Oh, do you specialize in _______ breed??

Oh, do you specialize in _______ breed??

Blog post by Charissa Carvell KPA-CTP, CPDT-KSA

“Do you specialize in ___________ breed?”

As a dog trainer, we often get asked if we know more about certain dog breeds over others. The truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter what kind of dog you have or even what kind of animal you have. As animal trainers we focus first and foremost on training the human learners in front of us. Once we have taught you how to effect behavior change its then up to you to work with your animal (dog, horse, cat, or lion). There are many species-specific behaviors that occur (dogs don’t suffer from cribbing like horses do) but the way we can help modify these behaviors are the same.   

 Fenrir, my German Shepherd puppy, LOVES to learn.

Fenrir, my German Shepherd puppy, LOVES to learn.

This is one reason that using positive training methods is so amazing - they can be replicated across species. Lions at the zoo, dogs in a rescue, or horses in your pasture all can learn the same behaviors in the same way! It’s what separates clicker training from other forms of training that involve force. When you use force or intimidation, you often get stuck when trying to apply such methods to larger species. What you can physically do to a dog, you cannot do to a tiger. But using a clicker and some reinforcement you can get amazing behaviors no matter how big or small your learner. 

We can all learn new things and I love teaching! The variety of learners that benefit from these positive training methods - from working dogs like German Shepherds to toy breeds like Chihuahuas, to humans with a long history of practicing different dog training methods to humans who are training their first dog - is part of what makes my job interesting and the science of learning so exciting!

How to "Give the Gift of Dog Training" without Wasting Your Money

How to "Give the Gift of Dog Training" without Wasting Your Money

Let’s think about love language. For example: quality time spent, cuddles, and gift-giving. As the weather turns colder, it’s easy to get swept up on the warm, cinnamon-scented trail of purchasing, wrapping, and gifting our hearts out. Here’s a resolution: Make your gifting money count. Gift-giving is, ideally, a mutually-beneficial activity. The giver receives warmth, while the recipient receives something they can use and appreciate. 

We at Summit are spending the first days of the holiday season with this in mind: we hope that when someone purchases dog training as a gift for another, their money goes as far as possible – generating both the warm fuzzies and the utility. We have to charge for our training sessions and classes, of course, but we definitely aren’t just in it for the money. We like to help clients reach their goals, and to feel productive and connected to their dogs while doing it. It’s tough to feel like the session isn’t the best use of your money. Here are a couple of questions to ask first to help determine whether or not dog training is the right gift to give.

  • What are your recipient’s training goals? Are you sure that the goals you have in mind are on their mind as well? That can happen if the recipient can’t think of anywhere they would like to go with training. Also, recipients sometimes worry that the gift means there’s undesirable behavior they’ve been ignoring or haven’t noticed. It’s alright to chat with the potential recipient about their dogs openly, and to discern whether or not they see eye to eye with you about their dog’s behavior.

  • Does the recipient have time to spend on training? We also know that a lot of humans and pups have training goals, but just don’t have the time to work on them right now. Check that your recipient has the schedule flexibility for training sessions, and that now is the best time for them to fit them in. At the expense of the surprise, you might save the expense of a session that doesn’t feel productive, or that feels rushed. Or, you might find out that training is the perfect gift! Or, that it would be better given another time, due to seasonal scheduling constraints. 

  • What is the best way to deliver your gift to make sure your recipient actually receives it? Don’t purchase training and then send it off into the ether. Make sure your gift has a confirmed delivery location to get to your recipient, since no trainer is able to work with a dog they can’t find! (This suggestion is based on a real example - last Christmas someone bough a large gift certificate and the details they provided for delivery were incorrect. After a year of repeated efforts to contact both the giver and the recipient with no luck, we are donating this training package to one of our shelter partners.)

Training works best when the pup and human are both engaged and interested. Make sure your recipient wants to train, and that they believe their dog can benefit from it. We adore our clients and want them to love working with us too, and the best way to do this is to make sure that dog training gift recipients feel like training is fun and important, not emotionally or logistically difficult. To you as a potential gift-giver, our is not to dissuade you from giving the gift of dog training, but to make sure that you have spent you money well.   We want your message to reach your recipient in a love language that is clear.

We can’t wait to train with those of you who can’t wait to train with us! 


