A Message From Your Dog

Published Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 by Erin Kramer

Today I went to my new home. Leaving the shelter was amazing! I was very nervous there. Everything was loud and different around me. What would my new home be like? I was hoping I would have quiet time to check it out. After all, I’m in a new place with people I don’t even know! But that’s not what happened. The very first thing that happened was a large, strange dog came running at me. I was shocked and I didn’t know if he was friendly or not. So I growled. Then strangers crowded all around me, touching me without asking first. I’m not sure if I’ll be safe here.

Newly adopted dogs need safe time to decompress and not to be rushed to greet others.

Today I went to the dog park. At first I was excited. There was green grass and a big place to run. But when we stepped through the gate, a lot of dogs ran up to me and swarmed all around me. I got worried and snapped. I just wanted them to give me some space! I got more comfortable once I wasn’t the center of attention. I even made some new dogs friends. But then another pushy dog started to pick on me. He barked in my face, nipped at my ankles, and stood over me. I didn’t like it. I told him to stop and he wouldn’t. It scared me! I was hoping you would help me get away from him. When you didn’t, I lunged at him because I didn’t know what else to do. I’m not so sure about meeting new dogs now.

Don’t gamble with your dog’s well being by putting them in social situations you can’t control, (dog parks included) and advocate for your dog’s safety.

Today an off leash dog rushed me. I heard you tell the other humans about it when we got home. You told them it scared you but that it ended up OK because the dog didn’t actually bite me. But I wasn’t OK! I was hoping you would understand that just because I wasn’t bit doesn’t mean it didn’t terrify me. This was the first time I realized that anytime we are out walking, a scary dog could run up and try to hurt me. Now I’m worried when we go out on walks that it might happen again so I scan for other dogs and bark at them as soon as I spot them.

Consider your dog’s mental well being just as much as his or her physical well being.

Today I met a child. She was loud and didn’t act like any other humans I knew. She stumbled when she walked and yelled loudly. When she touched me, it wasn’t soft. She grabbed me and I thought she was scary. I was hoping you would notice that I was really uncomfortable like when I wouldn’t look at her and started to freeze. Even when I moved away, she followed me. When she wouldn’t stop, I nipped her. Now I am scared of all kids.

Monitor ALL dog/child interactions while teaching children appropriate dog manners.

Today I went to training. I was barking and snapping at people and dogs. You didn’t know how to get me to stop so you hired a nice lady to help. I was so thankful when you listened as the teacher explained that I was just scared and needed your guidance to feel safer. As we practiced together, I learned that I didn’t need to panic when meeting new dogs and people because you would protect me and help me when I needed it.

Seek help from a qualified dog trainer who will assist both you and your dog in making better choices.

Today I went to the vet’s office. At first, I got really scared. When I peered around the corner, there were two other dogs who barked at me. I wasn’t sure I’d be safe.  I was so thankful when you brought me back to the car to wait my turn instead of making me wait inside. Then when we did go in, you gave me really yummy treats which made me feel better. Now I can’t wait to visit again and get more snacks!

Make vet visits more enjoyable by avoiding interactions with other dogs (who may be sick or injured) and bringing your best treats.

Today I got a calm massage. I was used to playing, jumping, and wrestling with you so I assumed you wanted me to be energetic all the time. But today you decided to gently pet me and speak in soothing tones instead. I was so thankful to have the chance to fully relax and enjoy a different way to hang with my human. Instead of being over the top excited whenever humans are around, now I know sometimes I can just be calm too.

Practice calmness with your dog as much as you practice excitability (if not more).

Today I growled. A strange man was approaching us and I got scared. You had me on the leash so I knew I couldn’t run away. And I don’t know how to say words that would tell you I was afraid. So I growled. I was so thankful you understood that I was feeling fearful and didn’t let the man come any closer. When you bent down next to me and reassured me with petting and praise that I was ok, I felt a lot better. Next time something scary happens, I’m going to look to you for guidance.

Your dog’s behavior (growls included) is their language. Listen to what they have to say and take action if they communicate they are uncomfortable.

Re-read each of the above scenarios putting yourself into your dog’s shoes:

  • Arriving in a new place with strangers only to be bombarded with unsolicited interactions
  • Stepping into a park only to be rushed by a large, unruly crowd
  • Walking down the street when suddenly a person runs towards you aggressively threatening you
  • Meeting a strange acting person who invades your space and won’t leave you alone
  • Going to a class where someone who speaks your language can finally help your family understand your needs
  • Not being forced to wait in a doctor’s office where you are scared and nearby patients seem aggressive or unstable and then getting cookies during the exam
  • Enjoying a relaxing massage from your favorite people instead of always engaging in high energy activities
  • Communicating your discomfort so that a friend or family member can help you feel safer

These are important life lessons your dog wants you to understand. As trainers who specialize in behavior modification for dog facing all kinds of issues from manners to aggression and fear to anxiety, getting you to recognize how your dog experiences the world around them is what our training is all about!

