What To Expect During A Dog Behavior Consultation?

I offer both Remote or In-person sessions

For either remote or in-person sessions:

You will fill out a behavioral questionnaire prior to any scheduled appointment.  

I will also need some video which usually shows me more than what I can see in person. 

If a situation is dangerous, I do not need dangerous video. I just need to see your dog in action vis-a-vis family, other dogs, etc. to the best of your ability, safely.

I work with you and your family to set goals and teach you how to implement a plan to modify and/or manage your dog’s behavior. Depending on your family’s needs.

Both Remote and In-person Sessions offer great instruction and sometimes one is more effective than the other.

There are times when a remote session is a great alternative to in-person either because of

  • Covid restrictions
  • Distance
  • Scheduling difficulties
  • Need for expediency
  • Less expensive

And often in remote sessions we can dive deeply into the videos which allows you a better understanding of your dog’s signals, needs, and triggers.

Here is a video that demonstrates how sometimes when we observe in real time, we miss a lot of signals that can help us help our dogs.

In-person sessions allow me to physically interact and demonstrate with your dog and if necessary work with you and your dog in an environment specific to your dog’s issues.

Regardless of remote or in-person sessions, I send notes to help you follow the stratagies we go over in our session.

To set up a private session or get more information, email me.

Does your dog think sit is just the beginning of down?

Sometimes our dogs chain behaviors in ways we didn’t plan, so here’s a way to help your dog from becoming confused about what your commands really mean.

If so, you are not alone!

All too often we teach sit easily — it is a calming signal dogs tend to throw our way in the early stages. When our dog sits, we get very happy and excited, praising and rewarding the dog and – voila! – we have a sit command!

Sometimes we have to work a little harder at getting that sit by either luring or shaping it, but again once the dog complies we get very happy and excited, praising and rewarding the dog and – voila! – we have a sit command.

No matter how we get to it, we have established a basic skill that is used as a stepping-stone to so many other commands: sit/stay, sit/wait, sit/paw, sit/down.

The sit/down (and sit/paw) are the two combo-commands most commonly chained together by our dogs.

All too often folks start training the down command with the dog in a sit position and for some dogs it comes easily and for others it can take a while. Again no matter how we get there once the dog does his/her down, we get very happy and excited, praising and rewarding and soon we have a down command.

Here is where it gets tricky: if we only ask for a down from a sit position our dogs can begin to chain the two together. They begin to be conditioned that down always comes after sit and it is not long before they believe sit always comes before the down and voila — we have a dog who believes sit is just the beginning of down.

Okay — how do we break or avoid this? Easy.

Begin teaching the down cue from a standing position. The lure is the same: a stinky treat in a closed hand at the dog’s nose, slowly bring treat straight down to the floor (slowly enough so the dog’s nose follows the treat), wait for the dog to begin to lie down and then completely lie down — then get very happy and excited, praising and rewarding.

There are a few dogs who will not go all the way down — no problem, just pay for half a down, then three-quarters of a down, then nine-tenths of a down (you get the idea). You can also shape down from a standing position by simply rewarding it each time your dog does it (more on that in another blog). And if your dog already knows down from a sit, the same procedure applies as above. But you may not ask them for a down from a sit for a complete month (or more if they already think sit is just the beginning of down) because we need the dog who believes sit is just the beginning of down to let that notion extinguish from their behavior pattern.

Remember the biggest pitfall here is when we are not committed to the requested behavior.  So often we are just happy the dog is stationary that we just take the down when in fact we asked for a sit. We have to commit to the behavior we have asked for.

There is however no need to punish — no need to vex.  Just walk away if you ask for a sit and your dog slides into a down or ask the dog to stand and try again.

Remember we just want our dog to stop something and ask for a sit but when the dog slides into that down we have to get the dog back up into the sit or stand and try again—but do yourself and your dog a favor—remember to ask for the behavior they are most likely to offer reliably until you have fixed that sit-is-just-the-beginning-of-down issue. That puts fix for the lack of reliability back on us.

In the end so much of dog training is, “mean what you say, say what you mean, but don’t be mean about it.”


When science confirms what we already suspect about the bond we have with our dogs.

The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna studied the dog-owner bond and found striking similarities to the parent-child relationship in humans.

A recent article on sciencedaily.com confirms what all of the pet-owning world already knew but was just a little shy about saying it out loud:

“Scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna) have investigated the bond between dogs and their owners and have found striking similarities to the parent-child relationship in humans.”