(Still thinking about giving the gift of dog training? Check out our Gift Certificates on sale through Cyber Monday for 25% off the redemption value!)

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Dog Bed

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Dog Bed

Blog post by Emily Jacobs, SDT Admin

Haven’t you ever come to the end of a particularly tough day to wonder, why me? Why did everything seem so wrong, and so difficult? Further, have you ever caught yourself and thought, “well, plenty of good things did happen…?” It seems obvious that negativity in human daily life can be toxic. One tough break at work can color your whole day, and one critique from a friend might put you in a funk for a while. However, I think it’s easy to forget that most negativity is contagious for our pooches too. Our demeanor and the emotional environment we create for our dogs can be an important factor in the success of our relationship.

Back to humans: our mood often directly affects our perception of other people’s personalities. I know that when I am in a bad mood, my first impressions of people tend to feature more judgements than when I’m feeling well-rested and happy. Isn’t it true that our dogs’ behavioral “sticking-points” nag at us more when we are underslept, underfed, or feeling unloved? When they bark at the fenceline, if we are feeling negative, won’t we feel more inclined to bark back?

It can certainly be said that our dogs aren’t holding grudges. I know that when I accidentally step on Dally’s toe, I apologize to her profusely in a language she doesn’t understand, but it’s just to placate my own guilt. She can’t understand me, and she has already forgiven! How peaceful it would be, in the human world, if we were able to allow the mis-steps of others to roll off our backs in a similar way. Further might we have more emotional bandwidth to approach our dogs without judgement, if we have spent our day forgiving rather than begrudging?


We might foster more productive relationships with our dogs if we extended to them a portion of the courtesy they extend to us. We always have the benefit of the doubt, in our dogs’ minds. They might be pretty color-blind, but they seem to see the world through rose-colored lenses. Perhaps we could wake each morning and forgive ourselves for our mistakes, then put on our own rose lenses and see others that way too. Finally, we might be able to see our dogs more clearly, without the fog of stress and frustration that obscures so much of our sight.

It’s evident that our own self-care (medical, emotional, financial, spiritual, etc…) can have an effect on how we perceive our dogs’ actions. The redirection a begging dog receives should be consistent and loving each instance, no matter how hot it was today, or how long the line was at the grocery store, or how much your feet hurt from walking. It is worth saying that we are responsible for taking care of ourselves when we are owners, because the needs of a pet can’t be met with just money, kibble, and exercise. We are responsible for meeting our dogs more than halfway in emotional engagement. To have the most fruitful relationship, it’s important for both parties to be heard, well-fed, well-rested, and well-loved.

The Effects of Training Method on Companion Dog Welfare

The Effects of Training Method on Companion Dog Welfare

Guest post by Laurel Gardner.


Hello! My name is Laurel Gardner, and I am a second year veterinary student in the DVM Class of 2021, at Colorado State University. After working closely with Charissa to get help with training my own dog, Winnie, I have undeniably become fascinated with the effects of training methods on the human-animal bond and animal welfare. Charissa did an amazing job at helping Winnie and I to get the most out of our training and really work through the behavioral issues Winnie was having. After having experienced the benefits of positive reinforcement training with my own dog, I decided to do some research and look into the documented positive results that have been associated with this type of training, and it is clear there are a lot! Thank you for taking the time to read this piece, and feel free to send any questions concerning this paper to: Laurelmg@colostate.edu

The Effects of Training Method on Companion Dog Welfare

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “an animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress.” As animal welfare tends to be more commonly associated with animal basic needs such as the requirements of safe shelter, adequate nutrition, and a life void of the suffering and pain that is avoidable, it is common that mental and behavioral health may tend to be neglected, despite being an equally important portion of comprehensive animal welfare. After all, while the type of suffering we most frequently refer to is physical suffering, suffering can also undeniably be an aspect of psychological health that manifests in the behavior we see exhibited by “man’s best friend”. 