If you have a dog who is struggling with a problem behavior, get in touch! Our experienced trainers will help you learn how to speak dog and transform your pup into the happiest, healthiest, and most well behaved dog they can be.

 Erin Kramer

Owner of Tug Dogs

Could the Solution to Your Dog Problems Come Down to Just One Thing?

Published Thursday, November 1st, 2018 by Erin Kramer

“Leadership is not a position or a title, it is an action and example.”

Dogs thrive with proper leadership. Especially those dogs who are struggling with fear, aggression or anxiety issues. This is why we invest time into teaching the dog owners we work with how to become better leaders to their dogs.

A dog who is used to checking in with their human for guidance is a dog who is much more capable of handling the stresses of life. They look up to you as a provider of information and safety, and instead of making their choice about how to act in a potentially stressful situation, can look to you for assistance.

But becoming your dog’s leader doesn’t start at the moment they have intense reactions to things around them. It starts at home. If your dog is not used to you providing leadership at home, they won’t just naturally default to you when you’re in busier or more problematic situations such as encountering a stranger or new dog.

Becoming your dog’s leader means getting them used to the fact that you have valuable information they should listen to and then motivating them to follow your cues. It can be as simple as consistently enforcing simple household rules, following the nothing in life is free protocol, working on your obedience command training, or practicing impulse control exercises.

Once you have developed leadership in your dog/human relationship, your dog will find navigating difficult situations so much easier because they will be able to rely on your guidance rather than making their own, panicked decisions.

This is the exact process we use so successfully here at at Tug Dogs. Even our most extreme cases of dogs struggling with aggression and anxiety respond wonderfully to this type of leadership training. We spend time demonstrating to the dogs that we work with that when they are with us, we keep them both mentally and physically safe. We also assemble custom treatment plans centered around motivating good choices and practicing listening to us humans.

Being a leader isn’t about being rough or mean. Quite the opposite actually! It’s about relieving a dog who is a chronic, poor decision maker from the job of making all their own decisions. It is a weight off their shoulders when done correctly. Dogs who react from fear or stress desperately want and need a leader who can help them to alleviate their discomfort.

If you want to see your dog behave better and be happier, start with leadership at home. If you’re struggling, give us a call so we can help get you and your dog living your best lives together.

Are You Training Your Dog To Fail?

Published Thursday, October 25th, 2018 by Erin Kramer

Let’s talk about different types of dog training and why one is always more successful than the others. Growing, puppy Jett is mastering his house manners. As an adolescent, working line German Shepherd who loves affection and play, he has a strong desire to greet and interact with guests. An overly social puppy is a great problem to have, if you know how to properly teach manners.

So how do we handle a parade of visitors coming through the front door (in this case our trainer’s club students)?

Nearly all dog trainers and many dog owners would attempt to use obedience commands like sit, down, leave it, park it (place) in an attempt to control their dog’s excitable behavior. Other dog owners would start to punish their dog for jumping up, barking, or being impolite with loud NO’s or noise makers designed to startle the dog into stopping. Still others would try to use high value treats to capture their dog’s attention and (hopefully) keep the focus on you.

But all of those are flawed training systems.

To find the real solution, you have to understand the problem. Why is your dog excited when people come over? For social dogs, a visitor at the door means petting, attention, affection, and sometimes even treats! That combination of amazing rewards is pretty irresistible to a lot of dogs and causes them to get into a high energy, low impulse control state of mind.

So if you are practicing a pattern of having guests immediately interact with your dog and then expecting your dog to be able to follow obedience commands, calmly take treats, or respond to your loud NO’s, you’re setting them up to fail. It’s like giving a kid 3 cupcakes and a soda and then asking them to sit still. It just doesn’t work that way!

So what does work?

Since you now know the source of your dog’s rude behavior is getting too excited about having company over, how about changing your dog’s expectations about what happens when guests arrive?? For puppy Jett, he has seen friendly faces come in the door time and time again who ignore him for the first 15 minutes of their stay.

