to us, they prefer to be asked before being touched by a stranger.  A dog can smell you from many feet away so you don’t have to put your hand directly up to its nose in order for it to smell you.  Holding out your hand in front of a dog’s face can send a negative (non-friend) signal.  People often fail to recognize the signals a dog sends to say, “no thanks”, and then touches him or her anyway.  

What To Do Instead:   Rather than extending your hand for the dog to sniff, ask the dog’s person *first* and then also “ask the dog”  by tapping your hand on your thigh (simulating a wagging tail) and remember to act friendly.  This relaxes dogs.  The dog will then decided to nuzzle you, sniff more to get to know you, or will stay away.  This process is beneficial is because it gives the dog a choice.  He or she is not forced to interact with you!  Would you like to be touched by a stranger, or would like someone to ASK you first so you can choose whether or not you want to interact? 

Safety First:  Teaching children to reach out at strange dogs can lead to a hand being bitten.  Adults and children should start petting the dog on the chest, under the neck or on the shoulders. Never reach over the top of their head to pet them on the head

Who’s Walking Whom?

 Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.  It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them. ― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog

Dog walking human
Is this what you and your dog look like on walks together?


In our family, the evening walk with our dog is our “family time” together.  It’s such a great time to bond with our dog, and it’s a great time for us to talk about our day with each other.  Our dog gets to spend “happy time” with her people, and frankly, its the highlight of her day!  If you are gone all day, I can promise you that the evening walk is your dog’s most exciting time of the day.  They do look forward to it, and it’s the very least that we can do for them when they are stuck inside all day, waiting for their people to come home.

However, walks can be very stressful when we are not in sync.  One of my biggest pet peeves (no pun intended) is when a dog pulls on a leash while we are walking together.  It is incredibly frustrating, and it makes the walk very stressful.  The walk ends up being cut short because it’s not enjoyable for anyone.  This can also be dangerous for older people, or anyone with physical limitations. If a dog is pulling on the lead, you can literally be swept off your feet! (I know this for a fact.)

Here’s another problem:  Dogs need to be walked once a day – at a minimum.  Who wants to walk a dog that walks the person?!  No one does.  If walks are stressful, chaotic, or exhausting, you are probably going to be less likely to want to go on a walk with your canine companion. Avoiding walks because they are stressful is not a productive solution!

So what’s the solution?  Teach your dog how to walk politely on a leash.

dog pulling human
Does your dog walk you?


Dogs love to explore their outside world.  Going on a walk is the most exciting (and most stimulating!) part of their doggie day, so their desire to rush ahead of you is very strong.  It’s their nature to want to run ahead and seek out all of those incredible scents, sights, and sounds!

Unfortunately, we don’t make ideal walking partners for high energy dogs, since we only have two legs.  A dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours.  When a dog has to put the breaks on their excitement by walking calmly by their person’s side, this is very hard for them, especially when the only thing our dog wants to do is RUN and EXPLORE!  Our boring, slow human pace can drive them nuts, making them want to get further away from the person that’s holding them back.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not pull on the leash while being walked because they want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha, or dominant over their human.  There is a much simpler explanation that does not give credence to the myth that dogs are on a quest for world domination! ~ V. Stilwell

Walking calmly next to a person while out and about on a walk, requires a great amount of impulse control.  This is often very difficult for some dogs to practice.  People often get frustrated and fed up, so they resort to punishment or tools that are downright dangerous.

Tools of the Old School Trade – What to AVOID

There are a variety of tools on the market today that claim to help with leash walking.  Be Aware: Some of these methods are outdated and downright cruel.

Choke, prong and shock collars can irreversibly damage your dog.  Learn why these collars cause hypothyroidism and other health problems:

FACT:  Modern behavioral science has proven that forceful handling such as physical punishment, using choke chains, shock collars, and leash yanking is psychologically damaging for the dog.

I invite you to do a little test: 

1. Open your hands with your thumbs touching each other. Place the thumbs at the base of the throat and with the fingers pointing back and surrounding the neck.
2. Now, take a deep breath, squeeze and pull back with all your force keeping your thumbs connected.
3. This is how many dogs feel when they are on the leash and collar and they are pulling.

If you are still keen to continue with this experiment, put a choke chain or pinch collar around your neck, attach it to a leash, and ask a friend to pull and jerk on it periodically.  Welcome to the dog world!

pinch collar choke collars



Tips for Success, and What You Need to Consider First!