            Consider the timid puppy that hides beneath his owner’s chair and growls and snaps at any face that comes to greet him. Such a heightened state of fear, anxiety, and defensive aggression is a difficult mental state to live with, as human faces are an unavoidable life experience for that dog.  Unfortunately, the case of the aforementioned puppy is not uncommon and has been strongly linked to the use of positive punishment (1) training techniques. According to a study of dog training methods published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior in 2008, owners using some form of positive punishment were far more likely to have dogs with aggression against unfamiliar people or dogs (27%) compared to those owners who employed only positive reinforcement (10%). The owners using solely positive reinforcement in their training also had dogs with a much lower score for fear, avoidance, attention seeking, and general aggression [2]. Another study from 2004 showed that owners who used positive punishment had the highest proportion of dogs that showed “separation-related problems, either currently or in the past” [5]. While these owners may have good intentions in trying to train away bad behaviors in their dogs, it is clear that the effects of the training often make the situation worse than it was before. Yet another study in the journal, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, which directly observed owners while they trained their dogs, revealed that dogs trained with positive punishment were less likely to play with their owners when the owner offered a toy. This lack of desire to play could be the result of fear of humans associated with past punishments, and also indicates a lack of natural behavior, which is an essential part of good animal welfare [7]. Clearly, the use of positive punishment in dog training is not an effective way to promote good, complete animal welfare for our furry friends!

In addition to this mental distress, many forms of positive punishment involve physical reprimands including the use of shock collars, alpha rolls (2),and many other assault methods that can result in physical pain and suffering, affecting yet another aspect of comprehensive animal welfare for these dogs. For example, tools such as shock collars and choke collars have undeniably been linked to physical pain and suffering. These punishment tools can cause instability of the joints in the neck, induce inflammation of joints, cause paralysis of the nerves that allow normal breathing, and even cause glaucoma from the increased pressure placed on the veins of the neck [6]. According to Charissa Carvell, a double certified dog trainer that specializes in using only positive reinforcement methods, training “naked”, meaning without any collars or harnesses, is the best way to go. Eliminating this compulsive behavior to pull on the collar or leash (and other positive punishment tactics) makes the training process a more positive experience for both owner and dog, and often enhances the rate of learning, since the dog desires to please his human partner instead of fearing his owner and dreading training time [3]. 

            Despite the unpleasant consequences associated with positive punishment on dog welfare, these training techniques have been popular for years among dog owners throughout the world. One sizeable reason for the popularity associated with this training method is that these tactics have been idealized in books and on television shows like Cesar Millan’s “The Dog Whisperer” that describe positive punishment as an efficient method to train a truly obedient dog [9]. But, are these methods truly that effective? Herron et al. disagree in their 2009 article published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, noting that the idea of physically asserting oneself as the alpha to his or her dog in order to obtain obedience is a naïve misunderstanding of the root of canine behavioral issues, since current literature on dog behavior actually shows that most canine behavioral problems arise from anxiety, fear, and self-defense [4]. With this in mind, the supposedly effective strategies that accompany positive punishment training are in fact worsening the already present behavioral issues a dog may have. Dr. Karen Overall, a DVM and co-chair on the Scientific Working Group on Dogs (3), emphasizes how positive punishment training increases the “unreliability” of the dog, especially in real-world situations. Dr. Overall eloquently compares the use of positive punishment techniques in stressful situations to the phenomenon of escalating violence that occurs in human domestic violence situations. She explains how the use of aversive stimuli like “shocking” or hitting the dog only lead to increased arousal and negative emotions in the dog, which are likely to spill over as unwanted aggression toward the handler [6]. 

            A 2010 study of owner relinquishment showed that 46% of dog relinquishments at shelters were due to some behavioral issue, aggression or otherwise [9]. With an increased tendency toward aggression, separation anxiety and an overall increase in “unwanted behaviors”, it is clear this training method can lead to frustrated owners who may give up and relinquish their dogs to nearby animal shelters, or worse, abandon them. In either case, the tendency toward relinquishment would similarly impact the dog’s welfare by creating more anxiety from living in a new, high-stress environment, or even restrict basic needs like nutrition and safe shelter if the dog is left to fend for itself. Also, with the overcrowding of our shelters and rescues being at an all-time high, relinquishment of dogs with correctable behavioral issues could result in euthanasia of healthy, treatable dogs that were simply the victims of inappropriate training methods.