This gives Jett time to settle and reduce his over excited behavior so that when it’s time to interact with friends, he makes appropriate choices all on his own. Rather than trying to battle against Jett’s excitability by asking him to preform sit stays or park its, we choose instead to reward a calm state of mind where Jett naturally offers the behavior we want.

This is the difference in Tug Dogs training philosophy.

Our trainers work hard to give you real training solutions that take into consideration your dog’s point of view and experiences to ensure training sets both of you up to be successful. With just a few days of practice, Jett is now silent when the door bell rings and simply sniffs and wags his tail at guests but then chooses to grab a toy and lay down on a dog bed instead of barking and jumping at them wildly.

Want your dog to be like Jett? Start considering what you are teaching him or her to expect when people come over and if you run into trouble, give us a call. Our skilled trainers can help you develop a plan to ensure your dog is a well behaved family member.

Gambling With Your Dog’s Well Being

Published Thursday, September 27th, 2018 by Erin Kramer

Your dog’s genetics and past life experiences are not in your control. But the experiences they are having, and will continue to have, are. What kind of choices are you making for your dog?

Let’s start with some perspective about how your dog sees the world around them. Living with human beings often means dogs get to make few choices about their well being. Stop and think about your own dog…do they decide where they live? Who they meet? How they are greeted by strangers? Which dogs they get to interact with or choose to avoid? Where they can move their bodies if they are feeling stressed or unsafe?

The reality is, we have to use leashes, walls, and fences for dogs to fit into modern living but it leaves them with little opportunity to make decisions about their own safety. In actuality, they are relying on YOU to make choices that will help them to have positive experiences as they interact with the world around them.

If you are simply letting situations around your dog occur and hoping they will play out positively, you could very well be gambling with your dog’s well being.

Often dog owners only pay attention to what physically affects their dog. Overlooking your dog’s mental safety is a huge mistake that can easily lead to fearful, aggressive, or anxious behavior.  Sadly, I often hear owners recounting stories of their dogs being charged by off leash dogs or having unsafe dog to dog interactions.  When those stories result in no physical damage, they are regularly brushed aside as if they no longer count.

But they count to your dog. You see, he or she has just learned (or reaffirmed) that at any moment, with little warning and no option to escape, they may subject to a terrifying attack.

And what have you, your dog’s source of safety and stability, demonstrated during these scary moments? Are you prepared to handle the situation and able to keep your dog mentally and physically safe? Does your response instill calm, confidence to a stressed out dog?  Do you watch your dog’s behavior when they start to communicate their discomfort and take action?

If you’re in charge of your dog’s safety and you’re not taking active steps to ensure that they are put in safe situations, you’re definitely gambling with your dog’s well being. And you’re losing. Or rather, your dog is losing.

The good news is, whether you are guilty of behavior gambling or just have a fearful, aggressive, or anxious dog, you can turn things around. In fact, that’s exactly what we do here at Tug Dogs with our customized training treatment plans. We go WAY out of our way to ensure that dogs have positive experiences with us that inspire trust and confidence in our ability to keep them safe. And you can too.

Here are a few common sense tips to consider:

  1. If you don’t know how a situation is likely to turn out, avoid it. See an unknown dog walking down the street? Don’t let the dogs meet (and certainly not face to face). Sure your dog might briefly get to meet a friend. But your dog might also get their first terrifying experience of dog on dog aggression. And dog on dog aggression is like virus. Read the dog aggression virus blog here:
  2. Are you unsure about how your dog feels about cats? Kids? Bikes? Etc… Then don’t just push them into those experiences and hope for the best. Take control by doing slow introductions, making sure to carefully watch your dog for signs of discomfort. If your dog seems concerned, stop and contact a quality trainer for assistance.
  3. Want to bring your dog into a busy environment while secretly knowing it makes them uncomfortable? This one’s easy…just don’t do it.
  4. Hosting a party with a shy, anxious, or aggressive dog at home? I’m hoping by now you’re getting the hang of this! Have a safe plan for your dog such as being secured in a quiet bedroom with an activity (like a stuffed kong) so that he or she doesn’t have a stressful time.
  5. Bringing home a new dog? Don’t let your existing dog rush up and give a potentially scary or confrontational greeting. Let the new dog get comfortable with your surroundings and then introduce the dogs with an on leash walk, where you have more control of what happens. (This is an area where hiring a skilled trainer can make a world of difference and I highly recommend you do so to prevent problems from occurring).

The truth is, loving your dog and being a capable leader who can keep your dog safe are two entirely different things. This is why we devote SO much time in our training treatment plans not just to working with dogs but also in working with dog owners to develop their skills in keeping their dog mentally and physically safe..

