Kids and dogs.  Is there a better combination?  Most of the time, no.  So why am I hesitating?  Because you must know your kids, and you must become familiar with dog breeds; that is, the inherent tendencies specific to each breed in order to satisfy a good kid/dog fit.

Some pet parents even think of their dogs as big kids in furry suits. Starting out with a puppy or family-oriented rescue dog is generally the best way to go forward while teaching your new furry family member how best to behave and assimilate into your household.

We’ve come so far from the days when dogs lived outside in dog houses and people didn’t necessarily realize that dogs needed socialization, as they generally are social creatures.

Dogs, for the most part, can understand approximately 200 words. When we choose our words carefully, we’ve formed the bases of inter-species communication: We talk, and the dog responds with a particular action. But then again, your dog needs obedience training just as your child learns, first at home, then at school, how to interact with others and behave properly.

Now I’m going to add another layer of understanding to the mix: child interaction with a dog, particularly a new dog in the household.

“Alpha dog” is a familiar phrase, referring to the pack mentality of dogs, and independently, wolves, who are pack animals as well.  But even as a single dog living in a household, dogs still understand the hierarchy of being pack animals.  There is always one alpha in the household; either the pet parent or pet care-taker or it will be the dog. Tone of voice and body language are most important when establishing dominance. For example: standing taller than your dog, using a louder, more commanding voice when verbally correcting using the word “NO” will help elevate a person to the position of alpha.  Even a child, should learn to do the same. When a child is down on the ground with your puppy, the puppy will consider the child to merely be another canine playmate, and treat the child as such. Jumping on, standing on, biting, nipping, pulling clothes, fighting over toys, growling, barking and inviting actions such as tug of war or chase, are all dog to dog activities that your dog will try to initiate with your child. Something as simple as having your child sit on a small stool when playing with your pup, will enable your child to stand immediately and say  “NO” to the puppy and give the puppy an appropriate dog toy or chew. This is a practice that can be done for 10-15 minutes a few times a day, with adult supervision, of course.

By assuming the role of alpha, the highest-ranking member of the group,  the dog will become more submissive—that is, take commands without creating problems.

Learning the correct way to correct your dog and teaching your child to do the same will help to reduce unwanted behavior especially directed to the weakest member of your family; your child.  Consistency in administering correcting is the key to success.  


Even if you have a large, fenced in, private property, all dogs need to learn to walk on a leash. This is not about training your puppy to “heel” or not to pull, or to walk at your side and sit when you stop walking. Yes, all of that is what I teach as a professional trainer for dogs, but right now, I only want to talk about introducing your puppy to a collar/harness and leash and helping him to learn to accept it and be comfortable with it, and eventually relate it to doing something he likes.

So, where do we begin?  I always recommend starting in the house. Simply put the collar or harness of your choice, on your puppy, and let me wear it in the house under “eyes on” supervision, while you’re playing with him. Distraction is always thought of as a “nuisance” and disruptive when trying to train your pup. But trainer or pet parent introduced positive distractions can be most helpful in some situation. Playing with your puppy, is an extremely helpful distraction when trying to teach him to wear a collar. Squeaky toys, balls and fetch are my favorites.

Once your puppy has adjusted well to wearing the collar or harness, maybe a day or two, attach a 6 foot, thin, lightweight, narrow leash that has a small clip; small being the operative word. If you use a heavy, thick, twisted, rope type leash, it will have a heavier clip, and a heavier clip will pull on the puppy’s neck or make a harness more uncomfortable. 

Now let the puppy drag the leash around while playing fetch or other distracting activity. Periodically, hold the leash in one hand and the toy in the other hand and entice your puppy to follow the toy. (Squeaky toys work great for this.)

Try this too. If the puppy is confined or if another family member can help, put the puppy’s leash on and walk him to his food bowl at mealtime.  You might be wondering why I don’t mention offering treats to make your puppy walk on a leash. Anyone who knows me, knows that I do not use or recommend or condone the constant use of treats to bribe a dog to respond correctly. As a trainer, I’m OK with giving a dog a treat occasionally for good work. However, there are many other healthier, effective and rewarding ways to train, but that’s something I will talk about at another time. If you prefer to give your puppy a treat to encourage walking on leash, I yield to your decision. It’s just not something I prefer to do. What I do prefer to do is use a happy, encouraging tone of voice, call the puppy to come with me and stop a pet him and give him belly rubs and offer him his toy; thereby letting him know he’s doing a good job.

