Complete Canine featured in the Mountain-Ear!

Local Nederland newspaper, The Mountain-Ear, wrote a nice piece about the group class I just started at the Nederland Community Center.

Barbara Lawlor writes, “A training session with Peterson is more than teaching a dog a trick. It is the beginning of understanding and relating to each other, to a bond of communication, that often is neglected or not even sought by many dog owners. It takes work and commitment, consistency and respect, but the long-lasting results are worth the effort.” Thanks Barbara!


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Posted in News

Training Tools and Techniques: Try Something Different!

We are all creatures of habit – we like what we are used to and feel safe sticking to it. I’ll be the first to admit, I have been somewhat closed minded when it comes to the overwhelming majority of training tools out there – of course, this is relatively speaking. I consider myself to be a balanced trainer who uses many tools including but not limited to flat collars, martingale collars, check chains, pinch collars and e-collars.

I historically despise harnesses and gimmicky “as seen on TV” contraptions/devises. I do see some merit in no pull harnesses and head halters, but personally do not find them to be effective training tools – but rather management tools, as they do little to permanently affect the dog’s behavior (when those tools are removed, the dogs usually resumes previous habits). However, to be perfectly honest, half of the tools I cast off as gimmicky contraptions, I’ve never actually used or experimented with. Shame on me! While many of the “as seen on TV” contraptions probably are gimmicks, I really should suck it up and try a few – you never know!

tobyRecently I took on a Board and Train puppy, Toby – a rescue mixed breed puppy, approximately 4-5 months old. He is with me primarily for house/crate training issues, but I also agreed to start his obedience foundation. Generally, puppies of this age have little impulse control, and I choose to work them on flat collars as they struggle to understand the “cause and effect” lessons of a more corrective collar like a check chain. I have seen far too many puppies put on check chains and other corrective devises too young, and without the ability to know how to prevent correction, they become numb to the collars, causing big problems as they mature.

However, my current living situation and training areas are less than conventional – I often have to walk the dogs near a road, so I am extra cautious about the potential of slipping out of collars. I was torn…I didn’t feel safe walking him on a flat collar – way too easy to slip out of, but I didn’t want to put him on a check chain/slip collar due to his age. I thought about a martingale, (which I will probably put on him next), however we recently experienced historic and devastating floods here in Boulder, cutting us off from town where I could purchase a few new collars to try. BUT, I had a cat harness laying around…yes, a cat harness.

As if the stars aligned, this cat harness fit Toby perfectly. It was a traditional “back clip” type pull harness. I wasn’t thrilled about putting it on him, fearing I might create a pulling problem. But I knew it was safest and he wouldn’t be able to slip out of it. When we went for our first walk in this harness, I began to experiment with loose leash walking techniques – I tried a “Turn and Go” (quick, silent about-face turn) – the correction seemed to have little effect on Toby and he braced at the end of the line. Then I tried a “Drop and Go” (steady leash pressure as you back up until dog softens, then resuming forward motion) – nothing. Then, I tried a lesser used method – the “Stop and Wait” (as the dog begins forging ahead, stop abruptly) – the first time Toby reached the end of the leash and saw me sanding still (versus walking away or backing up – which, for Toby, triggered oppositional reflex), his little puppy self went into a full body wag and he came skipping back to my left side. I of course, rewarded him handsomely. We practiced this a few more times on the walk and soon this very young pup was willingly remaining in perfect heel at my side and has been all week. In fact, now he is already automatically sitting in heel position when I stop! Go figure….a back clip harness and a “Stop and Wait” style leash correction was the answer! Now, I imagine as Toby grows, we will want to put him on a corrective collar, probably a martingale, but for now, this will be a perfect tool!

I have run into this before. Traditionally, my favorite tool is a check chain and my favorite loose leash walking technique is the “Turn and Go”. For the vast majority of dogs I have trained, this works promptly and very well. However, I have run into a few dogs (one of which is my own Australian Shepherd, Cache), who did not responded to the “Turn and Go” correction at all. The turning around got Cache’s herding drive going and it only caused him to frantically circle me. It was the “Drop and Go” that worked for him!

