Dog Walking - Manners on the Trail

We’ve all experienced it, that overly excited, happy, bouncing dog charging toward your dog. For some owners this is a mild distraction, for others this is the most stressful situation they can imagine. Whether you’re on a popular walking trail, walking around your neighborhood or downtown, you’re dog’s etiquette and manners need to be kept in check.

Even the most mild mannered and dog friendly dogs can have an off day and not necessarily appreciate another dog charging up it’s butt for a sniff. Or worse, the perky puppy going in for a friendly greeting might end up in a dog fight or coming away with nasty bite from a dog that was not open to an uninvited introduction.

If you’re a new dog owner and not sure about dog etiquette, here are a few basic tips.

  • Walk your dog on a 6 ft leash or shorter, especially when walking on narrow, confined pathways. Lot’s of new owners that don’t have reliable obedience select “flexi” leashes (retractable leashes) to be able to give their dog “freedom” on leash. If you don’t trust your dog off leash, chances are you can’t control them when they are 15-20 feet away from you at the end of the flexi leash. Walking your dog on leash should be a structured activity, not a free for all.
  • When passing an oncoming dog, if you’re dog is jumping in excitement consider either pulling off to the side to allow the other dog to pass or move your dog to the outside and keep them close to your side. Be mindful of the other dog’s body language as well as the owners reaction. If both dog and owner look tense, keep walking. If they both look friendly and relaxed, ask if your dogs can meet before letting your dog run to meet them both. Remember, even dog friendly dogs might not appreciate another dog jumping on “their” owner and could react in an aggressive manner.
  • If your dog is too distracted by other dogs and completely ignores you, start off by working on some engagement techniques before taking your dog to a popular dog spot. You should be the most important thing in your dog’s world, more than another dog, cat, squirrel or person. If you only try to restrain your dog in high distraction scenarios, you’re actually escalating the problem and building frustration in your dog, which may lead to leash aggression down the road. You may have brought a dog into your life as a walking/running partner, but your new dog may not know this. Show them what you expect of them from the start and help guide them into appropriate behaviors instead of just expecting that they will figure it out on their own.
  • Whether this is your first dog, or just the first dog you’ve ever needed to train, talk to a professional dog trainer. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to dominate your dog or use heavy punishment to train them. Dog Training methods have changed quite a bit over the years as well as the training tools. Find a trainer that you are comfortable working with and a method that you can be consistent with.

What to do when an overly enthusiastic dog is headed your way and your not sure how your dog will react?

Speak up! Whether your dog is dog aggressive, or you’re just not sure how your ordinarily “dog friendly” dog will react to this dog, tell the other dog’s owner that your dog gets agitated when other dogs get in his/her space. If you have a patient and friendly dog and have the time, help the other owner out by working on a meet and greet drill to help desensitize their dog. Remember to keep the leashes loose, tension on the leash can cause anxiety. Also keep enough space between you an the other dog/owner, that way your dog can easily get away without getting caught up or feeling trapped. Take a minute or two to have the dogs sit or down, then sniff again. If the other dog’s owner isn’t sure how to correct the situation, tell them about your experience with obedience training and how it helped your sure to give them your favorite trainer’s contact info!

If you have a dog that is not dog friendly, put your dog to the outside and continue walking past. If the environment allows you may choose to pull off to the side and have your dog sit. Be prepared as some new owners don’t always understand that this is not an invitation to introduce the two dogs, just explain that your dog is in training and needs some space. If the other owner is using a flexi leash and hasn’t reeled their dog back in and you’re concerned that your dog may have a nasty reaction to the other dog, simply walk the other way until you can steer clear...even though the other person is in the wrong, it’s better to walk away than have to argue over vet bills later on.

If you need help socializing your dog or gaining better control of your dog’s obedience, call SoCal K9 and schedule a free in-home evaluation!

Obedience Training and Separation Anxiety

Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs

At a certain point most dog owners will notice a varying degree of separation induced anxiety in their dogs. Whether it’s a brand new puppy that has just left it’s litter mates and is in an adjustment period, or a newly adopted adult dog that may have been suffering from separation anxiety for years, there are a few basic techniques that most owners can try on their own. It’s important to remember that no dog is exactly the same as the next, while these techniques work for most dogs, its best to contact a professional dog trainer for a customized training plan. If you live in Orange County, give SoCal K9 a call!