The study provides evidence for a secure base effect between dogs and their humans, not unlike the secure base effect that is seen between child and caregiver. This striking parallel will be further investigated in direct comparative studies on dogs and children.

As Horn says, “One of the things that really surprised us is, that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do. It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behaviour evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons.”

Lisa Horn, Science Daily, June 21, 2013
I am eager to hear what more they discover as they look deeper into this empirically.

My hope is they will see what I have seen for so many years that when our dogs trust us and we treat them with respect we can help them become better and happier members of our families (not unlike how we help our children flourish.)

Now if only science could prove that more than just a little dark chocolate a day is good for me…

Top three reasons to love the Whole Dog Journal

The Whole Dog Journal has been a staple of mine for more than fourteen years and I recommend it as required reading for everyone who loves their dogs.

The Whole Dog Journal has been a staple of mine for more than fourteen years.

  • Each year I devour the annual pet dog food (both wet and dry) issues (Reason #1 and pun #1). These analyses allow me to choose the best food based on the specific ingredients and my dog’s needs—not the food that advertises the most.
  • This leads me to reason #2—No Advertising. Because The Whole Dog Journal does not allow advertisements, all their product articles from food to equipment are well researched and without pressure from advertisers!
  • Which leads me to reason #3—their staff of writers are credentialed and passionate about their work. They contribute to the research and they have the backgrounds that offer them the knowledge to comment appropriately on topics of health, training, behavior, and more.

Three Dogs Training encourages you to take a look at The Whole Dog Journal if you have not done so already! Maybe even as a gift to you and your pup(s)!

That Dog Sure Has You Trained…

Everyday we train our dogs we make a choice about the relationship we want with our dogs and the relationship we want our dogs to have with the world.

That dog sure has you trained…is a common statement I hear from a lot of folks.

The reality is that any good trainer has been well trained by their dog—one way or the other.

Teaching new skills goes through successive approximations to achieve better and better behaviors with a final goal in mind. It can look like the trainer is rewarding crappy behavior. But, in fact we are rewarding better-than-before behavior knowing that we are nudging the behavior closer to our final goal.

We will gently shift our criteria for each rewardable event to slightly improved behaviors, little-by-little.

In other words, if I want a dog to settle while their favorite thing on earth is nearby (say kids playing ball) I have two choices:

  • Pay the dog for the settle in a currency that is greater in value than the kids – Treats, kibble, or cheese…depends on the dog
    • Keep the payment going in reasonable intervals that will allow the dog to make the better choice and stay in the settle
    • This dog learns to LOVE being in a settle around a challenging trigger (kids)
    • Positive Reinforcement
  • Collar correcting the dog every time he tries to reach the children
    • The reward for the dog is the cessation of correction when he lays back down
    • The dog will make many mistakes in this set-up
    • The dog will probably not love being in a settle around a challenging trigger (kids)
      • In fact it be just the opposite and we would have a dog who is not happy around kids.
    • Positive punishment and Negative reinforcement
Both handlers had to be trained by their dogs in order to know when to reward or when to correct.
For example:

The positive reinforcement trainer has been well trained by their dog to know how often their dog will need rewards to remain in the settle.

The positive punishment/negative reinforcement trainer has been well trained by their dog to know when they need to correct the dog, how much they need to correct, and when to release the collar.

In the end any trainer who achieves reliable behaviors has been trained by their dog to know what that dog requires to learn.

The real question is not who is training whom—it is about the choices we make as the caregivers of these animals.

Positive reinforcement is a back and forth negotiation that allows for the dog to say,

“This is too hard for me so you need to pay me a bit more.” Or, “I really don’t care for this but if you pay me well I will do it.”

A. Verg Dog

This is not unlike when we look at our boss and tell them we will need time-and-a-half to work on a holiday. With appropriate payments the final result will be a great settle that has not negatively effected how the dog feels about performing the well-paid-for settle in the face of the children?

Positive punishment/negative reinforcement training it is not about negotiation but about forcing the dog to comply. Here the dog will probably say the same thing,

“I really don’t care for this thing,” Or, “This is too hard for me.”

A. Verg Dog

But this dog receives punishment for her inability to comply or lack of understanding. This is not unlike the boss who tells the employees they will have to work on the holiday and if they do not, they will be fired. The final result in this instance is a dog who learns to comply but has a negative association with their handler (boss) and the activity

Every day we train our dogs, we get to make a choice about what kind of relationship we want with our dogs and what kind of relationship we want our dogs to have with the world around them.