out some of our students, friends, fun stuff, resources
& clients testimonials.
Left to right: Della, Otter, Sadie, Archie(behind Sadie/True), True,
Jaakko, Roosevelt(behind Jaa), Buddy(behind Roo), Bella, Lucy &
Charlie CGC 4/2010
Agility Class Graduation! 11/2009
Max Power DOGMASF Grads
|Nena has perfected Sitting
Class Grad's 3/2010
IS THE BEST!!!
I just finished my third private session with Dianne.
I contacted her in August after getting two beautiful Labrador puppies.
I decided to book her for three visits that we spaced out accordingly
and I have never been happier with my decision or with my puppies.
Dianne is simply the best!
Each session focused on a good balance between issues
I wanted to work on with my pups and behavior development she thought
would be important to initiate. We worked on classic concepts at
first: name recognition, attention getting, sit, down and gaining
focus from the dogs with distractions all around. Her simple, yet
effective, pointers were beyond successful with our puppies. We
had them laying down after just one command to do so at just 10
weeks old!!! She taught us the true importance of rewarding the
dogs for even the slightest good behavior and she showed us how
to pick up on those "good choices" from our puppies.
We worked with Dianne to get our dogs super comfortable
with us touching them, checking out their ears, their teeth, brushing
them, clipping their nails etc... Our puppies now love when we roll
them around, get them on their back, or have them calmly sit with
Dianne also helped us master lease training, which
has been particularly difficult for one of our amazing pups. She
gave us excellent pointers and showed us to to guide our dogs in
the best way during walks.
Dianne is so friendly and funny. She is just a lovable,
kind, passionate, and---most importantly--- smart person. I always
walked away from our meetings with TONS of new info on my dogs and
I can't say enough about Dianne. If you have puppies,
or want to work on understanding your dog, or change a certain behavior,
Dianne is the one to contact. She'll change your way of thinking
and the life of your wonderful doggy companion!!!
|I enrolled in
Dianne's Beginner Puppy class after reading the Yelp reviews. Originally,
I was going to opt for SF Puppy Prep or the SPCA, but was deterred
by the ridiculous prices. So after much contemplation and weighing
the pros and cons, my husband and I decided to take a chance on DOGMASF.
In one word, Dianne's classes are AWESOME. She is very personable
and charming and makes every class fun. Plus, it's so obvious how
much she loves what she does, and she brings her amazing pup Royal
(and sometimes her "senior citizen" dog Truman) to classes
to help train the other dogs. I love that her techniques all revolve
around positive reinforcement; she's adamantly opposed to spanking
your dog or using a choke collar. As our pup is just four pounds,
we don't want to lay a finger on her or use any painful method,
so it's nice to learn ways to train her that don't include punishment,
but rather rewarding her for all good behavior and ignoring and
crating her when she's bad. My family has had Malteses for 30 years
and never had any success with training any of them. We were beginning
to think, while cute, they were just a dumb breed. But after the
first class, we managed to teach our pup to sit and turn left in
just one day! And many other tricks following that.
I reiterate: Dianne and DOGMASF are amazing, and I doubt this will
be the last class we take with her.
one visit, Dianne saved us and our pup from what could have been
a very unhappy ending.
I grew up with dogs and thought I fully
understood what I was getting into. We bought a lovely purebred
miniature poodle(a breed I know well), and we were madly in love
with him, but he had a horrible resource guarding problem that resulted
in multiple puncture bites to mysself and partner. We were starting
to become afraid of our dog, and had to seriously considering having
him re-homed through our breeder.
In just one visit, Dianne taught us
about how to train our dog, and she gave us a strict protocol and
written instructions about how to work with him over the next few
weeks and months.
We haven't had a single issue since,
and that was nearly a month ago. I fully expected some kind of back
sliding but it hasn't come yet. My dog loves me more than ever,
I can see it in his eyes, and my partner and I can relax and enjoy
him the way we always wanted.
