Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Calling All Super Dogs!

Sergeant Stubby (1916 or 1917 – March 16, 1926), was the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat.

With all the negative press about dogs lately I’d like to spend the next couple of days celebrating Super Dogs; those dogs who are trustworthy, heroic, and loyal.

Maisy Joonbug

This is Maisy Joonbug- the ”Matriarch” of our pack. Maisy is a one-in-a-million dog. From playing mom to foster kittens to putting up with rambunctious toddlers to attending consults with me to help rehabilitate dogs, Maisy is my super-duper helper extraordinaire.
 Maisy is super patient, too.
How about you? Do you have a Super Dog? I’d love to hear about it! Send your story and a photo to me at and I'll help you celebrate your canine hero.

Friday, July 20, 2012

In Case of Emergency

Our pets are part of our families, so of course we want to keep them safe and happy. Today I wanted post links to the websites that I think could be the most helpful in case there was a pet-related emergency in your home. You may want to add these individually to your "favorites" on your computer, or you may just want to add this post to your favorites as a short cut. has a great step-by-step article on pet CPR here: has posted comprehensive video on pet CPR which can be found here:

It’s best to review the information on pet CPR before you have an emergency.

The ASPCA  has a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year emergency poison control service at (888) 426-4435 (there may be a fee). But they also have a lot of information about foods to avoid feeding your pet, toxic and non-toxic plants and other related topics. You can read more here: is one of many companies nation-wide that provides services to help you find your lost pet or get a lost pet back home again. Services include things like automated phone alerts, social media alerts and posting flyers in the area a lost pet was last seen. They have a high success rate and provide helpful tips for finding your pet, too. 
Please microchip your pets and keep current tags on them to help them get home in case the worst happens.

And finally, few things will strike fear into your heart like catching the tail end of a news report about a pet food recall but you missed the name of the food involved. Sound familiar? has a page devoted to recent dog food recalls. They can be found here:

Did I miss something? Let me know by leaving a message for me below. I love to hear from you!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Housebreaking Basics

The past few days I have received several calls from dog owners with housebreaking issues. I regularly hear from people with puppies or newly adopted, dogs but it always astounds me when I get calls from people with dogs that have lived with them for years and are not yet housebroken. Or even more shocking, when I get a call like the one I got a few days ago from a man who owns five adult Maltese dogs, none of whom are housebroken. Can you imagine the chaos?

I thought it might be time to post the Housebreaking Basics. Housebreaking is not that difficult once you get the hang of it. The keys are consistency and not putting your dog in the position where they can “go” indoors. Once they have not had any accidents for eight weeks (yes, eight continuous weeks), you can begin to trust them indoors and unsupervised, but not before then.   

Before we get to the rules of housebreaking let me review my definition of housebroken. I consider a dog housebroken when I can leave them alone and unsupervised, inside a home for up to eight hours (or more) and I can trust that dog will not urinate or defecate during that period of time. According to my definition, a dog that you can trust “most of the time” is not housebroken. Similarly, a puppy that has not “gone” indoors because you are taking her out every hour or so is not housebroken (But if you are doing this let me commend you on a great start to housebreaking! Keep it up!).  

Because I have such a strict definition of housebroken I need to be honest and inform you that not all dogs can be housebroken. The good news is, the vast majority can be.

Some dogs have physiological or health problems that will make housebreaking more difficult or even impossible. These conditions include things like irritable bowel disease, colitis, diabetes, urinary tract infections, and urinary incontinence. Also, medications like diuretics (often used for heart problems), prednisone and prednisolone (to name a few) will increase the frequency that a dog needs to urinate and/or defecate. These dogs will need to be on a stricter, and/or adjusted schedule. If you are concerned that your dog may have an underlying medical problem please do not hesitate to see a veterinarian immediately.

If you have a puppy it is important that you understand that a dog under six months of age may not be physiologically mature enough to be housebroken yet. Although some puppies will be housebroken as young as 16 weeks old (this is pretty young but I’ve seen it), most dogs will mature somewhere between four and six months of age. Just stick to the rules of housebreaking so that when your dog is physiologically mature enough to be able to do it, the basics are in place. Barring a physical problem, every dog over the age of 6 months is mature enough to be housebroken.

A dog under six months age may not be physiologically mature enough to be housebroken. 
Short of those very specific and very rare instances, every dog can be housebroken. Some basic rules for housebreaking follow:

1. Spay or neuter. Unspayed/unneutered dogs are significantly more likely to "mark" their territory. If your dog isn't already spayed or neutered, make an appointment to do so today.