Whether you have a dog who is struggling with serious behavior challenges or you’re one of those amazing (and smart) people who seeks training BEFORE a problem has the chance to occur, get in touch with Tug Dogs today. We can help coach you and train your dog so that you can live better together.



The Dog Aggression Virus

Published Monday, September 17th, 2018 by Erin Kramer

Tug Dogs owner Erin likes to say that dog on dog aggression (including leash reactivity) is like a virus. Once a dog is exposed to it, they are much more likely to develop symptoms themselves and pass the illness along. And it seems more and more dogs are becoming “infected.”

So just how does that happen?

Most dog owners (and even many dog trainers) don’t realize that an overwhelming amount of dog aggression stems from fear instead of confidence. But what makes dogs fearful in the first place?

Let’s look at it from your dog’s point of view. If your dog has never experienced another dog aggressively barking, lunging, or attacking them, the chances that they will feel the need to protect themselves with their own display of aggressive behavior is very low.

Dogs who have only had positive experiences aren’t even aware they are in potential danger and will treat every new dog approaching as a friend…if that’s all they know.
But that all changes as your dog has new experiences such as being aggressively barked at, lunged towards, and rushed by other dogs. In these moments, your dog learns that not all other dogs are safe and that they are unable to run away because they are tied to you!

Even worse, many dogs learn that the humans they are attached to, lack the understanding or skills to respond appropriately in these scary situations and thus they must protect themselves by any means necessary.

Your dog has now learned how dangerous the world is and what little ability they have to keep themselves safe. Violence is often the only resource available to a scared and vulnerable dog who is unable to flee.

Keep in mind that even if your dog does not sustain a bite from another dog, that doesn’t mean that mentally they haven’t experienced trauma. The first time your puppy or dog learns that at any moment an off leash dog could appear suddenly and present a threat to their safety, for example,can leave a deep and lasting impact on how they see the world.

The resulting trauma that is carried is the spread of the dog aggression infection. In a dire effort to keep themselves safe, many dogs will start to display unprovoked aggression towards other dogs they encounter as their stress and fear boils over into panic. Which each new dog your dog reacts to, you are likely spreading the infection further as other dogs learn they too are not safe.

So what can you do?

First off, investing in preventative training with a skilled dog trainer like the team at Tug Dogs, is the best vaccine you can give your dog for avoiding problem behaviors.

Our trainers can help guide you through the experience of how to handle dogs barking and lunging at your dog in a safe and effective manner. Rather than your dog learning you are useless in keeping them safe, your dog can instead take comfort in the fact that you have the skills needed to provide for their mental and physical well being. Rather than trying to desperately keep themselves safe with violent outbursts, they will look to you to handle the situation.

This is exactly the training we provide to our “role model” dogs like Ruby and Cassie who work with dog aggressive dogs daily. How can they do it without lashing out in a need to protect themselves? It’s simple…trainer Erin has rightfully earned their trust by showing them time and time again she can handle scary situations so they don’t have to worry. And with one on one sessions together, we can teach you and your dog to have this relationship too.

What if your dog is already infected?

Just like with a real infection, the sooner we see your dog after they have been exposed, the better. Addressing trauma and teaching you how to avoid it and handle it better will help your dog become a more confident, happy, and stress free companion.

Our goal at Tug Dogs is always to teach both you and your dog so that you can work together as a team and build a closer bond. When your dog trusts you, they don’t feel the need to be aggressive which makes life so uch more enjoyable for you both.

It’s simply not enough to love your dog, you also must be able to keep them safe if you want them to behave well and live comfortably with you.

Where can I get help?

If you can’t get to Tug Dogs to work with our highly experienced trainers, we still have some advice to help you find a local professional.

It’s important to note that dog training is a totally UNREGULATED industry. That means there are no educational or ethical standards in place. No one is making sure your trainer knows what they are doing except you. It’s up to you to ensure you are working with a skilled trainer who will not put your dog in jeopardy and will not waste your time and money.

We suggest searching for established trainers with positive reviews and references. In addition, spend time talking with your dog’s trainer prior to signing up and ask lots of questions.

A great dog trainer is always happy to provide you with lots of information about how they train and what their treatment plan is for your dog’s specific needs.

Stop spreading the virus!

Exposing your dog to the terrible illness of dog on dog aggression is a choice. Tug Dogs trainers can help coach you through how to “vaccinate” and “treat” the epidemic of dog aggression so that you and your dog can live your best lives together.

To get started, contact us today.