            All of these infractions on animal welfare are avoidable with the simple practice of positive reinforcement training in which verbal praise, play time, and other rewards for good behavior replace the punishments used to ward off bad behavior. Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of positive reinforcement in training new tasks quickly and without frustration, preventing aggression toward familiar or unfamiliar faces, and strengthening the dog-owner relationship [2, 4, 5, 7]. Together, these aspects of positive reinforcement training help humans to improve their dog’s welfare in a comprehensive manner that allows for improved dog confidence and mental health, minimal physical harm in training, and reduced relinquishment rates. 


1.    “Animal Welfare: What Is It?” Avma.org, American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018, www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/AnimalWelfare/Pages/what-is-animal-welfare.aspx.

2.    Blackwell, Emily J., et al. “The Relationship between Training Methods and the Occurrence of Behavior Problems, as Reported by Owners, in a Population of Domestic Dogs.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, vol. 3, no. 5, Oct. 2008, pp. 207–217., doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2007.10.008.

3.    Carvell, Charissa. 9 Oct. 2018.KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, Head Trainer - Summit Dog Training LLC.

4.    Herron, Meghan E., et al. “Survey of the Use and Outcome of Confrontational and Non-Confrontational Training Methods in Client-Owned Dogs Showing Undesired Behaviors.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 117, no. 1-2, 24 Jan. 2009, pp. 47–54., doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2008.12.011.

5.    Hiby, E F, et al. “Dog Training Methods: Their Use, Effectiveness, and Interaction with Behavior and Welfare.” Animal Welfare, vol. 13, 2004, pp. 63–69., doi:10.1107/s0108768107031758/bs5044sup1.cif.

6.    Overall, Karen L. “Considerations for Shock and ‘Training’ Collars: Concerns from and for the Working Dog Community.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior, vol. 2, no. 4, 2007, pp. 103–107., doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2007.07.001.

7.    Rooney, Nicola Jane, and Sarah Cowan. “Training Methods and Owner–Dog Interactions: Links with Dog Behaviour and Learning Ability.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 132, no. 3-4, 21 Apr. 2011, pp. 169–177., doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2011.03.007.

8.    Salman, M.d., et al. “Human and Animal Factors Related to Relinquishment of Dogs and Cats in 12 Selected Animal Shelters in the United States.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, vol. 1, no. 3, 4 June 2010, pp. 207–226., doi:10.1207/s15327604jaws0103_2.

9.    Sumner, Kay, and Sheila Emery. The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, National Geographic Channel, 13 Sept. 2004.


(1) Positive punishment is any training in which a target behavior is decreased following presentation of an aversive stimulus.

(2) Alpha roll is a direct aversive punishment in which the owner dominantly “rolls” the dog to its back and holds it down.

(3) Scientific Working Group on Dogs is a board of behavioral and veterinary experts gathered by the FBI to discern the best practices in dog training for working canines in the field.

Meet the New Faces!

Meet the New Faces!

We are so excited to announce two new additions to the Summit Dog Training team!!


Emily is joining us as our new Administrative Assistant! She will be working her magic on our phone and email communications, helping us be better about posting great content on our social media accounts, and all-in-all saving my and Charissa’s brain from exploding with all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into keeping SDT up and running!


Emily has worked in animal welfare professionally for nine years, and has always been committed to connecting humans with the tools they need to build a mutually-beneficial bond with their pet. Her previous work, including running a trail ride and horseback instruction program and coordinating adoptions at a Denver-area shelter, has centered on communication and dignity in human-animal interactions.  She is certified in Animals & Human Health, and her dogs, Tuvia and Dally Girl are sincere and responsible companions on trails and road trips. They remind her of the good in the world, and take her on at least one walk per day! 

We are so excited to have Emily on our team!

You may have also noticed a new little addition making an occasional appearance on the SDT social media platforms:




Meet Fenrir, a.k.a. “Little Wolf,” Charissa’s new GSD baby!  

Currently he spends most of his time sleeping, chewing on stuff, and exploring the world with his big brother Dylon.  As he grows I’m sure he’ll be making more and more appearances as Charissa documents all the awesome things that he is going to learn!  

Show Off by Obeying the Rules

Show Off by Obeying the Rules

Blog post by Amber Quann KPA-CTP CPDT-KSA

We all love adventuring with our dogs, right?  And of course, we love showing off all of the hard work that we put into making our dog the best adventure companion ever!  