2. If you know your dog needs to “go,” don't let him free inside the house until after he does. You’d be surprised how often people break this rule. Until he relieves himself he can be on a short leash attached to you, in the yard or in a small dog crate (just large enough for him to stand and turn around in but no larger).

3. If you don't know if your dog has “gone” (because you haven't been watching her), don't let her free inside the house until after she goes. Again, until she relieves herself she can be on a short leash attached to you, in the yard or in a small dog crate.
This dog crate is too large for the purpose of housebreaking because this dog could relieve herself in one corner of the crate and still have plenty of space to comfortably avoid the mess.

4. If you know your dog has BOTH urinated AND defecated, and he does not have a history of "marking", he may be free inside the house, but only in small areas and only while supervised for the first eight weeks.

5. Take your dog to the same spot in the yard every time she “goes.” That way you are making an association of action with place. When you bring her to the same spot in your yard every time she “goes” she will begin to think, this is where I do my business. An added bonus: you can save your lawn from destruction and won’t have to worry about avoiding dog piles all over the yard, too!

6. When you take your dog outside to “go” use a command like “go potty” or “do your business.” Adding a command will become very useful as he becomes more reliable. Just think of the time it will save you when you need to let him out before running a quick errand or giving him a break on a walk.

7. When your dog “goes” outside reward her with a reinforcing command like "good potty" or “good business” while she is in the act so she understands that this is what she should be doing and where she should be doing it.

8. If you catch your dog in the act of “going” inside DO NOT punish him. I know it’s difficult but it is not his fault he was put in a position to fail. Just take him outside immediately (while in the act, if necessary). Then reward him if he finishes his business outside (see #7).
What many people call a "guilty look" is really just a display of submission. This dog doesn't feel guilty, he just knows someone is mad at him and is trying to appease them.

9. NEVER punish your dog if you find that she has made a mess while you weren't around. This is really hard for people to understand but if she doesn’t know she needs to “go” outside then it makes sense to her to go inside. And since she doesn’t speak English you don’t have a way to link her action with the mess on the floor. It’s not that she doesn’t remember doing it; it’s just that she doesn’t find it as disgusting as you do. If you yell at her or rub her nose in it she will not understand why she is in trouble and may begin seeking out out-of-the-way places to relieve herself to avoid getting in trouble again (this is the dog that sneaks off to “go” behind the sofa when no one is watching). Plus, yelling and screaming and rubbing her nose in a mess will make you seem like a crazy person to her, which will destroy the trust she has in you and make it difficult to teach her anything.

Follow these rules and you’ll have one trustworthy pooch in no time!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Model Dog Photo Gallery

And it's ON! Check out some of the submissions for the Attaboy Model Dog contest. We'll post new submissions as they come in.

Atlas and Ajax Peterson are two dapper dandies. Plus, their clever owner used a lot of flattery when submitting this photo. Will it work? Will they be the new Attaboy Model Dogs? Quite possibly.

Just look at that mug! Riley Weisenbach has not one but TWO submissions. And twice the Riley is twice the fun! All's fair in love and contest winning, says handsome Riley.

The Alvarado Pack had not one, not two, but seven submissions! Stefanie is stacking the deck, hoping the odds are in her favor. Will one of these win?  


Little Lola

What's cuter than a sleeping pup?

Handsome Moose

What a happy dog! 

Moose and Dante

The Alvarados

Former attaboy trainee Vanya Lind Hagavei, who is now living in beautiful Norway, sent the following (several) photos of her BEAUTIFUL pack. I think she's in it to win it.

And the mighty cute Goetz family submission:

(left to right) Mr. Bruce, Taylor and Deacon Oswald Goetz 

The Kessels sent these photos of their pack:

Ike the old man.

Malcolm and Ike shacking up.

Malcolm cuddling with foster dog, Jade.

Get that toy, Malcolm!

And Vanya sent some more entries. Check out the wild Norweigan wolves she caught on camera! Just beautiful!

Julie sent this picture of her dog, Max:

Who will win??? Stay tuned to find out!

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Walk a Dog

I have half joked many times that someday I’m going to write a book entitled The Zen of Walking Your Dog. I say half joked because there is definitely enough information about the proper way to walk a dog to fill an entire book. And as you already are learning, there is a Zen-like calmness that is required of both the walker and the walkee in order to create a good walk. Of course, this is not the proper format to write an entire book, but it is a good place to review dog-walking basics.


Cesar Millan says, “You are the center of your dog’s stability or instability.” He is absolutely right! This is not the first time (nor will it be the last) that I will remind you it is your energy that walks your dog, not your physical prowess or a fancy leash.  How many times have you seen a little dog control a big one? A Chihuahua can control a Great Dane, but the Great Dane must have respect for the Chihuahua first. That respect is earned through energy.

