Kids and Dogs: Shake

What you will need:

Handful of treats (We used Dr. Harvey’s Coconut Smiles)
A Dog 
And your kids (and if you don’t have any- well you’ve just got a great trick)


1.Cue your dog to sit.


2.Take his paw in your hand and move it up and down. As you are moving it up and down say “shake.” You may have to help your child, depending on age. My son, Anthony, is teaching Boy “shake” today. He is five and needed a little assistance. 


3.Deliver a treat. My son is more comfortable with putting the treats on the floor in front of the dog and that’s okay. Other children will be comfortable handing the dog a treat. And if you couldn’t tell, Boy sure does love his Coconut Smile treats! Yum yum!


4.Continue to repeat this in 1 minute sessions for the next few days.


5. On third day of training, hold out your hand and say “shake.” See what your dog does. If he puts his paw in your hand, he’s got it! Praise and deliver a treat. Repeat this for several sessions.

Let us know how it goes for you and your dog! What do your kids enjoy best about teaching shake or other tricks?

PS. If you want to try out Boy’s favorite treat, save 10% by using code: MH117





Nail Trim Like a Boss (Part 1 of 2)

nailtrimcoverUgh! There’s nothing more stressful than nail-trimming time. I remember when my bloodhound/lab mix Boy was a puppy: The clippers would come out of the drawer, and the hound in him would start howling (Boy tends to be a bit of a Drama Queen in some situations.) Not only does nail trimming bring stress to the pet but also the pet owner.

We make associations with things on a daily basis.

If you yourself have had a past bad experience with, say, a dental procedure, then you are unlikely to want to subject yourself to that experience again. You may find yourself avoiding your scheduled appointments not just for procedures but even for cleanings. As time passes, you may develop significant dental problems (The Dreaded Root Canal!) merely because you avoided taking care of business when it needed to be done. “Even a small leak will sink a great ship,” as Benjamin Franklin once said.

On the other hand, if you have a positive dental experience, you are far less likely to avoid going to the dentist the next time, and you may even welcome routine cleanings for the shine they bring to your smile. If the Novocain does its job, and the dentist is skillful and gentle and rewards you with a nice, shiny, new toothbrush when you leave, you are far more likely to return before you are in crisis mode.

Nail clipping is not much different. We can make the experience positive or negative depending upon our preparation and approach. If, for example, we pair the clippers with something tasty like freshly cooked meat or cheese, even my Drama Queen Boy may hold his howl for the squirrels and rabbits.

Following is a quick training regimen you can implement. As you train, please be sure to be safe. If your dog has a tendency to nip, I would highly recommend using a muzzle (There are also protocols to make muzzling a positive experience). While working on the training regimen, be sure to keep sessions very short, 30 seconds tops. Many short sessions throughout the day are more beneficial than a single hour-long session, for example.

The other thing to watch as you move through these exercises is your dog’s body language, which is his way of communicating to you. As you “listen” to him, you may need to adjust what you do, for example, holding the clippers farther away and gradually moving them closer. Dog behaviors to look for that say “I am uncomfortable” include looking away or backing away from you. Signs that show stress include shaking or refusing treats. If you notice these signs, stop training at that time, and when you return, revert to the place where you were first having success and then go very slowly. Additional information on reading body language can be found by clicking here.

backingup     turningaway
(backing up and lift of leg)                 (Turning away/not taking treats)

First 3-4 days
Place the nail clippers on table, give your dog a handful of treats (one right after the other), and then put your clippers away. Do this a few times a day for 3-4 days.

The following 3-4 days, hold clippers while you are petting him, giving lots of treats as you do.

For the next 3-4 days, touch the clippers to his nail (without clipping) and give lots of treats. Be sure to read your dog’s body language, and go slowly to ensure that it is a positive experience and there are no signs of stress. If you do see signs of stress, like backing up or tensing up, end the session. Later, when you start a training session, go back to the stage at which you were having success.

clippersonnailFor the following weeks of training
Once he is comfortable with the clippers touching his nails, start the process of clipping, and make sure there are a lot of treats. Also, giving him a Kong® stuffed with peanut butter or a bully stick to chew while you are clipping can be very helpful. I had a friend let her dog lick the dirty dishes in the dishwasher while she trimmed. You can make the goal of getting one paw done a day. If his fear is severe, I would encourage you to do one nail a day with a large handful of treats and something amazingly fun like a game of fetch or a nice walk afterward. This process is obviously going to take more time, but it is better to do a very short, successful training session than a long session that will end up with back tracking in the training process.

Once your dog’s nails have been trimmed to a good length, you can do something called tipping which will allow your dog’s nails to stay short and not result in great distress for either one of you. Tipping is simply clipping the very tip of the nails once a week.

Nail trimming need not be like a dreaded trip to Dr. Vlad the Impaler Dentist for either you or your dog. Instead, it can be a fun trip to see Dr. Doolittle, lover of all things animal. A little planning and preparation can go a long way toward ensuring a positive experience for you both. Stay tuned for a later blog that will give you the technical aspects of how to trim, along with the best tools for the job and “what if’s” for accidental “quicking.” In the meantime, ladies and gentlemen, start your prep!