The moral of the story: When you seem stumped with a dog who isn’t responding to your “usual” – step outside of your comfort zone and try different tools and techniques. Try the ones you wouldn’t usually consider trying – even if your “training family” thinks you’re crazy, wasting time or being ridiculous. Just try it. The dog will tell you what works – and bottom line, if something’s not working, it is YOU, the teacher who must adapt.

Happy Training!

Posted in Training Tips

Ask Marianna: Jumping on Guests


Lauren H. Asks:

“I have a dog that likes to jump on people when they come to the house. What can I do to stop this?”


Jumping up on people is one of the most common concerns for dog owners. There are many reasons why a dog jumps up and just as many solutions. From my experience and observation, these are the top 3 reasons why dogs continue to jump up, despite their human’s best efforts to curb this behavior:

  1. Being allowed to persist in a state of high excitement. It starts in puppy hood. We allow our dogs to go into an over excited/frantic state of mind when people enter the home – after all, it’s absolutely adorable when a wiggly puppy greets you – and it doesn’t take much rehearsal to have it become habit. Getting REALLY excited when someone enters the home is what she’s always done – getting really excited IS what she is supposed to do. Essentially, her brain has been classically conditioned to go into a state of excitement when people enter the home. It’s gone beyond a conscious decision – it is now a reflex. Squealing, touching, yelling, scolding and punishing only adds fuel to the high energy fire.
  2. dogbedLack of Direction. As children, we were taught by our parents HOW to behave in certain situations – we didn’t fall out of the womb knowing how to say please and thank you. All too often, we tend to assume our dogs should “know” what to do with the situations life presents. Our dogs need to LEARN from us what is expected of them. Teach her an incompatible behavior – a wanted behavior, that when practiced prevents the rehearsal the unwanted behavior. This can be as simple as a down stay on her bed while guests come in and get settled (your dog can’t be in a down and jump at the same time). Insist the dog remain in a down and instruct guests NOT to interact with her at all until YOU, the owner are satisfied with her behavior and energy – as Cesar says “No touch, no talk, no eye contact”. Don’t release her to greet guests until she is calm and relaxed. If her excitement returns when you release her, then she must return to her dog bed.
  3. Inconsistency. As a general rule, dogs are very literal creatures who struggle with the concept of “sometimes”. If your dog is allowed to jump up on some people, sometimes, but other times is scolded for it…consider how confusing that might be. If you don’t want you dog to jump on some people, then it shouldn’t be OK for her to jump on anyone (including yourself!). Every time your allow your dog to jump up on you, remind yourself how unfair and confusing it will be next time she gets scolded for jumping on someone else.
  4. Touching/interacting with the dog while she is jumping. Jumping up is usually a self-rewarding/reinforcing behavior. When a dog jumps up on someone, the most common response is to TOUCH the dog – to push her off and/or talk to her. Even if the human isn’t actually feeling affectionate, this touch and interaction is still rewarding and reinforcing to most dogs. One common, but ineffective solution many trainers recommend, is when the dog jumps up, push her off (or pinch her toes etc…) and then pet/reward her when she puts all 4 paws on the ground. To the dog, the whole SEQUENCE of jumping up, being pushed down (touched) and then being petted is reinforcing! By definition, a behavior that is reinforced will almost certainly be repeated. Remember – it’s the dog (not you!) that determines what is reinforcing. Some dogs will even find being kneed in the chest reinforcing – to her, it might be rowdy play!

So, what do you do if you were unable to prepare ahead of the time and your dog beings jumping up on your guest? First, ask the guest to not touch the dog with their hands, not to talk to the dog and to avoid eye contact. Instruct the guest to cross their arms, look straight forward and shuffle right through the dog (as if she’s not even there), reclaiming their personal space. The goal is NOT to be aggressive or hurt the dog – avoid stepping on paws or throwing a knee. Just re-claim your space. If the dog is particularly persistent, using a spray bottle with cold water while the guest is attempting to claim their space can help strengthen the message.

Second, be firm and rehearse what you will say when your guests inevitably reply “I don’t mind! I love when dogs jump on me!” This is my favorite rebuttal – “I understand you don’t mind my dog jumping up – however, If I allow her to jump on you, she will think its OK to jump on my 85 year old grandmother” (or my 18 month old nephew, or my friend who is afraid of dogs etc…).

