Category Archives: Training


There’s a new sport in town and it’s called Nosework! One of our regulars, Sammy, started a 6 week course in this sport and came to Dawg House right after his class.  He seemed thrilled! He is also one of the dogs that will spend 15+ minutes in the parking lot early Tuesday and Thursday mornings just sniffing, so we’re not surprised!

Nosework has only been around for a couple years, and most competitions occur in California and New Mexico; a local trainer looks to change that.  JJ Belcher teaches the class on Thursday mornings from 9am-10am at Canada del Oro Riverfront Park at 551 W. Lambert Lane in Oro Valley.  He is hoping to expand his class offerings and have a Saturday morning class in the near future.

During the beginning classes, the dogs work with food.  JJ Belcher sets up a bank of plastic bins and places a treat in one of the bins.  The idea is for the dog to find it, and then of course, they get to eat it. Each dog is only given about 5 minutes to do so because it’s important for the dog not to lose interest.

After the dogs have the process down, they move to Q-tips that are dipped in essential oils.  The three scents they use are birch, clove and anise.  And, of course, are given a treat when the scent is discovered. After a dog has mastered the bins, the search area is expanded.  For competition,  the area can be as large as a large parking lot.

The wonderful thing about this type of competitive sport is that any age dog can participate.  From an 8 week old puppy to a senior dog—they only have to use their nose.  It’s a fun and challenging sport for any age and fitness level.

For more information, please contact the Oro Valley Parks and Rec Dept at 229-5050.  They can answer any questions about upcoming classes, and also get you registered if you are interested.

Thanks to Sammy’s parents for letting us know about this great addition to the Tucson dog community!


Specialty Shows and All Breed Obedience + Rally Trials

The German Shepherd Dog Club of Southern Arizona is holding a Specialty show along with an ALL BREED Obedience and Rally Trial on April 13, 14 + 15th!

There will be events on all three days, and registration will be open until March 28th, 2012.

The events will be unbenched and held outdoors at the Hotel Tucson City Center/Inn Suites Boutique Collection Suite Hotel located at 475 N. Granada in downtown Tucson.

In addition to the Show and Trials, there will be Canine Good Citizen Testing on both Saturday and Sunday, and will cost $10.  Sign up sheets for the CGC test will be available at the Show + Trial.

Additional information is available in our lobby, including a pamphlet highlighting all the different competitions and awards.  Thanks to Zoose and family for letting us know about this great event!

New Addition + Gentle Leader

A couple of weeks ago, Christopher and I welcomed a new addition into our family.  She is an almost 1 1/2 year old Australian Shepherd mix.  She came with the name “Miss Bella”, but didn’t seem particularly attached or responsive to Bella, so we renamed her Clio (at the suggestion of my 6 year old niece).  My first dog’s name was Bella, so it didn’t feel right anyway.

The first couple of days when she joined us on our family morning walks,  I leashed up Finnegan with the Gentle Leader that I used every time I walk him.  Clio only weighs 40 lbs, though….how much trouble could she be? I hooked the leash directly to her collar and off we went.

Saw our first bird—she went ballistic.  Saw our first dog behind a fence—she went ballistic.  Saw a dog about 100 feet away—you guessed it.  During the week, Christopher and I walk the dogs alone, and he was having the same experience.  Her form of ballistic was quite graceful and ballet-like…flipping into the air while “singing” in a LOUD falsetto voice. Not what I was going for at all.

So, off to the pet store to get a Gentle Leader.  So many people through the years of owning Dawg House have asked me about leash training.  It is quite common to simply want to go for a nice walk with your dog,  and have it quickly turn into a nightmare.  Reactivity on the leash happens all the time; the Gentle Leader can really help with that.

In addition to preventing your dog from pulling (it works much like a horse bridle and reigns—your dog pulls and he/she ends up pulling herself in a circle, back at you), but it also works with pressure points on the dogs head to give a calming effect.  You have complete control of your dogs’ head as well, so if they are helping themselves to one of life’s many “treats” they may find on the ground, you can immediately pull their snout away.

This gadget really works so well…and most dogs take to it pretty immediately.  Occasionally, you’ll get some protest…but once your dog realizes that putting the Gentle Leader on means WALKIES!!, they get over that pretty quickly.  It also gives the advantage of choosing if you want to simply go for nice walk for exercise and fun, or for a training walk to work on commands and control with your dog.  You can do either immediately, and that changes everything.

So, got home with the Gentle Leader (in a medium! I’ve never had a dog this small since my childhood dog Winston!), put it on her…and her entire demeanor changed.  I think it actually gave her a physical reminder that there were boundaries, and she needed that SO badly.  She didn’t need to be so wild and out of control and it visibly made her more content.

Now…if it would only help to teach her boundaries in the house…”No, Clio, whatever is on the kitchen counter is NOT a snack for you…”

Radiolab: Dogs Gone Wild

RADIOLAB is one of our very favorite podcasts around here, and since this week’s episode focuses on dogs, we thought it might be nice to share! Here’s a description of the episode and link, where you can listen online or download to your ears….