Dianne is a pro; fast responder, smart,
and your dog will love and trust her immediately. I wish there were
six stars on yelp. Thanks Dianne.
it short. All the other Yelpers were right, Dianne with DogmaSF
is simply the best! She loves her job and the dogs she works with
and you can tell! She has a silly and fun personality which makes
working with her such a joy.
recently moved to San Francisco in March 2010 to start a brand new
job. I lived in temporary housing in Potrero Hill close to work,
but there was no way i was going to be able to get away to take
my dog out. I searched high and low, talked to many different dog
walkers and was very disappointed until I met Alex and Dianne. They
were professional, advised me on how they would handle the walks,
and worked with me to set up a daily schedule. They went out of
their way to welcome me and my dog to San Francisco. I would still
be using Alex's service if I didn't move to the North Bay for my
permanent housing situation. "We miss U Alex"!!! Call
them today if you want someone to treat your dog like a member of
i have a puppy who started displaying some resource guarding and
who is also super hyperactive whenever people come over or just
all the time.
dianne is the only one who responded and actually i am sooo glad
that no one else did because i love her. before accepting my puppy
as a client she asked me a ton of questions to make sure we were
a good fit and to be certain she had the time to give all her attention
to helping us out. she even stated from the start that if she couldnt
provide me with the assistance i needed, she would refer me to people
before our first meeting,
many many exchanges were made via email which was great because
i could really see that dianne was trying to understand my situation
and really putting in the work to come up with a game plan that
is appropriate for me.
i've had two meetings so far
with dianne and it's been great. i see how good she is with my puppy
and she makes it really easy for me to know what to look for and
what to expect from my puppy. she even writes up notes for me to
follow, just in case i forget what she tells me during our sessions.
there's been definite progress and i'm learning what i've been doing
wrong or right and moving forward. dianne is very encouraging and
also realistic in her approach. i have a herding dog and a hypersensitive/hyperactive
one apparently, so she's teaching me ways to deal with him that
she's great! and she comes
to my home for the training which makes more sense because that's
when my puppy gets the craziest. and her fees are reasonable too!
May & Sammy
highly recommend Dianne to anyone with a puppy, adolescent or adult
dog – whether you are looking to address basic issues or serious
negative behaviors, or if you are interested in moving on to more
advanced obedience or rally training...My dogs Shiloh and Zoe the
sheepdog love her! And that is the best recommendation anyone can
over to my house for a consultation with my Maltese Zeus. it was actually
pretty fun and we learned a lot. she has a good energy and our dog
loved her (as did we.). She spent a lot of time with us (almost 1
1/2 hours) for the same price and taught us a few tricks to use for
his bad behavior. this gal clearly loves animals and it shows. “
rescue graduated from six weeks of training, and I must admit, she's
much better now at some things than she was before. She sits, she
stays, she waits. She leaves it. Diane has a sense of humor - very
much needed when you are surrounded by people yelling 'no!, sit! stay!
Dammit!!' all evening long.
She's got tough love, she's fantastic. Take her classes ...“
|“I had so
much fun in Dianne's small dog class. My dog not only learned the
basics of good behavior, but also how to make doggy friends and let
strangers pet her! (Luna was a rescue dog from Grateful Dogs Rescue
who fostered her when the SPCA wouldn't take her because of her shyness.
So she has really come along way!) Dianne also provided me with a
lot of insight into dog behaviors and socializing.”
rave enough about Dianne at Dogma and her doggie training classes.
We have two shy+unruly puppies who now are total social butterflies
with a ton of confidence. They actually sit, come, heel, etc now and
they totally mind! …..She's totally trained, licensed and the
best teacher we've ever met. Our boys had graduation last night--and
we can't wait to sign them up for more.“
Dianne is a one of a kind dog trainer. She is very creative and
gives great tips for those hard to train dogs. I love taking her
classes. She finds fun ways to teach everyday training applications.
She also is wonderful at bringing out the best in owners and their
dogs. Also, Dianne is just an excellent source when it comes to
dog training because she has had such a wide aray of experience
in the dog training field. Her own dogs can even speak volumes on
what a top notch trainer she is.
Dianne has been the most amazing friend to our family! Our 11 year
old golden retriever has been going out with Dianne's playgroup
for 3 years, and she has kept him active, socialized and playful.