There are lots of great spots for your dog to be off leash and running free!  The hiking trail, the lake, the wide open field on your friend's farm, etc.  These are great adventures and we definitely indulge in our fair share of them with our dogs!

But there are a lot of places, especially in Fort Collins and Larimer County, where there are leash laws. In those places, the best way to show off your dog's excellent public manners is to keep him on leash - and then demonstrate that you don't need it by keeping a loose leash and positive connection with your dog without any leash tension.  

Here's a little video we put together this weekend demonstrating this:


When we see a dog walking on a loose leash beside their human, we are much more impressed (and inclined to say so!) than if we see even the most well-behaved off-leash dog.  

The best proof that you and your dog don't need a leash is to demonstrate that you are willing to use one out of courtesy to others.   

Park Smarts: How to Create Fun & Safe Dog Park Visits

Park Smarts: How to Create Fun & Safe Dog Park Visits

Blog post by Amber Quann CPDT-KA KPA-CTP

It's no secret that within the dog training industry not many of us are dog park fans. These public areas designated for off-leash play are often filled with anxiety for those of us that observe dog body language for a living, because they typically come with a lot of missed stress signals and a lot of potential for dog-dog conflicts that we can't not see.  Additionally, in our line of work we often hear from clients (or potential clients) who are seeking help to deal with new behavior challenges that have emerged after their dog had a bad experience with another dog at a dog park.  I recognize that our sample is certainly skewed, in that we don’t often hear from the owners whose dogs have had great experiences at the dog park and thus no emerging problems, but in speaking from our experience with our clients, dog parks aren’t always all happy, wagging tails.

However, since dog parks are a beloved feature in many communities, I think it is worth spending some time setting everyone up for the most positive, fun visits possible!  Here are a few ideas for making your dog park routine the safest possible for you, your dog, and others.


  • Be Alert and Engaged: If you are buried in a book, cell phone, or daydream, you might not be aware of what your dog (or other dogs playing with your dog) are doing. By staying alert and ready, you can better redirect a dog-dog conflict or other dangerous incident (i.e. your dog is about to swallow a rock!) before it even occurs.  Read up on dog body language too, so you can be watching for signs that your dog is stressed, overwhelmed, overheated, etc.
  • Encourage Your Dog to Take Breaks:Nonstop play isn’t always good play – dogs that haven’t taken a break are more likely to react negatively towards their playmates who push them too far. And the risk of health event like overheating or paw pad tears increase as your dog gets worked up. If you see your dog engaging in nonstop play for too long, try redirecting him to a quieter area (or a recovery leash walk outside of the dog park) for a break before coming back to play some more.
  • Build Good Routines:Warmer weather and sunny skies often brings out the “fair-weather dog parkers” whose dogs are out of practice with the dog park routine. Often the best times to go are during a drizzle, flurry, or cold spell, because the dogs and owners you meet during this time are the “rain or shine” crowd who will hopefully be more practiced in positive dog park manners. Don’t be a fair-weather dog-parker.
  • Teach Good Manners: One of the biggest areas where we see dog stress and tension is right at the gate of the dog park as a new dog is entering.  Dogs already at play in the park tend to rush to the gate to greet the newcomer, which can be overwhelming and cause unnecessary stress for everyone involved.  Teach your dog a good recall away from the gate, and to wait until his friend has entered completely before running up to initiate play. This and other good manners and social skills can keep your dog and other dogs safe and as stress-free as possible during park play dates.
  • Explore Other Adventures Too:Dog parks can be stressful (despite the fun), and going every day can cause this stress to stack up. Mix it up with a hike, and only do dog park visits as a supplement (instead of the only piece) to your dog’s exercise routine.  This will also give you other fun adventures to mix in if/when your dog stops enjoying the dog park environment as much as he once did – as dogs age, they often don’t enjoy the large group play atmosphere as much as they did as younger dogs. Training for other activities and adventures as well as the dog park visits can give you the most options getting your dog quality exercise and social interactions.

Happy Dog Parking!!


How Much Time is Included in an Hour-Long Dog Training Consult?

How Much Time is Included in an Hour-Long Dog Training Consult?

Blog post by Amber Quann KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA

How much time is included in an hour-long dog training consult?  Seems like a silly question, right?  The answer is actually a lot less obvious than you might think!