Active Ignoring…what is it and how to get started?

Published Thursday, May 14th, 2015 by Erin Kramer

Active ignoring is exactly what it sounds like, it’s making a choice to actively ignore your dog when they are pushy, demanding, hyperactive, or over stimulated. By interacting with your dog on YOUR terms, you teach them that you are in charge of when affection and attention are given. This way you end up rewarding calm and polite behaviors instead of rude ones. Active ignoring doesn’t mean you don’t give your dog all the love, attention, and cuddles you both love. It just means you time them to ensure you are the one offering those wonderful exchanges.

Active ignoring is great for dogs who are high energy, demanding, pushy, or needy. Encouraging your dog to occupy themselves appropriately can be a wonderful thing and sets your relationship off on the right foot. As an added bonus, it often stops “velcro dogs” from continuing to develop separation anxiety as well as stops dogs who are pushy to play from invading your space. Dogs who are calm and mellow do not require active ignoring.

Step one is to be very aware of what behaviors you are rewarding (yes you speaking with your dog, petting, them or otherwise interacting with them is a reward!). If your dog is acting too hyper, jumping up, nudging you, barking at you, pawing at you, constantly bringing you toys etc….that’s a good time to simply show (with action instead of words) that you will not engage with them. Don’t speak to them, simply turn your body away and show you will not be forced to interact. At first they may get frustrated, but when they eventually give in, that’s a great time to call them over and give them affection. And don’t forget that you also get to decide not only when the interaction starts, but also when it stops!

For those dogs out there who love life and want to demand a lot of your focus and attention it’s not about denying them what they crave. Instead, it’s simply teaching them that good manners get them what they want. The more your dog’s demanding for attention works, the more they will continue to be pushy! So think carefully about instead rewarding calm and patient behavior in your pup!

Engagement in Dog Training: What is it and why you need it!

Published Thursday, May 14th, 2015 by Erin Kramer

It’s so easy for trainers and dog owners alike to get focused on teaching their dogs household rules and obedience and skip the fundamentals that create lasting, training results. One of the very first things a top dog trainer knows we must teach a dog is simply to pay attention to us humans! This is the process of engagement training.
Continue reading Engagement in Dog Training: What is it and why you need it!

The How and When of Giving Your Dog Affection

Published Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 by admin

dog affection

Affection is an important part of the human dog bond and when thoughtfully utilized, can be beneficial for both dog and owner. However badly timed affection can worsen problems, build over stimulation, reward inappropriate behavior, and create instability in some dogs. Want to learn a few simple tips to help ensure you are giving your dog the affection they need? Read on…

Lets start with discussing when affection/attention should be given. If most or even some of the time that you are giving your dog affection is when they are in an excited state of mind (think you just got home from work or always in the middle of high energy play time) you are actually conditioning your dog to stay in that excited state. It would be like giving them a treat every time they started to get excited. For a medium or high energy dog, this can create issues ranging from hyperactivity to jumping on guests, separation anxiety and even an inability to control their own impulses.

In addition, if you have a dog who is pushy or demanding for affection/attention and you pet them when they show those behaviors, you are not only rewarding them for acting pushy, you are creating a dynamic where you give into them regularly (and then we have to ask, who is training who??). You might not even notice how demanding your dog is being for your attention but if you really step back and watch their behavior you might be surprised. If your dog constantly brings you toys expecting you to play whenever they feel like it, or if they bark at you, invade your space regularly, nudge you repeatedly and have mastered the begging look, chances are you have been rewarding these pushy behaviors. And even though they can be quite cute, your dog’s pushiness can send them the wrong message about who is in charge which can spiral into other problems.

So how do you solve these issues? It’s pretty simple! For over excited dogs, get in the habit of ignoring them when they are too excited (for each dog this can be a little different but typical signs of over excitement are fast movements, tail wagging uncontrollably, barking/whining, jumping up, zoomies, and inability to hold still). So yes when you first get home and your dog is SO excited to see you, it’s best to simply ignore them until they have a chance to calm down, as difficult as that may be. The more you do it, the more it will become second nature to you and your dog.

Also remember to not give in to pushy behavior! If you dog demands something from you, ignore them or tell them no and stand your ground. Then when they give up, you can call them over and give them what they wanted because now it’s on your terms not theirs!

The important point to realize is that, once you get started, you actually can give your dog the same amount of affection and attention so long as you do it when they are in a calmer state of mind and are not being pushy about it! Doing so ensures you have the same close relationship while also assisting your dog to be well mannered and stable.

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