In addition, she provides great advice in terms of care, training,
etc. She is the best!!!
I have a very high energy bundle of white speeding fur of an American
Eskimo dog named Mia that I was looking to get into a class because
I was beginning to think that maybe I had done something wrong with
her or totally blew it in her training by not taking her to a puppy
class or something.
She was trying EVERY last
nerve my family members' patience w/in the household. She would
be circling feet, jumping and barking when they would come in the
house ... generally acting the fool, barking, nagging whining crying
squealing like a little brat to get her way. (attention.)
Her attention span is SO low
sometimes (almost all the time even) and she is VERY easily distracted
that when there's something exciting going on (ie: family member
coming into the house (and lord help them if they had bags), or
someone walking by the car while we're out for a ride, or someone
else walking by on the street when we would be out for a walk, god
forbid there be another animal) that I am basically as good as dead
to her and she will pay complete attention to whatever else is going
on. This became very irritating when people in the house were coming
in and she's squealing around and jumping, trying to get attention
from them and would NOT listen to a WORD I said. I mean "sit",
"stay", "down"... anything I tried, I was basically
talking to a wall.
So I contacted Dianne and
she was kind enough to take time out of her day to meet us to evaluate
Mia at my request because I was concerned about which class would
be better for us to sign up for.
We had not taken ANY classes before, and everything that miss Mia
knew was because I had taught her on my own or with my sister. Dianne
was even kind enough to guide us through the city on the phone (because
I for some reason got LOST?!) and she gave her HONEST opinion of
Mia and her behavior, and even brought along her own dog Truman.
(He gave Mia the sniff of approval lol :D)
Dianne ended up recommending that we enroll into the Intermediate
class instead of her Beginner class based on what she saw from Mia
when we met up because Mia already knew the things that would be
taught in the Beginner class.
I was thoroughly impressed
that given the option to tell us to sign up for the Beginner and
THEN the Intermediate class, Dianne told us that we could just go
ahead and skip the Beginner class and go straight for the Intermediate
(but gave the option to take beginner if I wanted). She totally
didn't try to make a buck off of us by telling us to sign up for
the Beginner when we didn't need to based on Mia's skill set.
I was VERY impressed by that. Honesty!! That's tops. Totally could
have ripped me off and didn't. Awesome.
I was also very impressed
that Mia didn't bark up a storm and want to run away from Dianne.
There was no fear on Mia's part about Dianne, and she was quite
fine w/Dianne's vibe to go over and sniff hello. Dianne loves dogs
and the dogs can tell that she does.
The class was great!! I didn't
know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. The class was
held in the Pet Food Express on Market Street in an enclosed area
in the back and Dianne kindly gated off the entrance while we were
in class. Each dog (6 'students' and Dianne would bring one of hers,
so 7 dogs in the 'classroom') had their own mat to go to. We did
a lot of work on leash and also in the store, and for the off leash
work we were primarily in the store/aisles.
The dogs did great. I was
very proud of Mia, she did so well in the class, and I think she
totally "GOT IT" that we were in a class and she was to
do what we had to do and not mess around. She seemed to get bored
and want to work work work and would start whining and fidgeting
so I would have to kneel down and do some 'high-five'/'downs'/'stays'
or SOMEthing to get her to do things for me so that she was occupied
and not whining interrupting the class so that I and everyone else
could hear Dianne's explanation of homework or other instruction.
Class had a mix of breeds/sizes;
Husky, Labradoodle, Pit bull, Yellow Lab,Bichon, and of course my
little Eskimo. There were no dog fights, no unruly behavior. (And
even when the Lab started up his excitement yapping and then Mia
started barking along, we learned a few tricks to distract them
to quiet them down and praise the quiet and not be (TOO) disruptive.)
Dianne gave us advice/instruction
tailored to OUR dogs. Not a generic response that was supposed to
go for all dogs. She took the time to get to know each dog and was
able to read their body language to tell us what direction or approach
we should be using w/OUR dog while training. I thought that was
Definitely a happy customer
and would definitely take another class or two or three from Dianne.
Mia misses her Tuesday evening funtimes with Dianne!!