When it comes to dog training assistance, it is important to know what you are paying for!  While all dog trainers services are slightly different, I would bet that the majority of us are spending much more time dedicated to your appointment than the actual hour that we are there.  I thought I'd take a moment to explain a bit about what is included the tuition for a typical one-on-one training consult. 

  • Your trainer's complete attention for the hour-long appointment. During this time, you and your dog are the center of our universe.
  • Travel time to and from your house or other session location. In our town, this is typically 15-30 minutes each way. While some of us multitaskers might be able to answer phone calls and mentally prepare for our next training session while driving, the truth is that this back and forth time isn't the most productive - and it adds up quickly!
  • Emails with write-ups and homework and answered questions between sessions.  Depending on the uniqueness of you & your dog's situation, your session follow-up email could take between 15-30 minutes of additional time when we're back at the desk. And if you ask us great questions (which we love!) in between sessions, it adds more time while we try to write great answers. ;)
  • Content created just for you (or dog's like yours). We spend a LOT of time writing curriculum and handouts and YouTube videos to help you and your dog practice better between our sessions. Sometimes we create special content for you based on what we worked on in your lesson, and other times we are able to use handouts that we have created for other clients. Regardless, this content creation takes a big chunk of time, and seems like a long swim upstream as we are always adding to our list of new content to create! 
  • Experience and too many continuing education seminars to count. Progressive reinforcement dog trainers are learning junkies - we can't get enough of the science and applied applications of dog training, so we keep going back to learn more.  In addition, most of our certifications require continuing education credits in order to remain credentialed.  All of this means that we spend a lot of our time (and $$$) on conferences, webinars, books, podcasts, and other trainers' blogs - and curate all of that knowledge into better training applications for you and your dog.

To summarize this: 

 Photo credit for header & photo used in graphic:  Tails and Trails Photography

Photo credit for header & photo used in graphic: Tails and Trails Photography

There's one more element of time included in your session that isn't included in this graphic.  It's a lot more subtle and unpredictable, but still a big part of the time we devote to some of our clients:

  • The time spent agonizing over what we could/should/would be doing differently to better help our students succeed.  The time spent wishing we could take out our magical dog trainer wand and instantly remove the frustration, pain, anxiety, fear, irritation, confusion, sadness, arousal, etc. that both our two legged and four legged students are dealing with - voila. This time isn't an essential piece of every session, but in my experience, it is automatically included in more sessions than it isn't. 

This is a lot of time, but we wouldn't change a thing (ok, well maybe we're always looking to change a few things, but that's for increasing efficiency on our end and not yours ;)

Students & Friends - we love sharing our time with you.  Thanks for spending it with us. Thanks for valuing our time and spending your valuable resources on dog training consults with us or other trainers who put just as much of themselves into their work as we do.  

Watch Your Trainer Train

Watch Your Trainer Train

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say.

Quality professional dog training is more than just experience ("I've been doing this for 30 years!") or certifications ("I have the XYZ credential from ZYX!") or accomplishments ("I've titled 15 dogs in 10 different dog sport venues!") or marketing ("We are the #1 training company in town. . . although we can't offer any explanation on how that was determined!").  

Those things are important.  And something to be proud of and promote if it's being honest. But experience and credentials and accomplishments and marketing aren't worth a thing if your dog trainer can't put their skills into effective practice in their own homes with their own dogs. 


How does your trainer interact with their own dogs?  When you look at them, do you see the relationship that you want to have with your dog?  Do you see a bond that inspires you to keep working with your dog?  Do you see clear communication, teamwork, and an effort to keep learning together flowing from both ends of the leash?

I’m not suggesting that your dog trainer’s own dogs will be perfect in every way, and that they will never make mistakes. After all, dogs are dogs and humans are humans – both extremely fallible species who will never be able to maintain perfection all of the time.

So when you look at your dog trainer in action with their own dogs, you shouldn’t expect to see perfection all of the time. But what you should see is a commitment to learning and building a solid bond together through science-based training. You should see reflection of the relationship that you want to have with your dog. You should see patience and understanding (and ideally some good mechanical skills and training techniques along the way).   

