Best dog trimmers for thick hair – Things to be concerned!

 thick hair dog trimmerIf you are a pet parent of a dog that has a furry hair and you find it challenging whenever grooming, a trimmer which is full of function and convenience will enable you and your dog to have a better process.

To help you find the best dog trimmer for thick hair after this are recommendations that are worthy of being considered.

5 Cordless dog Trimmers

Wahl Motion Lithium-Ion

With the technology of adjustable 5 in 1 blade mode, lithium-ion battery which allows you to have impressive grooming combined between the long term of use and cordless device in the lightweight.

The charging time is 60 minutes while it lasts for up to 90 minutes brings groomers a cool running, quite a process, and smooth vibration.

Constant speed control is a plus for this trimmer designing to provide more power in a tight area of fur.


  • Automatically motor
  • Battery life (Lithium-Ion)
  • Variety of color
  • Constant speed


  • Single-speed

Wahl Motion Lithium-Ion

Its flexibility shows in 5-in-1 adjustable blade technology to sizes #9, #10, #15, #30, and #40.

Wahl Motion Lithium provides professional power with 5,500 strokes per minute

LED Battery Level Capacity Display helps you know the battery remaining and the charging status


  • Lithium-ion battery
  • Constant speed control
  • Lightweight
  • 90 minutes runtime
  • Quiet and low vibration


  • Single-speed
  • Cord Trimmers

Andis Excel 5-Speed Clippers

Professional high 5-speed clipper delivers 4,500 strokes per minute.

Easy to adjust the mode by one-touch with a variety of status, allowing you to choose the most suitable vibration for your dog.

Replacing and cleaning will be a simple step with detachable blades.

The Andis Excel 5-Speed is available with all UltraEdge, CeramicEdge, and ShowEdge blades, such a multi-selection for professional groomers.


  • Powerful clipper
  • 5-speed control
  • Excellent for the most robust coats
  • Lightest heavy-use trimmer


  • Awkward location of buttons
  • Blade gets hot after continuous use

Andis UltraEdge Super 2-Speed

Andis UltraEdge Super 2-Speed brings the pet owner the use of a quiet and precise and powerful motor. It is available for all coats and breeds, not only the thick hair.

Variety detachable blades allow for versatility. Additionally, it will help you install and clean easily. The clipper delivers 3,400-4,400 strokes per minute. Overall, it operates coolly and remains a long term of continuous use.

This device is recommended by a lot of pros that the Andis UltraEdge range is the best heavy-duty dog clipper with functions available. It should be an intelligent choice if you want to use it for years to save both time and money.


  • Smooth vibration
  • Available for all coats and breeds
  • Heavy-duty
  • Super two-speed rotary motor
  • Shatter-proof


  • Limited in speed

Wahl U-Clip Pro Home Pet Grooming Kit

The most remarkable point is its low price compared to the capacity that brings. The 16-piece kit includes all of the needs for grooming jobs.

Super powerful motor that offers 7,200 strokes per minute, so it generally runs cool with all coats and suitable for the starters helping to clip, trim and groom easily; however, making noise and causing the device gets hot.


  • Reasonable price
  • Heavy-duty
  • Kit included
  • Easy-use


  • Poor adjustable steel blades
  • Noisy and heavy




Type of speeds

Single-Speed Trimmers

It would be a good option for those who are getting started to grooming for dogs and not be very familiar with multiple uses. Single-speed devices are not heating up fast compared to the variable-speed trimmer.

Variable-Speed Trimmers

The pros and specialists tend to use the variable-speed clippers thanks to its versatility, and it enables you to have your dog’s a good appearance.


If you are usually grooming your dog or the number of dogs you have, you should choose a trimmer that has long-life durability. You also consider the blades having a mode of self-sharpening to remain the term of use. To customize the styles of hair, adjustable blades are a must.