A Chihuahua can control a Great Dane, but the Great Dane must have respect for the Chihuahua first.

The walk is our way to mimic the hunt that canidae in the wild experience daily. Does the alpha wolf need to use a leash to control or send messages to subordinate pack members when they are tracking game? Of course not; like our dominant Chihuahua, an alpha wolf controls its pack members with his energy alone, and your energy must be both CALM and ASSERTIVE in order to convince a dog that they should follow you. Relax, take a deep breath, center yourself and think of something that makes you feel like the most powerful and confident person in the world. Then you are ready to walk your dog.

Your energy must be both calm and assertive in order to convince a dog that they should follow you.


Your dog also needs to be in a balanced state before you start your walk. If you don’t start a good walk you won’t have a good walk.

I understand that many of you are thinking, “But I need to walk my dog to calm him/her down”. While it is true that the walk is key to draining energy which will, in turn, create a calmer dog, we need to remember the first rule of affection here: anytime you reward your dog you are nurturing whatever state of mind they are in.  So, if part of my vocabulary for affection includes giving my dog what s/he wants (this will be discussed further in future posts), and my dog wants to go for a walk (what dog doesn’t?), then I need to wait until my dog is CALM and SUBMISSIVE before I start my walk. Anything else and I am nurturing a dog with behaviors I do not want to live with. This can be tricky at first, but the extra few seconds you spend patiently showing your dog what is expected before you start your walk will inevitably be made up in time you save on correcting your dog’s behavior later.


While it’s true an alpha wolf can control pack followers with energy alone, we live in the human world, and the human world has leash laws. So if we are going to use a leash, we need to understand how it works as a tool.

While a buckle collar is necessary in order to have your dog wear her/his tags at all times (this is very important), it is inappropriate for a walk or any “working” situation. There are many different collars that work well for walking. I like martingale collars or “slip leads” for small or low to medium energy dogs. For higher energy dogs or dogs who need practice I recommend a “choke” collar (an unfortunate name but a good tool).  I only recommend a “pinch/prong” collar for high energy dogs over 40 lbs. (and even then I only recommend the Herm-Sprenger brand collar with no quick release as other pinch/prong collars are manufactured poorly so they can injure your dog or even pop off when you give a correction).

Additionally, it is important to understand that slip leads and choke chains only correct to one side. That means that you need to decide before you leash your dog which side you want to walk them on and keep with it throughout the walk. If you do not know how to tell which side your collar corrects to, a reputable pet store should be able to assist you. Martingale collars and pinch/prong collars will correct to either side, making them more hassle-free.


So why not use a harness for walking your dog? Because, and this is absolutely the most important thing to understand about the way your dog works; DOGS PULL AGAINST TENSION. ALWAYS. It’s called opposition reflex, and it’s the reason why dogs pull sleds. Think about it, what is the first thing a musher does when getting his dog team ready to run the Iditarod? (the world famous sled dog race). Harness the dogs! Harnesses create tension across the chest, making the dogs want to pull.  So if you want your dog to do a pulling job (like pulling a wagon) use a harness. But if you want to walk your dog, use a leash and appropriate collar.

If you want your dog to do a pulling job use a harness.

Because dogs have opposition reflex, it is important to learn to give good corrections.  Your body should be relaxed when walking your dog. Hold the leash loosely at your side with your arms relaxed. I try to remind my clients that when you are walking a dog correctly, it should be like they are taking a nice walk and their dog happens to be with them. A leash correction is just a quick, firm, “pop” directly up or directly across the front of your body. Once you give the correction relax your arm again.  DO NOT LEAVE TENSION ON THE LEAD. This will only cause your dog to pull (and can potentially irritate your dog’s trachea to boot).
Dogs pull against tension. Always.

Because we have body memory, giving good corrections can be a tricky thing to retrain your body to do. But once you learn to do it correctly you will never do it wrong again!


Again, the whole point of the walk is to mimic the ritual of the hunt that a natural pack experiences daily. As such, the purpose of the walk is to drain the dog’s energy while they recognize the leader and practice a working and focused (calm/submissive or active/submissive) state of mind. To that end, dogs must walk behind the leader (when you take a step forward your dog’s nose should be behind your toe) and are not allowed to stop, sniff, urinate, defecate or alert during the walk.  Of course, you may instigate “breaks” for your dog if s/he has earned one.

I have found that some people are uncomfortable with this concept, asking, “But when does my dog get free time?” My answer is, “For most dogs, the rest of their life is free time. This is the time we require them to work.” 

Remember, dogs are social pack animals that were born with an innate desire to work for someone their whole life through.  Treating you dog like a dog is respecting who they are as a living being. Your dog will thank you for it!