If the puppy is old enough to go outdoors, meaning your veterinarian has advised that it’s OK to take him for walks outside, you might find that the puppy will not walk very far from the front of your house. This is not unusual. In fact, I see this happen quite often. So, try this. Carry your puppy away from your home; let’s say half a block. Put the puppy down and chances are, he will walk home. Take the squeaky toy outside with you and use it to encourage the puppy to walk forward.

If your puppy walks a short distance and then plops himself down on the sidewalk, don’t stand there trying to convince him it’s not a good idea or just laughing. Both enable him to do this even more. I have seen this in action and trust me it doesn’t work. If you can’t use distraction to get him up and walking, bending down on one knee, at leash length, is the friendliest body language you can use when training your puppy. It’s the best way to get a puppy to come to you, or in this case, up and walking to you. Praise him and immediately continue your walk. If all else fails, physically but gently stand him up and restart him.

After walking home is successful, keep walking down the block in the opposite direction and don’t stop at home. As with all training practice, do this for 10-15 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day.


Some dogs like to drink out of the toilet bowl. It’s somewhat obvious that the reason is because the water appears to be fresh and cool. If your dog is drinking out of the toilet bowl instead of his water bowl, is the water in your dog’s bowl fresh and cool? When was the last time you washed, really washed your dog’s water bowl or put it in the dishwasher, instead of just spilling out the remaining water and giving the bowl a quick rinse before refilling it? If your dog is drinking out of the toilet bowl after he has finished all the water in his water bowl, why is he consuming so much water? If you are trying to house-train your dog and he is allowed to drink out of the toilet bowl, you have no control over when and how much he is drinking, which leads to when or how much he has to urinate.

Here’s another thing to think about. Does your dog have ACNE? If he does have acne and he drinks from the toilet bowl, you should discuss his drinking habits with your veterinarian.

The internet is filled with articles about how “safe” it is for your dog to drink out of a toilet and that no harm will come to the dog provided the toilet has been cleaned, and the cleaning chemical has been flushed. Any standard toilet cleaning chemical is extremely harmful and is not always removed with one flush.

I want to make my opinion of this perfectly clear. I do NOT approve of a dog drinking out of a toilet bowl. If you took a swab sample from your toilet bowl, especially under the rim, to a lab for testing, you would be shocked at the number of bacteria including the possibility of E-coli, Giardia, Staphylococcus and Salmonella. It is a bad habit that should be replaced by a FRESH bowl of water given daily. Every dog needs more than one(1) water bowl and they should be cleaned daily at the very least. If your dog has a fresh supply of cool water in a clean bowl, there is no reason to drink from the toilet.

Having a fresh bowl of water available, remembering to close the lid on your toilets, use of toilet lid locks and closing the bathroom door as well, will help to eliminate the problem in most cases.  

Additionally, dogs with full coats, long hair and hairy muzzles are picking up any bacteria under the rim of the toilet. Is that dog then sleeping on the couch or your bed? Is he licking your face? Is your child hugging and kissing this dog after he drank out of the toilet? 

Think toilet brush.  That should help you to remember.


Tug of war is defined as a sport which pits two teams of equal strength against each other to obtain the same thing. So, is it a good idea or bad idea to play tug of war with your dog?

You’ll find pros and cons, and different opinions like any subject you research online. There will be those who think tug of war helps your dog to burn off energy just like walking or running. Not sure I can see how this could be true, considering that the dog is basically standing in place, pulling something with its teeth. These “founts of information” will tell you how misunderstood the activity of tug of war is and that it’s old school to consider tug of war to be an aggression inspiring game.  But if you read further into these resources of information, they will explain that there are definite rules to follow like; making sure your dog understands and will comply with the command to sit, take it and drop it. Will your dog do that?

Some sources say that it’s important to win the game in order to teach your dog to respect you and your authority. Right here, is where we’re going straight to the “Who is Alpha?” thing.