Shatter-proof is an ideal choice to save time and money, and it remains your clipper to extend the longevity; it also brings the comfort when using, you do not have to be irritated to have an unstable trimmer. Many options of the model designed with a hard case for storage and protection on the market.

Noise, vibration, and heat

The more powerful the motor is, the more noise it makes. The motor rotates to help to move the blades stay smooth if the device has durable power that may cause a loud noise, a heating blade, and dramatic vibration. It is not a comfortable experience for your dog that is sensitive to noise.

Thickness of dog hair

The dog will have areas with thick hair, and some will have thinner hair that requires a flexible device with speeds adjusted to increase in lush areas and decrease to thinner ones. However, if you can handle to power to cut and skills, a single-speed trimmer is not a difficult problem.


A trimmer with variety and adjustable blades options will help to customize hairstyles and cut according to your plan easily. You should also choose modes with guide combs included being more flexible.



Steps to being prepared to groom a dog with thick hair

Preparations for enough tools

Before starting to trim your dog, all of the grooming tools must be already. Your dog is not expected to be quite to wait for you. It will waste your time looking for a single thing or have to look for your dog.

Of course, the clipper is a first one, pay attention to full charge if you use the cordless trimmer. If you use a corded clipper, be careful to choose a comfortable space to make sure that there is no struggle with the cord.

Additionally, you need to prepare scissors if your dog has long hair, shampoo, clean towels, and a hairdryer is also required items for a perfect job.

Clear and remove mats and tangles

To help your dog start with grooming, propitiating your dog by brushing them to find matted and tangled areas; by doing this before shampooing, it will smooth the process without hurting your dog.

Pre-bath trimming

After clearing and removing mats and tangles, you could start to trim and clip, especially around the chest, hocks, belly, and pads of the feet than other dogs towards thick and long fur. You can also use a hairpin to keep long hair for natural grooming. Because of the sensitivity of the dog’s skin, be careful to the sharpness of the blade and make sure that you do not startle your pet. You are expected to treat and implement grooming jobs handy and slowly to help your dog feel comfortable and cooperate with you.

Brushing/ combing

Before a bath, you need to give your dog a brush to keep the hair smooth and no tangle. For thick and long hair, of course, we will have to make this step more often and longer than other breeds.


Don’t use the faucet instead of a shower. Choose the suitable shampoo for your dog and ensure that it fixes with the dog’s age, and your dog is not allergy with any ingredients of the shampoo. After that, apply the shampoo on your dog, slowly move from the head to the leg and message. Try not to contact to the eyes as much as possible.

Thoroughly rinse with water and make sure that no soap remains.


Use towels for the first dry and then use a hairdryer, you should keep an eye on the heat setting.


Frequently Questions and Answers

Q: How can I maintain my dog trimmer?

A: To maintain and help your trimmer stay stable, do not forget to sharpen, clean usually, and oil the blades.

Q: Should I choose a corded trimmer or a cordless one?

A: If a dog with matted, long and thick hair, the corded clipper will bring you the saving of time and power to have smoothness. However, you can consider if your spaces are limited, you can also choose a cordless clipper to be convenient.

Q: Is it possible if I only trim a severely matted coat instead of brushing?

A: It is not a good idea if you just trim and clip without brushing the dog, if you have not experienced with cutting a severely matted coat, we recommend you should look for a professional because you can hurt your dog.

You can use a comb or brush to clean and remove matted before clipping.


Final words:

All in all, you should consider your dog’s breed and how the thickness of hair your dog is to find the most suitable choice. The key factors are dependable, efficient, and safe. You are better to pay for a device with quite vibration and flexibility in blades that make you and your dog as comfortable as possible. You should also notice the steps to brush, trim, and clip for your dog.

Making the most out of your dog training appointment

“How does this work?” It’s a common question I hear when speaking with new training clients, and refers to the entire training process and the unknowns that come with it:

– Does my dog need to be well-trained?
– Will you reject me and my dog?
– How will I know what to do?
– Can I ask you questions?
– What if I don’t understand?
– What if my dog doesn’t get it right?
– What do I do when a trainer comes to my home?