Also impressed that Dianne
has her own dogs in Agility etc., she knows how to train a dog and
isn't just someone trying to make a quick buck, she knows her ish.
We Heart Dogma!
DIANNE IS THE
BEST! My golden retriever has been a client of Dianne's for 4 years.
He's a senior citizen and Dianne takes every precaution with him
to ensure his health and safety. She's gentle, caring, and kind.
My dog first he was part of her morning field trips to Fort Funstun.
He's now 13 1/2 and I credit these daily trip to him aging so well
and still being very mobile. We have now moved out of the city and
I hated leaving Dianne. However, we do still see her when she dog
sits for us. I trust her so much I drive 2 hours round trip to make
sure my dog is in her care. I wouldn't leave him with anyone else.
Your dog would be lucky to be a client of such a wonderful person
Dianne is truly
amazing. I met Dianne about 2 1/2 years ago through a beginning
dog training class at the SPCA. I had adopted Finley, an australian
cattle dog, a few weeks before when her first owner (my best friend)
passed away unexpectedly. Finley and I were both a mess from the
loss and Dianne truly took us both under her wing. Finley fell in
love with Dianne (and Dianne's dogs) from the first moment they
met and Dianne helped me gain confidence and skills that I could
take care of Finley and help her have a good life with me. Dianne
was patient, kind, encouraging and loving in her work with us. We
continued to work with her both at the SPCA for agility and weekly
at DogmaSF classes. Finley came to me with almost no training and
absolutely no recall. Now she can safely play at dog parks without
me being afraid she'll run away and she's even been out with Dianne's
dog group at Fort Funston many times and done well. Finley has all
her basic manners down and even a few tricks learned. She came to
me a very scared, timid dog who spooked easily and is now happy
and confident. Dianne taught me how to teach Finley and how to read
her needs and has been there for us many times in the last few years
when I have questions about Finley's behavior or even her general
health care. Dianne is a wealth of knowledge and she is happy to
share it. Finley and I met her at a really difficult time in both
of our lives and I believe Finley wouldn't have made such a wonderful
adjustment to live in a big city (she came from Wyoming) and I wouldn't
have had any idea how to make sure she was challenged and how to
best meet her needs. She has always gone above and beyond with her
training, answering my many questions and reassuring me when i'm
not sure what to do. She is Finley's guardian angel and we can't
say enough good things about her. If you want a trainer who will
take the time to understand both what your dog needs and what you
need as a student, you can't go wrong with Dianne - she's the best.
|Dianne is a guardian
angel for dogs and their humans!
From the first moment we met
during a private session and she began working with my energetic
Boston Terrier , it was evident she knows her stuff and loves what
she does. My dog knew it too!
My dog and I just finished
the 6 week basics class. An exceptionally positive and enjoyable
experience for both of us.
Dianne spoke to each dog's needs in a direct, open manner. Each
dog and their owner was set up to win
I hope every dog and their
owner has the opportunity to experience the pleasure of working
San Francisco, CA
My husband and I met Diane about 3 years ago when we had become new
doggie parents. Our dog was the smallest in the class! She was so
very sensitive and kind. She went out of her way. When the day of
graduation arrived we presented her with a lovely bouquet of flowers.
This was certainly not enough but it was a heartfelt gift! Our dog
viewed our cat as his mommy and the year following our first meeting
with Diane our cat passed and our dog went into depression. Again
Diane came to the rescue! We adopted a puppy and noticed that our
first puppy's behavior was changing and again Diane was right there
for us always returning our emails. We are looking forward to sending
our new doggie son to meet Diane! She is a professional person who
makes you feel at ease with your questions and concerns. She continues
to be extremely approachable . Many Barking Thanks!
IT DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER THAN DIANE AND DOGMA!!!
We recently finished our basic
class with Dogma. And, I say WE, because Diane was effective in
training both ME and MY PUPPY. Diane has an incredible way with
Dogs. It amazed me how she could have dogs of differing ages, sizes
and temperament...all in one class...to great effect. WE learned
so much. Diane gave both me and my beloved Serenity great confidence.
And, we are looking forward to more classes. Thank You Diane!
