Few things can shake a dog owner more than seeing their dog in a fight with another dog. . .

But no matter how hard you try to prevent them, or how good of friends two dogs may be, dog fights can happen.  One of the things that every dog owner should know is how to break up a fight in a safe way so that neither you nor your dog sustains injury.  To stop a fight in it’s tracks, memorize these four simple steps:

Collect loose dogs who are not part of the fight to prevent mobbing.   Just like when boys fight in a school yard, there are always the loudmouths who don’t actually get involved in the fight, but will stand around egging the fighters on.  Guess who it helps?  Nobody!  So in order to prevent the fight from becoming larger, grab all dogs who are not part of the actual altercation and remove them from the situation.

Try to startle the dogs.  95% of dog fights will break up if the dogs are startled by something.  Start by making a loud noise like clapping your hands or shouting ‘No!’   If this doesn’t work, grab a bowl or bucket of water and dump it on the dogs.

If distraction techniques do not work, you will have to physically break the dogs up.  It is best if you have one person for each dog.  Note: do not grab dogs by collars or necks/faces to avoid having the dog turn and bit you. One person should grab each dog from the hips, pinching and holding the loose skin between their belly and legs (There’s a pressure point there.  It will hurt when you pinch it, but it will cause the dog to open his mouth to yelp, allowing you to pull him back without ripping the skin of the other dog.) and pull out of the fight, wheelbarrow-style.

Hold each dog back until you can secure them away from each other.

Now the fight is over, what do I do?

Separate the fighting dogs from each other for at least the rest of the day.  The dogs need some time to relax and cool off.  Even if the dogs are friendly with each other, introducing them back together too quickly can trigger another fight.  If you were in a dog park when the fight happened, leave the dog park for the rest of the day.

If the relationship between the two dogs seems to have been damaged, re-introduce them slowly and on neutral territory.  Try taking a leash walk together, with one dog per handler.  Leash walking is one of the best relationship building exercises you can do for dogs.  It allows the dogs to do something that is really fun for them, burns excess energy, and allows them to associate something that may now have a negative connotation (the other dog) with something that has a positive connotation (walks, yay!).

If the two dogs continue to target each other and pick fights, it might be time to seek out help from a qualified trainer or behaviorist.  Do your research and make sure that the person you hire is experienced in positive reinforcement-based behavior modification for this kind of issue.

5 Reasons Your City Dog is Happier than My Suburban Dog

5 Reasons Your City Dog is Happier than My Suburban Dog

A close personal friend and client of mind recently lost the love of her life, her 7-year-old Airedale Terrier, to a devastating illness.  These girls were pretty much attached at the hip; they frequented many an outdoor café, strolled through Philadelphia meeting a zillion people (this little Airedale had quite the entourage), and had a great condo in Center City where they entertained often (and I may add, with lots of wine!).  So when she told me that she was ready for another dog and would like to rescue a dog for the first time in her life, I was more than happy to help her find the perfect match!  My friend went on Petfinder and scrolled through the adoptables until she found a little mixed breed that caught her eye.  She quickly filled out an application for the local rescue, and was denied.  Why?  Because this particular rescue does not adopt to city dwellers.  Their specific reason for this application being denied was because they felt that this dog “simply could not be happy or get enough exercise if she did not have a fenced in yard to run in”.

Now, I’m a girl who raised her dogs in Center City until just last year when we moved to the ‘burbs (with a fenced in yard); and while it is convenient to have a little more space, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a couple of reasons why many city dogs that I see are happier than some suburban dogs. . .

5.  No Yard=More Walks!!!  My city dog used to get 3-5 small walks a day to do her business, and then another big walk for exercise after work.  And since I didn’t have a yard, I would go out of my way to teach her tricks, take her to agility school, or do something fun with her; just because I wanted to make sure she got what she needed.   But ever since I moved to the ‘burbs, I’ve gotten lazy!  I’ll admit it’s pretty nice for me to just open the door and let my pup out to do her business in the yard instead of putting on shoes and schlepping her out for a walk at 11pm.  But I do think she misses all of the stimulation.  Not to mention that I’ve gained 10lbs. . . oy!

4.  When you’ve got to pick up every single poop, you know what’s coming out. . . for better or for worse!  It’s gross, but true!  When I lived in the city, not only could I recite to you the last time that Uli had pooped, I could also tell you the size, consistency, and color of said poop.  Therefore, I knew when she was not feeling up to par.  Now, I pick up poop every couple of days or so in our yard.  If there’s a loose one, I don’t know when it’s from.  Gross, but hey, we’re all dog people here; and you know it’s true. . .wink, wink!

3.  Building Friends!!!  When I moved to Philadelphia, I didn’t know a soul.  Thanks to my incredibly dog friendly building and my cute pup, I made friends easily!  Even in the dead of winter, when nobody wanted to go outside, my dog friends and I would have hallway puppy parties.  Basically, 3 or 4 of us would pick a floor of our building, grab a bottle of wine and let our pups zip up and down the hallways at top speed.  I made friends, our dogs got tired, and (except for a few crotchety non-dog owning neighbors who were not amused) nobody really minded. . . it was a win/win!