While some have experience with group classes, many people do not experience private training until they face a problem: house training woes, pulling on leash, barking, aggression. Mix the stress of a misbehaving dog with the uncertainty of how private training works and you have quite the anxiety-producing scenario. And that’s before picking up the phone and giving a trainer a call.

In the next few paragraphs I will address some ways you can make the most out of your dog training appointments, and how you can feel more at ease with the trainer you hire.

1) It’s ok if you’re not perfect

Remember why you hired a trainer: You need help with your dog’s behavior. A good trainer will realize you’re not reaching out because you have a perfect dog. In fact, a good trainer will be interested in your dog’s particular behaviors and will be excited to start working with you.

When speaking with your trainer about your dog’s behavior history, refrain from sugarcoating or omitting important events. Your trainer wants and needs this information to conduct a thorough assessment of your dog’s behavior history and to set appropriate training goals. If you omit an incident where your dog bit another dog or growled at a child, you may save yourself some initial discomfort but risk shortchanging your dog’s chances of success during training.

Good trainers never judge you for your dog’s behavior. If your trainer does this, look elsewhere.

2) Compliance and consistency

Trainers cannot be with your dog at all times. Even if you hire someone to do board-and-train or day training, you’re eventually going to take over the training reins. Because of this, you are crucial when it comes to meeting your dog’s training goals. It’s important to heed your trainer’s instructions regarding homework, managing your dog’s environment, and providing exercise and structure. Behavior modification is not easy. It’s impossible if the parameters are not put in place to facilitate success.

Consistency is also paramount. Just as cramming for an exam yields less than stellar results, training your dog sporadically will produce unreliable, flaky behavior change. If you put in the work a little bit each day and make time in your schedule, the payoffs will be immensely rewarding. You’ll also be much more likely to get your money’s worth out of the training because the your dog’s behavior will improve and stay that way long after the trainer is gone.

3) Ask questions

Find a trainer who welcomes questions. Dog behavior and animal learning are tricky subjects. Good trainers ask their colleagues and teachers questions about these topics all the time, so don’t feel intimidated if you are confused by or don’t understand something. You’ve hired your trainer to teach you how to work and communicate with your dog, not just to fix a behavior problem. A question can make a difference between a successful training session or an unsuccessful one, so be an active learner each step of the way.

4) Record video

One of my colleagues taught me the benefits of using recorded video with training clients. While description can be effective in troubleshooting a particular training plan or assessing a dog’s overall behavior, video can make the assessment much more nuanced. If your dog is behaving a certain way and you want your trainer’s input, take a quick video with your smartphone or camera. Videotape training sessions you have with your dog and share them at your next appointment. Your trainer will be able to provide helpful feedback on your technique and how to address specific behavior scenarios.

5) If you’re uncomfortable, say so

The dog training world is sadly unregulated. Anybody can call himself a dog trainer, despite having no formal training or credentials. Thankfully, there are incredible dog training schools throughout the world and just as many ethical, brilliant trainers. That being said, protect your dog from harmful and ineffective training techniques by researching and interviewing a trainer before hiring her. If you’re in a training session and feel uncomfortable about a technique or protocol that your trainer is asking you to do, say something. Ask what your trainer is doing, and assess whether your dog could be in any pain or fear. Training should be painless and should not elicit fear in a dog.

6) Have fun

Training is a beautiful thing. It creates a stronger bond between you and your dog. If done correctly, your dog enjoys the training sessions and receives great mental enrichment. If you find yourself feeling stressed during a session with your dog, take a breather. If you are so worried about making mistakes that you avoid training altogether, remember: your trainer is there to mentor you. The world doesn’t end if you make little mistakes here and there, so be kind to yourself and your dog.