Internet research will yield data that goes further to state, engaging in the game of “tug of war” should only be played by a human that will win! This tells me that this enlightening advice suggests, not only should the human and canine be of equal strength, as the definition of tug of war suggests, but the human must be powerful enough and determined enough to not allow the canine to ever gain control. Can you do that? Clearly this is not a kid and dog activity. 

The second important rule comes into play after the game is over and you win every round. Instructions dictate that you immediately put the tug of war object away, reinforcing your dog’s understanding, that you are in charge.  Let me know how works out.

So, what does Jenna have to say about all this? Well, it seems like a lot of effort and a lot of rules to follow with very little benefit and much detriment.  Dogs are not people too and people are not dogs. We are supposed to be smarter and we are supposed to set the bar. Children are scratched and bitten by dogs often because they play with the dog on the ground and the child is perceived by the dog to be another puppy. Pulling an object from a dog’s mouth will only validate and encourage the behavior of NOT giving an object to you and snapping to regain its grasp should you happen to get possession of it. No, I don’t believe that tug of war will make your dog aggressive. But, I do believe that it can encourage aggression and at the very least, it does enable your dog to act out any negative, unwanted behaviors like growling, guarding resources, baring teeth, inappropriate chewing/destroying items, and establishing dominance; all of which are undesirable and require professional training to eliminate.

Inciting a dog to grab and pull an item from your hand goes against all my better judgement and years of training family dogs to be members of the family, that can be trusted to interact appropriately, gently and lovingly with all other members of the family.  It worries me that if there are children in the household, a child will touch one of the dog’s toys and the dog will snap at the child. This is referred to as guarding resources. Additionally, like me, you may have large breed dogs and small or toy breed dogs. My large breed dogs were always taught to be gentle with the smaller dogs and never take toys away from them.

Puppies should be taught at an early age to “drop it” or “give”.  Fetch or ball are safe and fun games to play with your dog and your dog will benefit from the exercise. Any nipping or biting should be discouraged and corrected with proper training methods as soon as they begin.


Go potty, go pee, go poo, let’s go out, or the latest entry Bio-Break.  What is your favorite word for asking your dog to urinate or defecate?  Go potty is the one I hear the most often.  Merriam-Webster defines “potty” as a toilet or a bathroom and defines “bio-break” as a short break in a meeting or event so participants can use the restroom. Hilary Clinton has been noted as using that phrase. Obviously neither one applies to your dog. I tell you this because my word of choice, and I am asked quite often,  is “bathrooming” and I define it as the act of going to the bathroom. I admit I do kind of like the sound of bio-break.  Merrian-Webster does not consider “bathrooming” to be a word at all, but the Urban dictionary defines it as “The act of doing something in the bathroom.” So, considering that hopefully, your dog’s version of going to the bathroom means going outdoors to defecate or urinate, I will continue to use the word “bathrooming” or as my neighbors may hear me say to Kahuna; “Go to the bathroom.” “Good Boy.”

The truth is, it doesn’t matter what word or phrase you use, as long as you use it consistently and your dog understands what you are asking of him. What is important is that you use the same designated location as the “place to go to the bathroom or to go potty” every time you take your dog out for that purpose and tell him what you expect him to do there. 

When your dog is taken outside because he must urinate or defecate it should be a different event than taking your dog for a walk. Most pet parents will attest to the fact that their dog urinates every time they take them on leash outside. That’s fine, but there should be an order to this process.  First you take your dog to the designated area, which is very close to your home, and tell him why he is there; which is to go to the bathroom. Once this is achieved in preferably under 10 minutes, take your dog for a walk. It’s a very simple process and will make your life a lot easier when it’s bad weather, too cold or too hot, you’re late for work or maybe just too tired. Going for a walk around the block or to the park or waiting for half an hour for Buster to find the “right spot” because it’s “time to go out” is really doing things the hard way.

Remember when your parents told you to “go to the bathroom” because you were going for a ride some where or out for the day?  Same thing for your dog; bathrooming is the first thing to be done and then going for a walk. 

If you let your dog out into the fenced back yard or property, the same training technique would apply. Take your dog ON LEASH to urinate or defecate in one area and always the same area of the property and then release him to run and play. That way you know for sure if he did what he was supposed to do, you can clean it up immediately and he is not using the entire property as his personal bathroom. BUSINESS FIRST!