2.  Frequent shopping trips.  And I’m not just talking one of the many, many pet shops in Center City Philadelphia!  I used to take my city dog shopping with me everywhere.  If she wasn’t allowed in a store, we did not go!

FYI, many of the boutiques in Old City will allow you to bring your well-mannered pup into them while you shop.  As will Urban Outiftters and the North Face Store on Chestnut Street, and all TD Banks in the city.  You’re welcome.

1.  Because wherever YOU are, is where your dog will be happy!  Whether you live in a mansion or a shoebox, all your dog really wants is your attention!  The beauty of dogs is that they don’t care how much money you make, what you wear, or even if you have a fenced in yard.  All they want is your companionship.

So, the next time you wonder if your dog is really happy in the city, think about all of the unique opportunities that city dogs have!  And know that just because their suburban counterparts may have a larger house with more green space, it doesn’t mean that they are any happier or more well adjusted than your own metro dog!

And in an effort to help all of the city dog parents out there, comment below to let us in on some of your favorite city activities that you do with your pups!


In memory of the lovely Delaney Crispino!

–You left us too soon and I will always remember you fondly.

Why Does My Dog Do That?!?

Why Does My Dog Do That?!?

Ok, so if you are a regular reader of my blogs, you know that I am not afraid to dig into some of the indelicate behaviors ok, downright nasty stuff that our pups do!  So today, I’m going to address some of the things that your pooch does that are well, insatiable at best, and what you can do to fix them!

Why does my dog greet everyone by sniffing their crotch?

In dog behavior this is actually very polite!  Dogs have scent glands in their anus.  And by sniffing another dog’s behind, he can quickly tell what age and sex that dog is, along with where he’s been that day and who else he’s run into along the way.  So it’s natural for your dog to do that to humans as well.  Stopping it is a chore. . . you’re best to teach a good sit-stay and redirect your pup when visitors come to the door.

Why is my dog social at the dog park or daycare, but goes crazy and growls at dogs on the leash?

In one word, frustration!  If you’ve got a normally social dog, but you notice him acting out of sorts only when he’s on leash, it may be that he’s upset or frustrated that he can’t go meet every new friend walking down the street.  What to do?  Bulk up on training!  Teach better leash skills through distraction by practicing your stay, focus, and heel commands while on walks.  Joining a group class might go a long way towards teaching Rover to control his impulses while distracted by other pups!

Why does my dog pee a little when people pet or greet him?

Oh, here’s another one of those behaviors that people find icky, but is very gracious if you are a dog!  You see, when a submissive dog meets another dog that he would like to befriend or show that he’s unthreatening to him, he dribbles a little bit of urine in front of the dog as a peace offering.  Great, but how do you stop your pup from dribbling on your expensive area run when people talk to him? Distraction is the best cure.  When addressing your dog, keep the contact calm and unemotional.  The more excited or upset you seem, the better chance of getting one of those ‘polite greetings’.  If your dog is food motivated, walk in the door with a handful of small treats, and before acknowledging the dog, throw the treats on the floor so that your dog forgets about you and scavenges to find the treats.  This may be enough distraction to calm your dog a little and set you up for a successful greeting or getting your dog outside to pee.  One word of advice though. . . yelling at or being stern with a dog who is doing excitement peeing will only make it worse!  If your dog was trying to be submissive before, think what would happen if he thought you were mad at him!!! Oy!

Why does my dog eat poo?

In the biz, this is known as coprophagia. . . but let’s call a spade a spade. . . your dog eats poo!  And vets have found that there’s no medical reason for it.  Behaviorally, there are several reasons that dogs may snack on poo, none of which make it any less icky; most commonly boredom, ‘cleaning up’ after themselves, or simply because they have a taste for it!.  The good news is that poo eating has not been shown to cause any serious medical problems in dogs (although there are several parasites that your dog may pick up if eating other dogs poo that have been affected by them), but that doesn’t make it any less gross.  You can alleviate poo-eating by staying on top of cleaning up after your dog or sprinkling a little meat tenderizer on their food.  The meat tenderizer may taste ok going in, but it makes the poo taste sour to dogs and may prevent them from eating it.

As always, if you’ve got questions about anything your dog does or just want some first-hand advice on animal behavior, don’t be afraid to email us directly!

The Top 5 Signs You and Your Dog Should Take an Obedience Class!

The Top 5 Signs You and Your Dog Should Take an Obedience Class!

Have a dog who could use a little more training?  Who doesn’t?  I tell my clients all of the time that training is more than just a 6-week course, it’s for the life of your dog.  So if it’s been a while since you’ve done any training with your pup, these are the signs that maybe it’s time to get back in the swing of things!