The power of simplicity when training fearful dogs

“Why worry about basic obedience when my dog is so scared?” It’s a common and understandable question I get from new clients. When faced with a dog who is scared of people, new stimuli, and unable to settle in and out of doors, it’s natural to think of training goals in terms of big chunks. Clients may say, “I want my dog to enjoy her walks,” or “I want to be able to invite my relatives over to my house without them getting snarled at,” or, “I want my dog to stop being afraid of city noises.” When faced with these serious and overwhelming problems, basic behaviors like hand targeting, sit, “leave it,” and down might seem trivial. After all, the goal is to fix the fear, not teach the dog to do tricks, right?

Not quite. While the overarching goal in every fearful dogs’ training plan is to ease fear, there are, in my opinion, three critical “micro-goals” that must be conquered first.

1) The dog learns her behavior can make good things – really good things – happen in her environment.

Dogs are always gauging whether an environment or stimulus is safe or dangerous. They learn through consequences and associations. Since fear is so easy to install and so difficult to erode, they remember the events and antecedents that precede scary things happening to them. Fearful dogs think many things in their world are dangerous. They don’t necessarily trust that a person walking down the street is safe or that the noise of wind blowing through the trees won’t lead to danger. Because their brains are so occupied by this constant “safe or dangerous” calculation, we need to think in terms of patience and simplicity. Starting a training program with basic obedience behaviors teaches dogs that hand prompts, verbal cues and ultimately, their behavior, leads to safe and rewarding consequences.

In the following video, I teach fearful dog Omie to do a “down” during our first session. Because she had little prior experience with obedience, and was also nervous in her environment and with my presence, I needed to start with a behavior that would be simple enough for her to do. I needed to break that behavior down into small enough increments so she received rewards at a high rate. So, I adjusted my criteria so she was first rewarded simply for moving her head downward, and, though repetition, eventually a full down. In between repetitions, I also added in some easy behaviors that she already knew, like “find it” and hand targeting, to set her up for success and build her confidence.

With fearful dogs, it’s not about how fast you can get them to do a behavior. It’s about setting criteria easy enough so they build confidence and feel safer in a scary world.

2) The dog learns coping skills to help her deal with a potentially stressful or fear-inducing situation.

Often, fearful dogs are slow to recover from startling situations. They lack the coping skills that could help them when stress comes their way. What do I mean by coping skills? Anything that lowers a dog’s anxiety and keeps her under threshold. For some dogs, a coping skill could be making eye contact with their owner. For other dogs, it could be a hand target.

The key to teaching coping skills is to give the dogs a history of doing these behaviors in non-stressful environments and giving them impactful, high-value rewards for doing them. When gradually brought into a stressful context, this history of behavior and reinforcement lowers anxiety. Bit by bit, we can turn down the level of a dog’s fear. Fearful dogs don’t do these behaviors on their own to lower their anxiety. Either they haven’t learned them, or they are too upset to concentrate on anything besides their fear. If a dog learns a solid “watch” or a “touch” in a safe space, and realizes that this behavior has a strong reinforcement history, the behavior produces a positive emotional response in the dog. (Think Pavlov.)

By starting with the simplest of behaviors, we can gradually ask dogs to do them in more stressful environments, so that eventually, they are able to focus on a behavior, and receive the positive emotional side-effects, increasing their ability to cope with their world.

3) The dog sets the pace.

In a previous post, I discussed the importance of trust in a fearful dogs’ training plan. One of the most efficient ways to build trust with a fearful dogs is to teach them simple training games and behaviors, and to let them set the pace. Each time a dog gets the behavior right she gets praise and a reward. And because we’re keeping the behaviors simple, she will receive praise and rewards at a very high rate. From a dogs’ point of view, she is learning that you are the purveyor of good things. She also learns that your presence results in safe, positive consequences, not dangerous ones. She learns you will not push her past her comfort zone.