The best start you can give your new dog isn’t always the first thought in a dog owners mind....leave your dog alone. Only for a few hours at a time within the first few days, of course you wouldn’t just give your new dog full run of the house, but we will approach that in a minute. A large portion of first time dog owners want to spend as much time as possible with their new companion. Some owners will plan their pups arrival around a holiday or vacation and spend nearly every waking minute making sure their new friend is happy and content. But what happens when you have to go back to work? Your dog thinks you two are going to pal around 24/7 for the rest of your lives, that first day you spend 8 hours or more away from home your dog won’t know what to do! Make the first few days a realistic portrayal for your pup, leave them at home for an hour here, an hour there. It’s also important not to overwhelm your new dog with too much stimulus whether that’s people coming by the house to meet the new dog or taking him/her to every dog friendly spot in town. Give them plenty of time to settle, get used to their new home and family - as well as spending time alone in their new home.

Now that you’re ready to leave your new dog alone for a few hours, remember they don’t know the rules of your house, and certainly don’t expect that they are house broken! Create a management plan for your dog when you’re either away from home or unable to supervise. The easiest, safest way to manage your dog is crate training. While there are a few dogs that can not be safely crated due to more severe behavioral problems, most dogs will take to their new “den” over the next few days. It’s important to set the crate up with your dogs safety in mind, there are some things we can do with adult dogs that may not be appropriate for a young puppy - or necessarily conducive to housebreaking a young puppy. If you’re not sure how to crate train your new puppy, give us a call to schedule an in-home puppy consult. If you’ve just adopted an adult dog and you’re not sure if they have any destructive tendencies, rather than putting your brand new deluxe dog bed in the crate start with an inexpensive blanket or old towel. You want to make it comfortable and cozy, but hold off spoiling your new companion until the house rules have been established. It’s also a good idea to leave some water, most dogs will make a mess if left with a full bowl. Consider purchasing a water bowl that can securely attach to the crate wall. You’ll also want to leave your dog with something to do while they’re crated. There are a number of food puzzle type toys on the market. Just keep in mind your dog’s physical strength and possible destructive tendencies, never leave your dog with a toy that could be a choking hazard.

So now your dog is all set in it’s crate or kennel space and you’re ready to leave. You grab your keys and head out the door...and now your dog is barking. Now what? In most cases your new dog will quiet down in a few minutes. In some cases they can continue to bark for hours, if this is what you are currently experiencing it’s time to bring in a professional to asses the situation. If your dog is settling down after a few minutes, your headed down the right path. The more often you can play out this exercise the less fuss they will make. If you happen to think your dog is showing some hypersensitivity to external noise (i.e. gardeners, delivery trucks, street noise) feel free to leave the radio or tv on...although their hearing is highly sensitive the white noise will provide some comfort and drown out the external sound. To help your dog get more comfortable with their crate, you can also run through this drill and never leave the house. Simply walk out of the room and return 10-15 minutes later, to either reward with a toy filled with food or to let them out. Remember, if you can’t supervise your new dog during portion’s of the day, crate them to prevent him/her from learning any bad habits or possibly getting into something that could be potentially harmful. If you find that they bark more when you are at home, consider leaving them crated with a very high value toy/treat that will keep them occupied for 15 -30 minutes, midway through their treat, open the crate door. Ideally your dog will be more interested in finishing their treat than getting overly excited to see you. You should give your dog some supervised space during this time. This exercise will help teach your dog that they don’t need to be glued to your side at every moment.

Now I know some of you are thinking “I can’t take the barking, there has to be something to get my dog to be quiet”. Of course there are a number of aversive devices on the market. Whether you use the old school penny can, bark collar (static or citronella), or a sonic device, it’s important to teach your dog that there is also reward for being quiet. Before employing any type of aversive for barking I strongly recommend having a professional dog trainer evaluate the situation and devise a custom plan for you and your dog. Lots of old school trainers, and dog owners, will immediately suggest the penny can or a squirt bottle. In some cases this is a very simple solution, but can have ill affect on behaviors you may want down the road. Just an example, if you love spending time in the pool, at the beach or lake and want your dog to love the water...using a squirt bottle filled with water as a punishment probably isn’t the best idea. Again, if you’re not sure what the right course of action is for your dog, contact a professional dog trainer. SoCal K9 offers a free in-home evaluation to customize a training program that will not only fit your dogs skill level but also your lifestyle!