Betty & Serenity
Dianne was the trainer for our German Shepherd dog, in 2008 She
was recommended by the local SPCA here in San Francisco. Dianne
spent many sessions with us and we are extremely happy with her.
She was very responsive, worked with us on the scheduling of the
classes, was always very pleasant to deal with and, most importanly,
came across as very competent. She also seems very familiar with
the different options that one has for dog training and she helped
us with our future plans for our dogs. In summary, we had a very
good experience with Dianne and we certainly recommend her work
Very much so, indeed..
San Francisco, CA
Dianne is THE BEST!!! She was recommended to me by the Humane Society
of Santa Clara as the best trainer in the San Francisco area, and
I have to agree (I've worked with other trainers before-briefly-whose
methods were questionable)! My dog Zoey has gone through the beginning
and intermediate courses with Dianne, and we will be taking our
new puppy to her classes very soon. The classes were well organized,
the dogs all learned so much, and it was incredibly fun for both
us (the doggy parents) and the dogs. Dianne is not only a fantastic
trainer with solutions to every little training problem, but she
is very sweet and loves everybody's dogs. Dianne's classes are comprehensive,
easy to follow and totally fun! I cannot recommend her more highly,
and I only hope that she adds more classes in the future!
I'm a clinical Psychologist. And you would think I would Know a
little sumptin about dog behavior. But when I adopted LuLu a rescue
Boston with Seperation Anxiety I realized I knew nothing and needed
a Pro especially after she ate through my leather couch and wooden
I came across Dianne by accident
by signing up for the next SPCA class and she was our teacher. She
was amazing and I hired her after the class for private lessons.
She bends over backwards for LuLu and can read a troubled dog as
well as I can read people. She sees their behavior coming a minute
before the dog themselves know they are going to do it.
Now LuLu and I can live in
harmony and I have a well trained dog that will be an important
part of my family for the rest of her life!
San Francisco, CA
Diane at Dogma has been a savior to me and my beloved boy Buddy.
When I first adopted my pit -bull 5 years ago, not being a "dog
person" at all, I was lucky to find Diane through the referral
of a friend. She has been so amazing with Buddy, caring and loving
him as much as I do...which is saying alot. Buddy goes to "school"
with Diane 5 days a week and he loves every minute of it. She has
helped me immensely with any behavioral issue he has had. I can
run by health issues and she has always steered me in the right
direction. Little did I know when I hired a "dog walker"
that I actually got a dog whisperer...and one who cherishes my sweet
boy. I highly recommend Diane to anyone who truly cares about training
their dog properly. Thanks again Diane for everything!!
San Francisco, CA
I cannot recommend Dianne highly enough. She has known our 7 and
a half year old Lab, Lucy, nearly all her life. Lucy has been going
out with Dianne's pack every day to Fort Funston for 6+ years. Dianne
truly has a gift in working with dogs. She has helped us when we
have had issues over the years, such as dealing with changes in
the household (new kid, second dog). Dianne helped us choose our
second dog from the SF SPCA. She knew our situation (preschooler,
exuberant Lab) and what temperament a second dog would need to fit
in with us so everyone would be happy. Bella, our shelter dog, was
very sweet with people, but at first she was was aggressive with
other dogs, barking and lunging when walking on leash. Dianne patiently
worked with us and introduced her to the other dogs in the pack.
In less than a month, Bella was a full fledged member of the pack,
playing and co-existing with the other dogs! It was an amazing turnaround!
She also saved Lucy's life and has my undying gratitude for that.
I had inadvertently left her medication within reach and she ate
a week's worth of pills. The only evidence was a chewed up baggie,
but Dianne immediately figured out what had happened and got Lucy
to the vet in time to have her treated. The best testament to her
skills is the affection the dogs have for her. My dogs look out
the window waiting excitedly for their ride to come so they can
go out and play. And when we have been out and run into Dianne at
the Fort or at Crissy, the dogs see her from way off and go charging
off to greet her, so excited to see her.
San Francisco, CA
had worked with another trainer in the area that used fear/pain
tactics to train- not the type of training I was looking for. Furthermore,
the dog trainer may have been effective in class, but he completely
failed to train ME, so as soon as we got home, Kona would fall back
into his old behaviors. I ended up "dropping out" of that
class half way through.