In the same session with Omie, I taught her to target her harness with her nose. She does not yet trust me enough to touch her or place her harness over her head. If I were to push her too fast, I would break our trust. I would not be as safe to her. By keeping things simple she set the pace and let me know when she was ready for a new challenge.

If you have a fearful dog, start small and simple. Don’t discredit the power of basic behaviors and games. Even though a hand target may seem simple to you, it’s a monumental accomplishment for a dog who finds her world a dangerous, unpredictable place.

A dog trainer’s guide to navigating the training wars

sun flare emerges within the dog training community. It’s bright, it attracts attention, causes some explosive interactions and, eventually, burns out. Flares are not necessarily bad. After all, had no flare-ups occurred in the past couple of decades, a majority of trainers might be continuing to use outdated methods. But flare-ups can also be rife with logical traps. The dangers are two-fold:

  • They interfere with our critical thinking skills
  • They have the potential to confuse and mislead dog guardians

While it’s good to question the status quo, many discussions easily dissolve into logical fallacies and poor science. Whether you’re a behavior change professional, a behavior geek, or someone who wants to provide the best life possible for your dog, here are a few pointers on how to solve (and resolve) flares when you see them occur within the dog training community:

Where’s the evidence? 

We owe our dogs real science. Real science is peer-reviewed and backed by evidence. Real science is not based on conjecture, opinion, or personal stories. Nullius in verba. Demand evidence.

Beware logical fallacies

We’re all susceptible to logical fallacies, whether making one of our own or believing someone else’s. If you’re aware of potential missteps ahead of time, you’ll be more likely to catch them in your own patterns of thinking or in someone else’s.

Begging the question: This is an argument that requires the reader to accept the conclusion without providing real evidence. In these cases, the argument’s premise states the same thing as the conclusion, or the argument fails to address critical gaps.

Example: Socializing puppies is the humane, ethical thing to do. Therefore, it’s humane and ethical to socialize puppies.

False dichotomy: An argument that incorrectly paints a situation as having only two choices. The argument then eliminates one of the choices, seemingly leaving the reader with only one remaining option.

Example: Puppy parents have the option to socialize their puppies or avoid socialization altogether. Since puppy socialization can be done incorrectly, puppy parents must avoid socializing their puppies altogether.

Appeal to ignorance: Claiming that due to inconclusive evidence, readers should accept an argument’s conclusion on an issue.

Example: Because the research on puppy socialization is inconclusive and divided, people should accept my conclusion.

Slippery slope: The arguer claims that a chain reaction will take place, often leading to a bad ending, despite a lack of evidence supporting this claim.

Example: If we allow all puppies to continue being socialized, dog owners will continue to socialize their puppies improperly. We will end up with generation upon generation of dogs with behavior problems. To prevent this from happening, we must avoid all puppy socialization.

Beware cherry-picking and single-case studies

Articles that cite studies that support the author’s argument can be misleading. After all, the author’s statements are backed up by citations, so those statements must be correct, right? Wrong. It’s important to consider several factors when reading articles that cite other sources in support of an argument:

  • Are the citations valid?
  • Does the author take a comprehensive look at the literature available, or does the author only focus on citations that support his or her argument?
  • Is the author accurately interpreting the research?

It’s also important to look at single-case studies with a critical eye. While they can be helpful in understanding the context of behavior, beware articles that base arguments solely on personal experience, or one or two ad hoc experiences with dogs.

Remember: While important, personal experience is vastly different from research that has been vetted via the scientific process.

Avoid sweeping generalizations

It’s important to stay informed of the latest research on dog behavior, but it’s equally important to avoid training “trends.” Trends are typically based on popular opinion at the time, and aren’t based on true, hard science. Training trends gain popularity because they “sound good,” are a quick fix, or appeal to a person’s own biases. Trends also put the dog behavior community at risk of making sweeping generalizations about a particular topic.