BTW, you can designate a small area on your property for your dog to use as his bathroom, by changing the ground cover. Gravel or small stones or putting a border of railroad ties around the area may help to “mark the spot”.


I thought it would be interesting to share some of the dog training methods used by pet parents on the advice of the internet, dog seller and well meaning dog lover, that may work for a short time but most likely will backfire in the long-run.

The following three methods that totally go against professional dog training, pertain to “house training”.

#1. Just to be clear, the definition of House Training is teaching a pet (dog) not to defecate or urinate inside a home or in inappropriate places.

It has become a recognized teaching tool to use a crate or confinement as most puppies will not defecate or urinate in a small enclosure. That being said, it is the “Oxymoron” of house training to put a wee wee pad in the crate. Dogs that bathroom on wee wee pads are NOT house trained. Additionally, it is best to leave the floor of the crate free of blankets, beds and towels, basically anything absorbent, at least for the first week of training.

#2. I can absolutely understand the thought behind trying to avoid any “pee or poo” in the house by taking a puppy outside every hour around the clock. Pet parents are wonderfully devoted to doing this and I’m grateful for the love and care they show for their new best friend. But once again, this idea is not teaching the puppy to “HOLD IT IN” so to speak, because Chloe or Jack can pee or poo as often and even more often than actually necessary. The fact is, the pet parent is conditioning the puppy to relieve themselves every hour. This also becomes a strain on the pet parent as no one can keep this hourly routine going day after day.

#3. Bells on the door. Everyone loves bells on the door and think it’s the best idea since sliced cheese, that their dog rings the bell to go outside. I will admit that this does work sometimes and sometimes only for a short time, because most of the time, the dog will realize that they can go out to play if they ring the bell. So ringing the bell is a favorite pastime and doesn’t necessarily mean the dog needs to go to the bathroom!

If you have any similar training methods that you are not sure are valuable, please let me know by email. Thanks


“NO” is a perfect word; understood the world over. We say it to our spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends, fellow employees; this list is endless.  So why are we afraid to say it to our dog??  Many times the answer is, “My dog will think his name is “NO”!

This is a true account of an experience I had as a trainer many years ago; and similarly many times over again since then. Often I’m hired to train a dog that has been unsuccessfully trained once or twice before by someone who is inexperienced, uninformed and lacks the behavioral knowledge and understanding that is the foundation of training. In this particular situation, the former trainer told the pet parent, that they were to say “FOO” to correct their dog, because if they say “NO”, the dog will think that is his name.  Just in the telling of this, and seeing myself typing it, I really have to laugh at how ridiculous that sounds. I asked the pet parent why their dog did not think his name was “FOO”.

Recently, someone in my neighborhood; let’s call her Susan, told me that she had taken her dog to one of the well known pet supply chain stores that features in store training classes. Susan was told by the chain store trainer to use the sound “EH EH” ( can’t think of any other way to spell that) to correct her dog and never to say “NO” because; can you guess?  That’s right! Susan was told that her dog will think it’s name is “NO”.  Once again, I had to ask “Why doesn’t your dog think his name is ” EH EH”?  Sometimes silence is the best answer.

So, let’s clear up a few things. “NO” is said in a firm, authoritative voice and you should be standing. It’s not a question. It’s not said in a sing-song, please stop eating the couch kind of voice.  Alternatively, when you use the puppy’s name, it is said in a sweet, loving, soft, come to me because I want to hug and pet and play with you and protect and take care of you because I love you voice, and you should be crouched or bending down. As the puppy grows, you can stand up as he approaches  you to train him to sit after coming when called.

The moral of this story is, the puppy will not be confused but the trainer may be incompetent .




“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” according to Dr. John Gray, author of a fabulous best seller about the behavior of men and women, and their inability to fully understand each other. Dogs, on the other hand, are probably from Earth, because no matter what they do, someone has an explanation for it, whether we like the explanation or not; and the dog will never validate or deny it. The good news is that even if we don’t understand why the dog is doing what it’s doing, we can usually modify the behavior to a more positive and acceptable one.