That is when I ran into DogmaSF
and within the first 15 minutes of our 1st class, I knew that Diane
would be successful in every way my previous trainer had failed.
She is not there to train your dog- although she will help, she
is there to train you on how to train your dog. The only way I can
explain it is that she taught me not only how to read my dog, but
how to successfully communicate what I want from him. This way,
no matter what the task, I could take what I learned in class and
apply it to whatever I needed at home.
During training I informed
her that I was having problems with Kona jumping when guests enter
my home. She came to my home and helped me and my roommate deal
with the situation. Then she spent some extra time with my roommate
to help her understand how to work with Kona to get him to understand.
It was so helpful and helped to put my roommate at ease with a 50lb
I enjoyed her methods so much
that I enrolled for the intermediate class, where we were able to
hone our awesome skills.
Before DogmaSF, I was at a
point where I thought I might have to find another home for Kona.
However, with her help Kona became a "good dog", but more
importantly she got us to a point where we could bond and he became
an indispensable part of my life. She is encouraging, supportive,
I highly recommend her for
any amount of training- from touching up on recall to doesn't understand
"no", she'll help you learn your dog and bring your relationship
with him to a whole new level.
San Francisco, CA
were desperate for someone to help with our new rescued dachshund
who wanted to kill every other animal it saw, including our 2 dogs
and cat. She really gave us hope and skills, especially the parts
about learning to read your dog. It gave us freedom to improvise
as we saw him improve. She has been with us for each important step.
We liked that she has enough confidence in herself to refer us to
the SPCA growly dog classes for tips and exposure to other dogs.
It only took 3 weeks for our Sonny to fall in love with his other
canine companions and today he accepted our best friends dogs into
his house-no sweat (she was here to guide us). We still have leash
and off leash work but we know it will be a success. Her email contact
and help is just as awesome as the in person training. Desperate,
we engaged her without even asking what it would cost--and were
shocked at how reasonable it was.
San Francisco, Ca.
enjoyed our weekly classes with diane.
my dog, colt, was the youngest pup in the class (8 mos.)
but she knew just how to get and keep his attention
and taught me and my boyfriend how to do the same.
(actually, DOGMA SF should be under a "people training"
she obviously loves dogs and is really good at what she does.
we'll continue to work with colt using the techniques
learned at DOGMA.
and once we see that all three of us are getting the basics down,
and committed to working together we'd go back for more classes.
THANKS DIANE!!!! xoxoxo
I can't say
enough good things about Alex and Dianne. They've been taking care
of my black lab Peja for almost a year now. My dog has a bit of
fear aggression and has been to a behaviorist a few times. She's
a great dog, but really needs structure to keep her happy and Alex
has given her just that and a lot more. I spent 2 weeks searching
and interviewing people to take care and walk peja when I moved
to the city, but I pretty much knew I found the right one when I
spoke to Alex and Dianne. To be fair, it was really Dianne and Alex
interviewing peja and I instead. I've worked pretty long hours since
then and occasionally travel for long periods for work. As much
as I hate leaving Peja, knowing that Alex and Dianne are there for
her really keeps me at peace. I can't thank them enough.
San Francisco, Ca 3/8/10
of our favorite stores, books, animal shelters & rescue
orginizations, & dog friendly hang outs.
training classes, adoptable dog's & cats and so much
more. DOGMA'S Roosevelt was an SFSPCA rescue dog!
online resource for adoptable pets all over the country.
DOGMA'S Truman was a Petfinder rescue dog.
dogs and dog stories
- Eddie's Wheels~Dog
Wheelchairs. DOGMA'S Ed loved his eddie's wheels!
- Pet Food Express~BEST
Pet store in San Francisco. Pet & people friendly
shopping, resources,education and community all under
one roof. No ridiculous boutique prices.
- Pet Expertise~
Great prices and selection, this is where dog trainers shop
for training and general dog products online. $5.00 flat
rate shipping on all orders!
Trainers, Training Classes, Behaviorists & Dog Walkers.