In ourNew Normal episode, we talked to evolutionary biologist Brian Hare about what happens to animals when they get domesticated. In this podcast, we turn that question around and wonder about the remnants of wildness in our household pets.

When Lulu Miller first heard the call of coyotes as a teenager at her family’s cabin in Cape Cod, she loved the sound—it was a thrilling taste of a world that hadn’t been tamed. But one night, she and her family came back to the cabin to find that their much loved, and very domesticated, terrier Charlie was missing. When they called him, they heard a loud yelp from the forest, followed by a chorus of howls … and never saw Charlie again.

Lulu and our producer Soren Wheeler talk to Brian Hare about what he thinks might’ve happened to Charlie and ask him whether a domestic animal can ever really return to the wild. To explain, he tells them the strange tale of the New Guinea Singing Dogs.

Dog Daycare Goals and Perceptions

Dawg House dawgs have individual and diverse personalities, levels of energy, play and relaxation styles, mental and physical stimulation needs. Under one big roof, in essentially one big indoor dog park, we work hard to address all those things. We also try to find out what your long and short-term goals are as the mom and dad, and work toward those!

1. Some dawgs have a ton of energy every day, all day, and need to “get out the crazies” with other dogs on a regular basis. These dogs play hard and fast at daycare and need a human referee to make sure they play safe.

2. Some dawgs are shy or introverted, and need some dawg-and-human time outside of what their mom and dad can provide on a regular basis. Daycare is all about socialization: we specifically work toward the positive socialization of dawgs in a pack environment. Being exposed to other dawgs and humans in an outside-of-the-home environment on a regular basis is important for building confidence and providing mental stimulation.

3. Some dawgs have boundary issues or other social quirks that could use adjustment or refining. Maybe they need reinforcement with training issues like jumping up on people, “demand” barking, a too-aggressive play style, or just learning how to play well with others. We work very hard at Dawg House, refining play styles and setting boundaries in a social environment. We also work hard reinforcing good play styles with positive feedback.

Most dawgs have a little of all of these things in their personalities. Most dawgs could use some reinforcement in their basic training (sit, stay, no bark, down, off), positive reinforcement in their play style (good job, Mr. Pickles!), social exposure to other dawgs in a supervised, safe pack environment, mental and physical stimulation, and just a nice change of scenery with friends.

We know that folks watch the Dawgie Cam from work and home, and often have questions or concerns about what they observe. On any given day, you can watch dawgs playing hard and fast, relaxing in a group nap session, sniffing and wrestling, and you can see how humans regulate these activities.

We get questions about what people see. Maybe Mr. Pickles doesn’t seem to be as perky as usual – this could be that they’re just easing into things, or waiting for a different group to play with, or just watching. Maybe Mr. Pickles hasn’t been on cam after a particularly aggressive play session – this could mean they’re resting in another area, or a human has given them a neutral ‘time out’ to regulate the energy level of the group. Maybe a wrestling match looks a little fierce – not to worry – a human is always paying attention, watching and listening for warnings that things might be too heated.

As “dog behaviorists” we do our best to address both long-term and short-term dog daycare goals. A short term goal might be “I need Mr. Pickles nice and tired tonight because I’m having people over for dinner.” A long term goal might be “Mr. Pickles has been skittish around other dogs, and I want to make sure to reinforce positive interactions with him by bringing him to daycare.”

There are some mis-conceptions about how this works, however. We do try to communicate to new clients that it is best to bring your dog regularly in order that they get used to dog daycare, the pack environment, the human referees, and all that goes with the daily cycle. As dogs become regulars, we try to reinforce longer-term goals like basic training commands, positive play, and how to adjust to an ever-changing pack. Dawgs do need to come on a regular basis in order for these reinforcements to become natural and habitual. They forget, and they get out of practice. A skittish dog that takes a couple of weeks off or has a bad experience at the dog park or on a walk may take a few steps back and need to catch up on their confidence all over. We don’t pressure folks to come more often, but we do emphasize the importance of positive, regular social exposure.

More on how these things work in future blog posts… and we’d love to hear feedback from you!



The Dog Who Knows 1,000 Words

“For one amazing dog, the words “sit,” “fetch,” and “roll over” aren’t the limits of her language — they’re only the beginning. Six-year-old female border collie Chaser has been trained by her owner to understand more than 1,000 words, along with simple sentences.”

Chaser and Neil deGrasse Tyson

“Chaser’s owner, John Pilley, has spent years training and testing the limits of her intelligence. The 82-year-old psychology professor used children’s toys and other objects to teach Chaser nouns, and she’s still learning new things.”

“The flexibility we see in dogs seems to be very similar to what you see in young children at a very important age in their development,” said animal researcher Brian Hare at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.

“Hare studies primates, including chimps and bonobos, which have shown the ability to learn sign language and solve sophisticated problems. But their learning is slow compared with Chaser’s ability to quickly learn and recall new words.”

Text from ABC: World’s Smartest Dog

See a GREAT video with  Neil deGrasse Tyson on NOVA Science Now