One of the most frustrating behavioral problems, families with dogs have to face is chewing. In it’s extreme form, “Pica”, defined as a medical disorder, is an appetite for largely non-nutritive substances (e.g., coal, soil,feces, chalk, paper, soap, ash, etc. The shocking part is that this definition pertains to humans. With that in mind imagine what a dog will consume. Because Pica is a medical disorder, it is something that should be either diagnosed or ruled out by your veterinarian. Once it’s determined that your dog’s non-discretionary chewing is not driven by the need for nutritional fulfillment, and is totally a release from boredom and loneliness, you can modify his behavior through exercise, playtime, alternative chewables and toys and increased time together.

Coprophagia is even more frustrating and upsetting to me than a dog eating my favorite pair of Jimmy Choo shoes. (Pun intended) The nicest way to define coprophagia is to say that it is the consumption of poop. There are many reasons for this obsession with ones own waste, including and not limited to medical problems, nutritional needs, poorly digestible diet, boredom, curiosity, attempt to clean up a soiled area to avoid punishment, a learned behavior from the dog’s mother or something as simple as hunger. My experience with dogs that show signs of coprophagia is that most of them had been confined to small kennels for extended periods of time, usually in pet shops or over crowded breeders, where they are forced to eat, drink, sleep, play, defecate and urinate in the same small enclosure. Some dogs will also eat cat poop out of the litter box. I know it’s one of those “easier said than done” situations but preventing your dog’s access to litter boxes and immediately cleaning up after your dog does his business, is a good start in the right direction. Dogs that exhibit any desire to eat their stool, should be leash walked. As well, there are taste deterrents that can be inserted into stool to help correct the unwanted behavior. Talk to your veterinarian first, to make sure your dog is tested for any medical issues that may be the cause, and discuss alternative diets.

Allelomimetic Behavior is a psychological means by which all animals learn and are taught. It is defined as a  behavior in social animals in which each animal does the same thing as those nearby. Animals that pack, are more trainable than animals that do not. Animals like elephants, horses, and dogs, are prone to copying the actions found within the group hierarchy. It is believed that socialization plays an even bigger part in the development and training of a dog than the dog’s intelligence level. If you ever experienced adopting a second dog into your home, you probably noticed of how much easier it was to train the new dog, eventually realizing that he learned the ropes from the first dog. But allelomimetic behavior is not limited to the confines of the same species. When a dog becomes part of our family, we become the dog’s pack and in essence he will learn from and copy not only our actions but our emotions and attitudes!


The definition of instinct is: to behave in a way characteristic of a species; natural, unlearned, predictable response to stimuli. Instinctual actions are in contrast to actions based on learning.

So whose instincts am I talking about here, ours or our pets?

The dog is just being a dog. He comes hardwired but we download new programs to help him assimilate into a human society. Our instincts on the other hand are controlled by our greater ability to reason, as well as our intelligence, conscience, experience, insight, emotions and need for accountability. Yet we will make an informed decision to ignore our gut feelings; our instincts, in situations of imminent danger. It has been documented that a woman will decide to ignore her gut feelings and enter an elevator with a stranger even if she’s fearful of bodily harm from that person.

More often than I care to think about, I receive calls from people whose households are terrorized by their dogs. These people are truly afraid of the dog they live with. The more times I say it out loud the more I can’t believe it. The dog may be following its instinct to control the pack, by mouthing, biting, barking, jumping, and scratching. The person is ignoring their instinct to be afraid and makes an informed decision to accept the dog’s behavior and live with the fear and sometimes, the ultimate reality of being bitten, scratched and tormented by the dog.

Now I ask you, as I have asked myself many times, why would anyone choose to live with a dog, or cat or any other animal, that they are afraid of?

How many of us seek the thrills of a scary movie or an amusement park ride, even though our hearts may beat a little faster? We may sweat and close our eyes or even scream but we know that there’s a safety valve waiting in the wings because when the lights go on and the ride slows to a stop, we will be okay. But believe me when I tell you that there is no safety valve on your dog. If he is biting relentlessly or shows persistent hostility as a puppy, he will not outgrow it. The cute stage will diminish rapidly when you or a family member becomes the target of his uncontrollable instinct to bite.

You must learn to pay more attention to your own instincts; as the signs are very obvious. Don’t ignore them. If you think your dog’s behavior is more than just the normal puppy prankster stage, the teething stage or the adjustment to a new home stage, talk to your veterinarian, the breeder the dog came from, or a professional trainer and don’t dismiss the too rambunctious nipping stage with the belief it is only a stage and he will grow out of it. Furthermore, by ignoring this negative, unwanted and potentially harmful behavior, you are “validating” it.