Whenever you notice a trend emerging in the training community, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where’s the evidence?
  • Is the evidence valid?
  • How are my own biases affecting my interpretation of this trend?

Final note: As trainers, it’s important to realize that how we communicate the latest trends within the behavior community has a vast impact on dogs and their guardians, particularly if others see us as experts in the field. This doesn’t mean we can’t have biases – that’s not reasonable. But it does mean we need to be particularly careful when communicating information about behavior and training. And it also means empowering our own clients with critical thinking skills.

Negative Punishment: Make sure you’re using it effectively

In the world of force-free training, we have two options when installing new behaviors or modifying existing ones: We can reward desired behaviors and we can punish undesired ones. Punishment involves removing the “good stuff” when the dog does a behavior we want to decrease (known as negative punishment in operant conditioning terminology). The dog learns through repetition each time he does a certain behavior, the good stuff goes away, therefore reducing the dog’s motivation to maintain that particular behavior. (Good stuff refers to anything the dog desires when doing the unwanted behavior: social proximity; access to food, toys, or other resources; attention; environmental rewards like walks and playtime with other dogs.) During training consults, I often compare negative punishment to giving a dog a “time out” from the good stuff.

Negative punishment is a valuable tool in a dog owners’ repertoire, provided it is executed correctly. Unfortunately, poor execution often leads to inconsistent behavior and poor follow through on the part of the owners. The following is a guide to improve your technique.


Dogs live in the moment. Attempting to punish or reward a behavior minutes, even seconds, after it has occurred lessens the chances your dog will understand why a particular consequence occurred. A classic example of poor timing is an owner who punishes a dog for a housetraining accident hours after it occurred. The dog will not understand he is being punished for urinating on the carpet. Instead, the dog will associate the punishment with whatever behavior immediately preceded it.

Being an effective dog trainer means having impeccable timing. It also means you need to be prepared to execute a time out the instant an undesired behavior occurs. Impeccable timing is difficult in real life. Time outs take time to execute, and many things can happen between the behavior in question occurring and the time out actually taking place. To improve accuracy, I instruct clients to use a word to mark the instant the undesired behavior occurs (I say “too bad!”). This “no-reward marker” bridges the gap between the dog’s behavior and the time out, making it clear to your dog which behavior lead to the punishment.

With repetition, the dog learns the following contingency:

Behavior A –> “Too Bad!” –> Time Out
If Behavior A always results in removal of the good stuff, dogs will realize Behavior A is not profitable (and dogs are always seeking to do what’s most profitable).

Is it a time out?

Sometimes, owners think they are executing a time out, when in actuality the dog is not receiving negative punishment. To repeat: Time outs equal the removal of the good stuff. If your dog is not experiencing removal of the good stuff, he is not receiving negative punishment.

Consider a gregarious puppy who consistently jumps on his owners. The owners, in an effort to decrease the behavior, always push the dog away and say “No! No! Off!” The puppy’s behavior continues because he is still receiving the good stuff: Social proximity and attention. To many puppies, verbal feedback, even the words “No” and “Bad dog,” and eye contact are reward enough to continue performing the behavior.

A better strategy for these owners would be to mark each time the dog jumps up with a “too bad,” and proceed to turn their backs or leave the room for 30 seconds, avoiding all further eye contact and verbal feedback. This protocol gives the dog clear feedback on what behavior results in the punishment, and also prevents the dog from receiving the social proximity and attention he desires when doing the behavior.

Remember: If your dog is still receiving the good stuff during a time out, it’s not effective. Make sure your time outs are boring, void of whatever your dog desires when he does the unwanted behavior. This means no eye contact, no verbal feedback, no attention, no access to desired resources, and no playtime.

Follow Through

Often, owners claim negative punishment is not effective, when in actuality they give up too soon. Dogs learn through repetition. Erasing bad habits is hard work, and even harder if the dog receives mixed feedback by sometimes being allowed to do a certain behavior and sometimes receiving punishment.