You’ve done all the basics to help ease your dog’s anxiety, but you’re still experiencing some pretty severe behavioral issues as a result of your dogs tension and anxiety when separated from his/her what? Obedience!! Even if your dog isn’t showing “severe” behavioral issues, obedience training is a very important step in establishing the leader/follower dynamic. If you have a puppy this is a highly important step in setting the expectation for your dog and showing them how you want them to behave. With a newly adopted mature, adult dog it is imperative to show them that you are in control and they don’t need to assume the role of pack leader. Studies have shown that dogs who successfully complete obedience training show a reduced incidence of separation-related anxiety. This is a direct result of the enhanced confidence dogs gain from understanding who’s the leader and how to effectively communicate with their new leader. Dogs that are unable to clearly communicate with their owners, often are unable to relate to their owner as an independent affiliative partner and may develop a reliance on direct contact with their owner....presenting a strong vulnerability response upon separation. Aside from correcting or preventing problematic dependency, dog training improves a dogs focus and impulse control...both of which are vital cortical executive functions necessary for effectively adapting under stress. In other words, we’re using obedience training as a way to “force” our dogs into using the prefrontal cortex - the area of the brain responsible for differentiating among conflicting thoughts, determining good and bad, consequences of current activities, and social “control”. Whew that was a still with me? Good, now let’s talk relaxation....ahhhh.

In some cases, additional training such as Posture-Facilitated Relaxation (PFR), can ease a dogs anxiety by creating a deep state of relaxation. PFR uses a combination of graded postures, massage, thermal touch and olfactory stimulation to condition associations with security, physical and emotional relaxation, positive reinforcement and play activities. I know what your thinking “Are you asking me to do yoga with my dog?”, no, not exactly. Graded postures are a series of positions (Stand, Sit, Down, Lay/Settle) selected for their relative relinquishment of control. The repetition of postures used with massage develops a deep relaxation which is then paired with a comforting scent. You don’t have to create a day spa for your dog or listen to new age music, but these sessions are relaxing for you as well so do whatever makes you comfortable. The scent you choose should be fairly diluted if using an essential oil such as lavender or sandalwood, or you may even choose to use your own scent (think old t-shirt). PFR Training alone is not an answer to relieving separation anxiety but when used in conjunction with Obedience Training, is a powerful tool to help reduce and prevent separation anxiety.

Integrating training activities into your everyday routine will not only help to calm your dog during times of separation but also during heightened social contact - which may be when you return home from work or when meeting another dog or person. Teaching your dog that Nothing In Life Is Free and that they must work for affection establishes appropriate leader/follower boundaries and gives your dog a far greater feeling of security. Again, no dog is the same as the next, just as no owner is the same as the next. It’s important to work with a professional dog trainer that won’t take a cookie cutter approach to your dogs training needs as well as your own abilities. SoCal K9’s professional dog trainers will first talk to you about your goals, timelines and daily routine to develop a custom training program to make sure you succeed at reaching your training goals.

If you’ve tried the basic steps to help reduce your dog’s anxiety and it doesn’t seem to be working, its time to get help from a professional dog trainer. To get started, call (949) 257-2501 or go on-line to and schedule your free in-home evaluation.

Puppy Housebreaking

Getting a new dog or puppy can be a tremendously happy moment for any family.  That happiness can soon turn to frustration if you fail to establish proper boundaries and management when you aren’t around to supervise your new puppy.  The first place to start with a new dog is establishing a house training routine, if you’re in South Orange County, SoCal K9 Training can help.

Housebreaking will relieve one of the more frustrating training issues for new owners.  House training means your dog should learn when and where to do his business.  There’s no secret to house training, it’s simply setting a schedule and creating a potty training routine. Over the next few weeks your dog will quickly learn not to eliminate in the house or other undesired areas.

Puppies have very little control over their bladder and bowls until the age of 16 weeks.  Making sure your new puppy has  plenty of opportunity to potty outside,  will greatly reduce accidents in the home.  As time goes on and the dog develops more control, you can gradually reduce the number of trips outside.  Look for signs that your puppy may need a trip outside to go potty, sniffing the ground, circling in a small area are indications that your dog needs to go potty.  Anytime your new puppy has a heavy play session, be sure to take him outside as soon as possible.  Dogs are creatures of habit and will learn to tell you they need a trip outside, either by standing at the door or getting your attention and heading towards the door.  Consistency is key in dog training, especially house training.

Crate training is another essential tool in housebreaking your new dog or puppy.  When ever you are not able to supervise your dog or need to leave the home, your dog should be crated until they are properly house trained and have learned manners in the home.  There are a variety of crate styles to choose from, everything from wire crates to designer crates that match your interior decor.  The crate should be just big enough for your new dog or puppy to lay down and turn around in.  By nature dogs are clean animals, and want to keep their “den” clean.  Crating will help train your dog to control their bladder, and prevent housebreaking accidents in the home.  Remember, the crate should never be used as a punishment.