- Dog Trainer Kim
Moeller, private dog training & group dog walking. San
Francisco/Bay Area moellerdog.com
By Dianne Panarella
I have a lot of goals
for my three rescue dogs. Most importantly, I want them to
be healthy and happy, which depends on them being polite and
friendly members of the family and community. I want to be
able to let them off leash at the beach to explore, swim,
and play fetch, and have them come immediately when I call.
I want to compete with them in agility, herding, rally, and
obedience and I want to do therapy visits with them.
These are all things
my dogs and I love to do, but they would be impossible without
a strong foundation of awareness and attention. This is why
the basis of every behavior I train for my own and my clients'
dogs is consistently keeping an eye on and checking in with
their human companions. Paying attention to you is the first
thing your dog should learn.
Of course, the goal
is not to have your dog just sit and stare at you constantly,
but he should be aware of your movements and want to check
in often. Ideally, he will have a genuine interest in silently
keeping track of everything you do and will want to know where
you are at all times.
This behavior seems
to be factory installed with some dogs. We adopted Sookie
last fall, and from day one she has been a dog who checks
in with me constantly, no matter what we are doing. Out on
hikes, she turns to look at me if I so much as hesitate with
a footstep, and she frequently breaks away from what she is
doing to look at me briefly. This doesn't mean she is following
me around, worried about where I am or begging for attention
or food, not at all. She is an active, social dog, but she
is always aware of where I am and responding silently to my
movements. My other two dogs are the same, but it took some
training with them.
Even the most distracted
dog can learn this essential behavior. A case in point is
Sparkle, one of my private training clients. She is a well-behaved,
focused, and sweet dog when she is with her family inside
the apartment. Outside, though, she turns into a raging ball
of excitement and aggression. She barks and lunges at other
dogs, pulls relentlessly on leash, changes direction wildly,
and pays no attention at all to the person walking with her.
She is, in short, completely distracted, so the first thing
I have to teach her is to pay attention to who is at the other
end of the leash. My training tools for our session are a
thin leather leash, a gentle leader, a clicker, and a variety
of treats and rewards.
We start our training
in the elevator. I ask her to sit facing me, then click and
reward her with a tiny tidbit of chicken or freeze-dried liver,
or offer her a toy for a quick game of tug. I do this every
time she looks at me, about 25 times before we arrive at the
lobby. When the elevator door opens and again at the door
of the building, I have her sit, click, and reward her for
Next, I simply wait
until she looks at me and, whenever she does, I immediately
click and reward her. We repeat this about 40 times, until
she is looking at me about every three to five seconds. Things
are going well, and as we start to walk I say her name once
and click and reward her for looking at me.
My goal now is for her
to check in with me in some way every eight to ten seconds
as we walk. I will reward her for check-ins as simple as a
quick glance over her shoulder, turning her body to match
the direction I am facing, or stopping even for a millisecond
if I hesitate in my footsteps. I do not hold food in my hand.
I do not say her name or nag her to pay attention. I look
for the subtlest orientation from her towards me, such as
an ear flick or eye turn, anything that indicates an interest
in me, then immediately click and reward her before moving
on. I reward her subtle attention rather than nagging her
so that she will not get stressed or annoyed. I am training
her to actually enjoy checking in frequently.
In the next phase of
training, I become unpredictable. I stop moving for no reason,
I hide in doorways or behind trees, all while still holding
the leash of course, of course. This prompts her to keep a
closer eye on me, because I clearly don't know how to walk
down the street by myself. Her check-in interval improves
to a consistent three to five seconds!
On the block where her
apartment building is, this brand new checking-in behavior
gets more challenging because Sparkle is excited and distracted.
We spend an extra ten minutes working on it, until she is
calm and easily focusing on me. We go through the same process
at the door of the building and in the elevator that we did
As we walk up to her
front door, she looks at me every step of the way, sits politely
at the door until her leash comes off, then goes inside for
a long drink of water. I leave her sleeping it off in her
We've made a great start
on building our foundation behavior and we have another training
walk scheduled for every day this week. Sparkle is well on
her way to becoming a calmer and more focused outdoor companion
for her family, which improves everyone's happiness quotient.