5.  Your dog is sooooo good at home, but gets very distracted outside or at social settings!  This is one of the most common complaints that I get from training clients.  Most peoples’ dogs are great in their own spaces, where the distractions are minimal and predictable.  But a well behaved dog is one who can keep their cool in public places.  So, if you haven’t trained for distractions yet, it’s time to start!  Obedience classes are great for this because you are in a room with other people and dogs at the same level as you are.  It may take a few sessions for your pup to calm down and concentrate. . . but when they do, you will reap the benefits of a dog who is well trained, even in a distracting setting.

Need work on solid ‘off-leash’ behavior?  Try Recall Bootcamp!

4.  The dog park scene has become a little overwhelming for your dog, but you still want to do some safe socialization.  If you read my last blog about dog park socialization, you know that I think that they can be great for some dogs, but not all.  So what if you want to socialize your dog with other dogs in a controlled setting?  Then group classes might be for you!  It’s a great way to make some new, appropriate dog friends for your pup (and maybe even a friend for you)!  The same applies to dogs who are nervous around strangers.  Group classes are a great way to get your dog in a room with some unfamiliar faces in a controlled setting.

3. Your training routine has become stale and it’s time to shake things up a little bit!  Always train at the same place?  Work on the same exercises?  Then jump into a group class!  A good instructor can challenge you with new and exciting exercises to push your pup with!

2. You’re working towards a goal, but need some fresh advice to get you through a plateau.  Just like you can plateau when you are working out, you and your dog can hit plateaus in your training!  And just like at the gym, it is important that you push yourself through these training plateaus.  Whether that means taking a private lesson with an instructor who can offer you some fresh advice, or taking a group class that will make you work a little harder!

1.  It’s time to get your dog a new hobby!  Gone are the days of boring basic obedience training.  If you are looking for something fun and tiring for your dog to do, try one of the many new sports being offered around the city.  Rally Obedience, Therapy Dog Volunteering, Agility, Tre-Ball, Flyball, Canine Freestyle, and Clicker training can seriously spice up your training life.  And when your dog is having fun with training, they are exercising both their brains and their bodies.  You know what that means?  A tired dog!  And who doesn’t love a tired dog?

Find out which class is right for you!

Interested in taking a group class or finding out how or where you can get started with your dog in these activities?  Contact Nicole at and she’ll get you on the right track!

What’s the Big Deal About Crate Training?

What’s the Big Deal About Crate Training?

Last night I took one of those flights that make you wonder whether you are ever going to put your feet on the ground again.  Flying from Atlanta to Philadelphia in the dark in a thunderstorm; the plane was rumbling and shaking all over the place.  I glanced to the woman sitting next to me, and sighed. . . and she said, well at least she’s doing ok. She motioned down and then unzipped a small, black dog carrier which had been sitting underneath her seat.  Out popped the head of a plucky little Boston Terrier named Rally!  Her owner proceeded to tell me that she doesn’t usually crate Rally at home, but they had been practicing in her travel carrier for the last few weeks in preparation for this flight.

Sitting next to the quiet and pleasant dog for those bumpy, nausea-inducing two hours confirmed something to me: that every dog should be taught to use a crate!  Maybe you’re thinking, “Nicole, my dog isn’t going to be flying anywhere, why should I teach them to use a crate?”  Well friend. . . read on to hear about three situations where crating may be absolutely necessary. . .

  • Overnight trips to the vet.  Extended trips to the vet are stressful for so many reasons including ouchy needles, foreign handlers, and strange noises and smells.  One more stressor. . . spending the night in a crate if you aren’t used to it.  But at least you can practice for that last one.  If you condition your dog to accept being in a crate, it’s one less stressor that comes from the stay at the vet.  And your vet will be happy you did it too!
  • Hotel stays.  My dogs regularly go with me to shows, conferences, and vacations.  So there are times when we stay in hotels.  Rule # 1 of every dog-friendly hotel I’ve stayed at . . . when you are out of the room, your dog must be confined to a crate.  Not the type to take your dog on vacation?  Then think about this. . . what if there was a natural disaster and you were displaced for a few days or weeks and had to stay in a hotel?  Better that your dog already knows how to be in a crate than has a crash course at a busy hotel filled with already agitated guests!
  • Visits with non-dog lovers.  Everyone has a friend or family member who is less than thrilled about your bouncy dog begging for snacks at their dinner table.  If you are hosting a party and your dog becomes overstimulated or one of your guests is frightened by or allergic to your dog, you need to act fast.  Crates are a great way of keeping your pup out of the way of people who are not as attuned to their charms as you are.

Now that you understand why it may be important to crate your dog in certain situations, here are some tips to help you get your dog acclimated.

  • Make the crate a positive experience for your dog.  Make sure he’s got lots of toys and special, favorite chew toys to keep him busy in the crate.
  • Start with the crate in the same room as you are sitting and praise your dog when he is calm and quiet inside.
  • Make sure the crate is large enough for your dog to be comfortable inside.  The general rule is that the crate should be large enough for your dog to stand-up, lie-down, and turn in a full circle inside.

So take a tip from Rally’s owner and start your dog on crate training today!  Your dog may never need it, but if they do, you will be prepared!

Need more tips on crate training your dog?  Check out our website at where you can ask one of our certified trainers for advice!

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