Caution: don’t rely on “happily ever after” TV families depicted as perfect dog/kid relationships. Not every kid completes a dog and not every dog completes a kid. They are two very distinct personalities and it’s not improbable to assume that these personalities at times can clash. Many breeds that have been falsely acclaimed as the “perfect dog for children” have been unfortunately dethroned due to random and unprovoked bouts of aggression, especially directed at the children of the household. Surprisingly enough, Cocker Spaniels and Beagles have made the list. The rise in popularity carries with it a rise in “not characteristic to the breed” behavioral issues and has tarnished the “Golden” reputation of the beloved Retriever and his close best friend, the Lab. Is this due to over breeding and in-breeding? My guess would be, it probably has a lot to do with it, but the circumstances, which the puppies live in during their first 2 months of life, probably play a big part in their development as well. Over crowding and lack of individual human attention, as well as taking puppies away from their mothers before they are ready to face the world, or before they have learned from their litter mates as well as their mother to know their role in a pack society, can cause emotional problems and the inability to adjust to new environments.

A new puppy should be a joyful addition to your family. If you know in your heart that this is not the right situation for your family and you are concerned about leaving your children in the same room with the dog, trust your instincts.


Just as the relationship between parent and child has changed over the years, from disciplinarian to a more relaxed friendship, so has the relationship between human and canine. With this change has come a born-again kind of love for dogs and the quality of their lives has become as important as any other family member. This is good thing; a very good thing. However, the dog, just like the child, must be taught to have social grace and to fit into our household routine and society as a whole because of the outside activities and excursions that our furry family members are included in. There have to be rules and regulations, schedule and boundaries and basically things that are OK and not OK for your dog to do.

Here are some tips straight from the trainer’s mouth! One commonality I see in every household is “avoidance.” In other words, if you avoid the situation you won’t have to deal with it. So, instead of teaching your dog not to beg at the table during meals, you put him in his crate or another room where he is out of sight, out of mind. Another example would be guests coming into your home, your dog barks and jumps on them and is generally disruptive. What do you do? Again, he goes in his crate or another room to avoid the hassle and embarrassment.

What would I do? Glad you asked. I would have a “dress rehearsal.” Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to teach Harley not to beg at the table. Don’t teach him how to greet people when your boss is at the door. These may be exaggerations but I know you get the point. Even during Wednesday night dinner everyone is tired from school and work and they’re hungry and not in the mood to deal with Harley’s antics. Never work with your dog when you’re agitated. He will pick up on it immediately and become agitated as well. The lesson will be worthless.

Try to reenact the situations you want to correct. Put a collar and leash on Harley and bring him to a mat or dog bed somewhere in the kitchen, have him sit, lie down, and stay, and give him one of his chew toys. Then sit down at the table with a cookie…yours, not his. If he gets up to come to you, firmly tell him “NO,” and nicely tell him to “go to place,” take him there and redo the down/stay. Start with a few minutes and increase the length of time he stays, as you practice. Within a few weeks, he should understand going to his mat on command and staying there. “Go to place” is a great alternative to “go to your kennel.” Use this exercise during other household activities like cooking or washing the floor.

OK, now for the front door scenario. Again, set up a dress rehearsal. Ask a neighbor or friend to stop by and ring the door bell and knock on the door. Tell your guest to “wait a minute.” With Harley on collar and leash, door unlocked, have Harley sit/stay at least 15 feet away from the front door. Tell your guest to come in and stand just inside the door. When Harley proceeds to bark or jump, tell him “NO” and take him away from the door and into another room. Have him sit/stay there and let him calm down. Bring him toward your guest again but not all the way. The goal is to have Harley sit/stay calmly a few feet away from the guest. Then if desired, the guest can pet your dog UNDER his chin; not over his head, and continue into the house

Always remember to praise your dog for a good job. Affection goes further than biscuits and is always available.

It just takes patience and practice in order to condition your dog to respond in a desired way. Only 10 to 15 minutes each time is best; for both of you. What you are doing is teaching him to sit on the sideline. Not all family members participate in all family activities. The family dog should abide by the same rule.