Before you begin,  here are a few tips that you need to consider:

Reward:  Do you know what motivates your dog?  Is it verbal praise, toys, or treats?  Once you know what their motivation is, you can use that as a tool for training.  Find out what really excites your canine companion and what grabs their attention.  If your boss at work gave you sauerkraut when you performed well, but your favorite treat is chocolate, you probably won’t perform well again.  Make sure the reward is something that will be worth their effort.

Time Limit:  Remember that you don’t need to spend a half hour doing a training session.  5 to 10 minutes is best.  Do a training session with your dog two or three times a day.  Keep it short! Keep it FUN!

Punishment is Outdated:  Positive training is going to produce results faster and is going to last.  It’s far better to have a dog do what is asked because he or she wants to do it rather than doing it because he or she is afraid of the consequences if they do not.

Set them up for success:  Begin inside! Then you can move outside after both you and your dog have mastered indoors!  You want to start in an environment where there are few/zero distractions.  Once you have mastered that together you can move the sessions outside.  When you go outside, follow the same guidelines: zero distractions, in a boring, small area.  (ex backyard, no squirrels, people, or other dogs, etc.).  Once you master small, boring spaces, progress to moderately exiting spaces.  If that’s too much, take a few steps back, and make the environment less exciting. You want to set your dog up for success in an environment where you are way more exciting than anything else that’s happening. Then you can start to add in outside distractions.

TIP:  You will both succeed more quickly if you find a way to tire your canine companion before a training session.  Dogs pull, in part, because they’re full of excess energy.  So unless you can expend that energy, he or she will find it hard to control themselves.   Before training, play fetch in a hallway or your backyard, play a vigorous game of tug, Get crazy with a Flirt Pole, or let her play with her favorite doggie pal first!

High Note: Always end on a positive note (even if you did not see the results you wanted yet)! Ending it on a good note will help you both; your dog will want to do another session with you if she’s having fun, and you will too!


You will have more success during a training session if  your canine companion is relaxed and not full of hyper energy.
You’ll have more success during training sessions if your canine companion is relaxed and not full of hyper energy.

Training TRUTH:  The most successful modern training theories show that reinforcing good behavior with rewards while using constructive discipline is much more successful.   Learn more about why positive reinforcement works.

Hocus walking calmly on leash while surrounded by lots of neighborhood distractions.  She doesn't have to walk parallel to me, but we do continue to encourage calm, relaxed behavior on lead.
Hocus walking calmly on leash (while surrounded by lots of neighborhood distractions). Our Criteria: She doesn’t have to walk parallel to us, if she chooses not to, but we do continue to encourage (reinforce) calm, relaxed behavior on lead. Notice that the lead is loose, not tight, which is the criteria we have reinforced. She can walk ahead, but she has learned that it’s no longer reinforcing to pull on her leash. We never punish unwanted behavior. We REINFORCE the behavior we want to see more of!



paw prints

Behavior Bite:  We add tension and stress when we pull back on the leash.   Not only does pulling back on a dog’s leash prevent the dog from moving freely and naturally, but it creates tension in our dog.  Most dogs will resist this pressure on their necks/shoulders (that you have created) and they will pull harder!  Loosen up. It lightens the load on both you and your dog!

The videos below demonstrate easy and simple techniques that teach you how to teach your canine to walk politely on a leash.  These methods are using positive, force-free techniques:

Victoria Stillwell demonstrates how to teach Loose Leash Training – INSIDE:

Once you have successfully mastered loose leash training inside, you can train again outside:


Loose Leash Walking Outside  -Using Tasty Treats, Outside, with Minimal Distractions: 


Tip: The goal is to have a “J” shape in the leash/lead.



Find their motivation.

Keep the training sessions short.

Always end on a high note.

Positive reinforcement always triumphs over negative consequences.

Set them up for success.

Make it Fun!



Training Truth + Tips for Success: See Beyond The Surface.

Not everything is what it appears to be. Most dogs who lunge on leash are highly insecure. They may look vicious, but behind many frightening Fido faces are dogs that are are experiencing frustration or FEAR.

This is why it’s never recommended to punish a dog that lunges on the leash.

When we yank, hit, yell, or jerk on the leash of a dog that is *reacting*, we are adding fuel to the fire. We are making the situation worse, AND in the process, we are teaching the dog that they should be afraid of whatever it is they are barking, growling, or lunging at.

Our job as their guardian is to do the opposite: We want to teach the dog to focus on something else, and to change they way they FEEL about the perceived threat.  Learn how to by clicking on the image below.

leash-aggression_dog barks lunges on leash



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