Follow through with a time out each instance the behavior occurs. Occasionally timing out a behavior, and occasionally letting the dog get away with it, will only serve to make the behavior stronger – the dog learns the behavior is profitable often enough to make it worthwhile. If you aren’t able to execute a time out, make sure you manage the dog’s environment to prevent rehearsal of the unwanted behavior. This will preserve your training and ensure more efficient results. (For example, if your dog consistently jumps up on guests, keep him on leash or behind a barrier during dinner parties to preserve your training.) Most importantly: Don’t give up!

Don’t Time Out Fear

Use protocols based on whether your dog is upset or not upset. If your dog is doing a behavior because he is afraid, a time out will not solve the problem. Learn to recognize when your dog is behaving out of fear.

Optimizing Success

Negative punishment is most effective when paired with positive reinforcement. When punishing a particular behavior, make sure to teach the dog an alternate, more desired behavior to do in its place. If your dog jumps on guests, teach him to sit for greetings. If your dog gets mouthy when playing with you, teach him to play without using his teeth on your skin. If your dog barks for his dinner, teach him to sit quietly to wait for his food.

Leash reactivity: It’s trainable (but not how you might think)

You look at the clock. It’s time to walk your dog. As you grab the leash, the poop bags and your keys, you feel a familiar anxiety that occurs each time you step outside. You may fear that your neighbors will say, “Uh oh, there she comes with that crazy dog.” You may feel like your neighborhood has become one massive, unpredictable trigger for your dog.  Once put on leash, your typically calm and sociable dog begins barking, lunging, growling and whining at typical neighborhood noises and distractions.

Does this sound familiar? If so, take a deep breath and keep reading. Leash reactivity is a common and normal behavior for dogs. While cases vary in severity, and it is always advisable to consult a professional, force-free dog trainer if you have a leash reactive dog, rest assured that there are techniques you can use on your daily walks to manage and improve your dog’s leash manners (and your peace of mind).

What’s going to be surprising about the next few paragraphs is what the training entails. Why? Because it appears counterintuitive. As a society, we tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to “aggressive” behaviors in dogs. Many people wrongly think we need to punish their dogs for growling, lunging and baring their teeth. It’s not difficult to understand how this myth came to be, but in reality, you need to do the exact opposite.

When your dog is doing all those embarrassing, blustery behaviors on leash, it’s because she is upset. She is uncomfortable being constrained by a leash and encountering dogs, men, bicycles, etc. The blustery behaviors are the symptoms of the overarching problem. To solve leash reactivity, we need to change your dog’s emotion. Read on to learn how.


–  Keep your dog calm and focused on you throughout the walk

–  Create positive associations with your dog’s typical triggers (instead of “uh oh, here it comes,” we want “yippee! here it comes!”)

–  As much as possible, avoid situations that are likely to put your dog over his comfort threshold

Step 1: Identify your dog’s triggers

– What makes your dog lunge, bark, growl or whine on leash? Common triggers include: other dogs (sometimes specific dogs, other times all dogs), people, people wearing heavy coats/hats/hoodies, men, skateboards, bicycles, and children.

Step 2: Motivation

–  To keep your dog’s attention, you’ll need some highly tasty, highly valuable treats. Test out various options to find which ones your dog loves the most. Reserve the most valuable treats to use only on walks – this will make them more salient. Also try mixing up the types of treats you use during the walk to keep things interesting.

–  Some dogs love tug toys just as much or more than treats. If you have a dog that is toy motivated, you can also use this in addition to food.

Step 3: Equipment

–  Make sure your dog is fitted with a no-pull harness (and has been trained to wear one).

–  If your dog has a history of aggression toward dogs and strangers, be sure to train your dog to wear a basket muzzle for safety purposes.

– Don’t forget a treat pouch! You’ll need a way to easily access and deliver treats on the walk.