Each time you take your new dog to go potty, make sure to “mark” the behavior.  Many people use the term “Go Potty”, but really you can choose any phrase you like - just make sure to continuously use the same command.  Once you dog goes potty, praise them and mark the behavior, followed by a treat.  If you prefer your dog to use one area of the yard, be sure to leash your dog and train them to go in the same spot every time.  It’s also important to remember that dogs are clean animals, pick up after your puppy every time they poop.

If your dog does not go potty outside on schedule, bring them back in the house and place them in their crate for 5-10 minutes.  Take your dog back outside to the designated area and give the “Go Potty” command again.  Repeat this housebreaking process until your dog completely eliminates.  It may seem like a time consuming process, but without consistency and containment your new puppy may learn some bad habits that will only lead to frustration.

Keep it positive and remember that if you don’t set the expectation your dog will!

Calling all Surf Dogs

Attention all water dogs!! SoCal Surf Dogs, a club based out of San Diego California devoted to promoting a healthy, outdoor, active lifestyle for you and your dog, is holding practice events each weekend during the month of May at Del Mar dog beach. These practice sessions are in anticipation of the summer “SurfFur” surf contests that will be held in Coronado and Huntington Beach.

Even if you’re not a surfer, it’s a great way to get your dog out for a social visit with four legged friends and get back in shape either swimming, surfing or just running around the beach. SoCal Surf Dogs club members are super friendly and there to help get you started or help fine tune your dogs surfing skills. For more tips on getting your “SurFur” dog prepped for their first step into liquid check out the SoCal Surf Dog Website

Club practice dates are below, but to stay current be sure to contact the club and request that you be added to their newsletter.

Sunday, May 15th, 2011 10:00am to 3:00pm - SoCal Surf Dog Luau @ Dog Beach Del Mar
It’s a casual get together to meet old and new friends, catch on the latest news and just have a good time before the crazy summer Dog Surfing season begins. Bring a dish to share, your own dog, chair, surfboard, drinks, umbrella, etc...

Saturday, May 28th, 2011 9:00am to 12:00pm - SoCal Surf Dog Practice @ Dog Beach Del Mar

Saturday, June 4th, 2011 - Loews Surf Dog Competition - Imperial Beach, CA (See for more info)

Quick note...Although Sam Dog and SoCal K9 are avid water sports fans we are not affiliated with SoCal Surf Dogs...other than the fact that we LOVE this sport and look forward to more meet-ups this summer season!!


Doggie Door Bell Training

Many of us are familiar with the Dog Door, a nice little flap that the dog can exit and enter through at their will. However, for some dog owners doggie doors are not always an option due to safety concerns with wildlife in the area or not having an ideal location to install a dog door. If your home isn’t ideal for a doggie door, a doggie door bell can be an easy way for your dog to let you know he/she needs a trip outside.

Before considering either a dog door or door bell, it’s important to make sure your dog is completely housebroken. If you are looking at either option as a solution to housebreaking issues, you’re in for a long, hard lesson in frustration! If your dog is 100% completely house trained, a doggie door bell may be a helpful communication tool.

In most cases, maintaining a consistent schedule is all you need to keep your dog from having an accident in the home. Occasionally I do have some clients who’s schedule is constantly changing, whether it’s work related, after school activities or just a very busy lifestyle. Sometimes keeping the dog on a consistent schedule can be difficult.

First off you’ll need a bell, there are some commercial products out there but it’s just as easy to make your own doggie door bell. Using large bells, tie several onto a ribbon or string - length should be appropriate for your dogs height from the door knob. Once the string of bells has been made and tied to the door knob, we need to teach our dog how to use it. I start by teaching the dog to use their paw to ring the bells, I prefer to have the dog use their paw to really get a nice loud ring instead of a gentle nose tap that may not create quite enough noise. Once your dog paws the bell the first time I mark the behavior and reward. After a few times of the dog getting used to pawing at the bells and receiving a reward I label the behavior - you can really name it what ever you like “Touch”, “Ring”, “Outside”’s up to you.

Now that the dog is comfortable ringing the bell on command, I ask them to ring the bells with my new command, mark the behavior with a “Yes” then open the door and reward the dog. I’ll repeat this several times for the next few days. The next step is to chain the behaviors together with a trip outside and the “Go Potty” command. I gradually start withholding the food reward until after the dog has gone potty. I also make sure that while my dog is learning this behavior, I have them ring the bell for each potty trip outside on my schedule. Eventually your dog will begin to ring the bell without being prompted by command. Remember to praise and reward each time your dog goes outside and goes potty.

Every dog is different, the time is takes your dog to learn this behavior may be different than another dog. If you are diligent and consistently practice this routine with each trip outside, soon enough your dog will tell you they need outside by ringing the bell.