Best of Luck Lauren! Keep us posted!

Posted in Ask Marianna

10 Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

Will your dog be your co-pilot this summer?
Here are some tips from Marianna about safe and comfortable travel for you and your dog.


  1. If your dog is new to the car, consider spending some time before your long journey going for short trips to fun places. This is also a good time to test out your dog’s car riding situation for the trip – Where is the best place for her to ride when the car is loaded down?*I recommend, for the safety of you and your dog, to have your dog ride in a contained space. In the event of an accident, a dog turned projectile is bad news. Dangerous for you, and your dog.*Never allow your dog to hang his head out the window at high speeds (45mph+) – serious eye and head injuries can result.*Never let your dog lean his body out the window – ever! This is incredibly dangerous at any speed – one unexpected swerve and there goes your dog!
  2. Plan ahead and avoid last minute packing – consider how long you will be traveling and be sure to bring enough supplies (plus a little extra). Bring twice as many poop bags as you anticipate needing – it is our responsibility to leave America’s rest stops and scenic areas pristine. Always pick up after your dog.
  3. Be sure your car’s Air Conditioner is in good condition before hitting the road. Have a battery operated crate fan on hand in case your Air Conditioner fails. Be prepared to provide shade if needed.cachecrate
  4. Visit your vet sometime before your trip and be sure she is healthy, up to date on vaccines, microchipped, and properly protected from any parasites prevalent in areas you are visiting. Ask your vet about what to do if your dog becomes ill on the journey (motion sickness, diarrhea, anxiety…).
  5. Bring a long leash and your dog’s favorite throw toy. Look for shady areas at rest stops. Spend 3-5 minutes playing vigorously with your dog, and then 5 -10 minutes walking around, allowing your dog to eliminate and cool down (provide cool water). It will feel good for both of you to burn off some energy and stretch your legs! Be sure your dog is wearing up to date I.D. tags at all times.
  6. Limit food. Feed your dog half of her daily meals when on the road. Laying around all day doesn’t work up much of an appetite, and less food in her stomach will help prevent motion sickness.
  7. DO NOT limit water. Traveling in the heat is quite stressful on your dog’s body and he will need to stay well hydrated. Be sure your dog always has access to clean, cool water. I recommend purchasing a Buddy Bowl (spill proof dish).doghotel
  8. Map out pet friendly hotels or campgrounds along your route. If you have set destinations, consider making reservations a head of time. Red Roof Inn, Drury Inn and Super 8 tend to be pet friendly.
  9. NEVER leave your dog unattended in a car – if it’s 70⁰F or warmer outside, it is too hot to leave your dog in a car – which can reach fatal temperatures remarkably fast. If you’re traveling alone, pack enough supplies to avoid trips into stores or restaurants that would require your dog staying in the car.
  10. Have fun! Plan your trip’s activities to include your dog – the more you can include your dog, the better time everyone will have! Find out ahead of time where on your travels dogs are and are not allowed (**note: U.S. National Parks DO NOT allow dogs). If you cannot include your dog in your activities, it may be better to leave her at home in the trusted care of a pet sitter.

Happy Travels!


Posted in Dog Lifestyle

Ask Marianna: Taking Treats Too Rough


“Zelda” Bradford asks:

“How do I get my Golden Retriever to take treats easier? My fingers are sore!”



This is a fairly simple remedy, however it is easier to see in person than describe, but I will do my best!

When working with a dog who takes treats too rough, what I see most often is a handler to feeds the treats from the tips of their fingers and/or flinches just a bit, allowing the dog to come forward to TAKE the treat.

Instead, let’s switch it up – rather than feeding from the tips of your fingers, allowing the dog to come forward to take the treat, follow these two simple steps:

1.Tuck the treat in the “webbing” between your thumb and palm.
2.Confidently (but not aggressively) PUSH your hand into the dog’s snout, making him rock back – when you feel the dog rock back in response to the pressure of your hand pushing into his snout, release the treat. This will teach him that yielding to the pressure of your hand is what releases the treat. If he is rocking back to take the treat, he will be unable to grab at your hand/fingers.

Happy Training!


Posted in Ask Marianna