Blog written by Michelle Huntting
Michelle Huntting is a double nationally certified professional dog trainer. She is working towards her graduate degree in behavior analysis. Michelle is known as the All-American dog trainer with a passion to bring science-based training awareness to the world. She is currently working toward a radio talk show and a local morning TV show. Michelle lives in Dallas, Texas, with her twin boys and two dogs.

The Wolf, Alpha, and Owning a Dog

wolf2When pet owners, friends, strangers, and even doctors find out that I am a dog trainer, they begin sharing with me about their dogs. Nine times out of ten I hear these people say that they are not the pack leader even though they’ve tried, or they proudly share what they are doing to maintain the alpha position in their pack.

When I first started working with dogs as a hobby, I had the same thoughts myself about being alpha because of the information that my trainer and other popular TV shows discussed. In order to maintain the alpha position I was encouraged to “alpha role” my dogs (role them on their backs and hold them down), use the prong collar, and never allow them to walk through the door first or walk in front of me when leashed.

This training concept comes from the idea that wolves have a strict dominance structure where the wolves compete for the dominance and then are held in check with the alpha male or female. People have assumed that because dogs evolved from wolves, that their hierarchy structure is the same.

When I started getting into the science of dog training I was relieved to find out that the term “alpha,” coined by Dr. L. David Mech was misunderstood by the public.

In his book, The Wolf, Dr Mech specifically states in reference to the term “alpha,”

Hopefully it will take fewer than 20 years for the media and the public to fully adopt the correct terminology and thus to once and for all end the outmoded view of the wolf pack as an aggressive assortment of wolves consistently competing with each other to take over the pack.

We have discovered from research that dogs and wolves do not have the same hierarchy structure.

The problem from a scientific perspective with the “dog in wolf’s clothing” approach is that it assumes that the social system of dogs is the same as wolves’. However, domestication has changed the social system of dogs. A comparison of feral dogs and wolves reveals a number of important differences in their social structure…Leaders in a feral dog packs are not the most physically dominant individual. Instead, dogs with the strongest affiliative bonds or friendships in the group are the most likely to be the leaders.[Hare and Woods, The Genius of Dogs, 236-237]

Holding the concept of being alpha was stressful for me as a pet owner. Am I doing this right? My dogs aren’t even paying attention to me; do they understand I’m alpha? So I was very relieved to find out that I didn’t have to worry about my pack position any more. However, I knew that just letting my dogs run amok wasn’t going to serve me either. In the past 10 years I have discovered that I still needed to be a leader. The leadership style that has worked well for me and my clients hasn’t involve alpha roles or dominating the dogs, but mutual respect and consistency.

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head-
that’s assault, not leadership.”
Dwight D Eisenhower

So what does leadership look like?
Being a leader with your dog doesn’t involve domination, any more than it would with raising children. If you’ve ever worked with children, you will find out quickly that dominating them isn’t a route that will bring about the results you desire and more than likely will have a negative affect.

I have found with my own dogs, fosters, and rescues that a mutual respect has to be developed. This would not be allowed with domination, but only with trust, time, and consistency.

Yes, rules are needed. If we don’t have rules there is chaos. Your dog will be spoiled and not only will you not enjoy being around him, neither will anyone else. We’ve all been around children where the parents never say “no.” Please don’t spoil your dog! It surprises me what little thought has gone into the rules of the household for dogs. For instance, are my dogs allowed on the couch? If so, is there an invitation required? How are my dogs to behave before I leash them for a walk? Are they allowed in all areas of the house?

Following through
One of the sports that I played as a child was softball. We all know that to be a good hitter, it’s important to make contact with the ball and follow through with the swing of the bat. If you don’t follow through you are cheating yourself out of a good hit. When you’ve created a rule with your dog like not getting up on the couch, it’s important for you to follow through consistently with this rule.


A good example of following through is if you tell your dog to “get down” off the couch and he looks at you. Rather than repeating yourself, you walk over to your dog and encourage him to get down by using the movement of your body (like patting the side of your leg).

When you create a rule everyone in the house must be consistent.

Let’s say, for example, your rule is “dogs aren’t allowed on the bed.” The first night your partner allows him to sleep on the bed, then the next night you say, “no,” and a week later you notice your dog napping on the bed, but you ignore the behavior. Being inconsistent will lead to confusion and will not work towards the results that you hope to achieve.

It’s important to consistently follow through with your rule. So in this particular example, you will tell your dog to get down every time he gets on the bed, prepare the environment in a way that will set him up for success, and ensure that everyone in the household understands the rule.

 “Leadership is the art of getting someone
else to do something you want done
because he wants to do it.”
Dwight D Eisenhower

Being the Leader
We can finally stop stressing over whether we are “alpha” in our pack and just enjoy our dog’s friendship through mutual respect and communication. Being a leader with our dog is much different than taking a dominant alpha approach. Growing mutual respect through rules, following through, and being consistent will allow for the great relationship with your dog that you’ve always wanted.

Blog written by Michelle Huntting