To this end, Charissa and I are endeavoring to start a vlog series specifically devoted to showing videos of our unedited training sessions with our own dogs.  We want you to be able to see how positive reinforcement and science-based training looks as a lifestyle and a consistent habit, even if it isn’t always perfection (which is often isn’t).  We want to share some of our training goofs of poor timings and bad planning and unrealistic expectations – and show how to recover and learn from these mistakes within the positive reinforcement framework.

We invite you to take a peek into our relationships with our own dogs, because ultimately that is our best qualification for calling ourselves “professional dog trainers”. 

Without further ado, here’s Episode 1: 

The Dog who Doesn't Chase the Bunny

The Dog who Doesn't Chase the Bunny


Blog post by Charissa Beaubien KPA-CTP CPDT-KA

Hi baby shark parents (a.k.a. puppies),


This week I have a story to tell you about the dog who doesn’t chase bunnies.

Many of you have seen pictures of my dog Dylon or maybe you’ve met him. He is a 70-pound mutt. He has been with me for 8 years and is likely about 11 years old. Throughout the years my sweet dog has enjoyed many homes including some with other dogs. We have lived in a vehicle together, apartments, and houses. My years with him have taught me more than any book or degree has.

He has always been my sixth sense. When I was unsure about a person I would look at his reaction to them for guidance. When a noise would spook me in the woods I would peer in his direction to assure me. If I was unsure about a new place his nose would guide me to danger. And his sight would point me in the direction we needed to go. We have enjoyed adventure after adventure together and he is truly, what my grandma would call, a Mountain Dog finding his joy amongst the trees and streams.

As a young dog Dylon would bounce after deer, clear birds from our yard, and ferociously hunt rodents. I never cared that he chased other animals, I guess because the smile that he had on his face was one of those big pitty grins, which was different then his anxiety worry pitty grin, trust me there’s a difference, running and frolicking was the only time that happy full smile would brighten his dark face. He was daring as he crisscrossed the Colorado peaks or pranced across the Ohio plains. I wish my videos showed just the joy that would well up inside him as he darted and howled after animals.

As our journey has grown and we no longer live in the Rockies, I began to teach him to ‘ask’ to chase after the squirrels. For more science on that check out this episode of Drinking From the Toilet. So within the last few years Dylon will check in with me for the ‘ok’ to chase after animals.


Recently our walks and hikes have become shorter. My boy is getting older and his body cannot handle the romping he used to live for. I have seen his legs lose muscle, his eyes squint more, I have heard his groans as he stretches each morning. He no longer hears my truck turn the corner to our neighborhood or my door slam, he isn’t waiting at the window for me or at the door to greet me, instead he sleeps soundly unaware to the sounds that used to excite him. My heart and eyes swell when I think about all this. My gut churns as I know I will one day not have my sixth sense to count on. I feel guilty as I know one day another small bark will fill my ears, and a floppy land shark will wreak havoc on my home. I have put this day off because Dylon wasn’t ready. He had more to teach me.

Today a new lesson, on our walk my sweet old man romps ahead of me on his harness and long line (we were in a natural area in town and leash laws were present) I watch him frolic and sniff the ground. He could go miles without picking his nose off the dirt. I watch as his nose brings him almost face to face with a fluffy gray bunny. He looks up at the bunny (leash loose) and looks at me (a trained behavior, more on this here) I release him to chase the bunny immediately. He looks back at the bunny who starts to hazardously take a step away; Dylon moves closer. I can see him weigh this moment in his mind. He takes another step and the bunny darts to safety. My young boy would have given chase, that pitty smile overcoming his face. Today, Dylon watched the bunny scamper away. His body loosened and he turned back to me as if to say “Ya know Mom, today my body needs sniffing not chasing.” And then he placed his nose to the ground and continued forward.

All this in about 2 seconds. My body also loosened and I began to cry. We sniffed and walked our loop around the natural area my body convulsing with tears. My boy is getting old and I need to accept that new things can give him joy even if I still want him to chase the bunnies. For all my puppy parents, I give you this. Smile when your puppies chase the bunny, feel the grin come across your face as your puppy perks at every new noise around them. Chuckle when they are at the end of their leashes exploring the world. Your puppy finds joy and excitement in all of these things at this stage in their life and nurturing this excitement only makes your bond stronger. Sooner than you think a time will come that different things will excite them and as parents we must adapt and nurture these new behaviors. In the end I want to strive to be more like the dogs I work and live with, finding joy in the small things!