– Use a regular nylon or cotton leash (no flexi-leads). As much as possible, try to keep the leash loose, as a tight leash can cause an increase in reactivity in dogs.

The Plan

– While walking your dog, keep a keen eye on the environment. Scan the sidewalk and surrounding area for potential triggers. Avoid areas where your dog could get “cornered” with an oncoming trigger.

– Once your dog notices a trigger (a dog in a yard, a stranger across the street, etc.), immediately start “happy talking” to your dog and delivering treats. Make sure the treats come after your dog notices the trigger. We want the trigger to predict the treats, so that your dog learns that the things he fears actually lead to good things.

– If your dog is too upset to take treats (i.e., if the trigger is too strong or too close), commence the happy talking and turn to create some distance between you and the trigger. Once your dog has some distance, proceed with the treats.

– If you notice a situation nearby that your dog will not handle well, turn and go the other way. The goal of the walk is to keep your dog as calm as possible. One of the best tools you have in addition to supplying treats is increasing distance between your dog and the things that upset him.

– Reinforce calm behavior! If you see your dog do typical walking behaviors (sniffing, loose and relaxed body language, “shaking it off” after stressful situations, or making eye contact with you), immediately reward him. To maintain calm, periodically ask your dog to do a simple behavior like “sit” or “touch,” and follow up with a treat. This helps your dog stay focused on you, and the reward for the behavior builds positive associations with the walk and surrounding environment.

– Do not punish the reactive behavior (barking, lunging, growling, etc). Your dog is doing these behaviors because he is uncomfortable and upset. If you punish these behaviors, we’re only working on the symptoms of leash reactivity. The root of the problem is the emotion. By supplying happy talk and treats when your dog encounters things that are scary to him, you are gradually changing the emotion. You will not increase the barking, growling and lunging by doing this. Why? Because once your dog no longer fears his triggers, he will no longer do the reactive behaviors. Remember: You cannot reward fear.

Making force-free training the norm

Lately, when in conversation with friends and colleagues about dog training, I find myself trying to answer the same question: Why do we face such an uphill battle to make every dog a force-free dog? Whether it’s banning breed-specific legislation (BSL), encouraging the ban on shock, choke and prong collars, or convincing people that popular dog training television programs are promoting abusive, inhumane and unscientific training techniques, it often feels like an endless hike through an unscientific, myth-infested muck.

But … why? Why must it be so difficult to encourage people not to abuse their dogs? Why does someone with no scientific background in animal behavior create a dog training television empire based on faulty methods? Surely, common sense should prevail. And yet it doesn’t. Although the force-free community is making great strides, every day dogs suffer from the fallout and shrapnel of improper training and misguided laws.

There are, of course, many reasons as to why we don’t live in a force-free world. In fact, it could provide the curriculum to an entire college course. However, thanks to an article in The New Yorker, I came across one answer that could have much impact on how we train dogs in the future.

In the article, titled “Slow Ideas,” author Atul Gawande explores the reasons why important, even life-saving ideas that could provide massive benefits to society take a long time gaining momentum. The answer, according to Gawande, lies in how we communicate these ideas to society, as well as the extra work these ideas impose on the individual.

Expensive Ideas

“This has been the pattern of many important but stalled ideas,” Gawande writes. “They attack problems that are big but, to most people, invisible; and making them work can be tedious, if not outright painful.”

Although Gawande was discussing health care in his article, the dog training community faces a similar conundrum. In this scenario, the stalled ideas are not about germ-reducing procedures in hospitals or eliminating pain during surgery, but about the use of scientific and pain-free methods to train dogs.

To a dog trainer, the concept that training force-free  produces more effective, long-lasting behavior change and also eliminates the risk of more behavior problems down the road seems simple. But to another person dealing with a leash reactive dog, this might not be the case. Say this person meets with a force-free trainer and learns that, among other things, she has to carry treats and a clicker on her person, stick to a training plan, practice and rehearse the training procedures with the dog, and maintain these behaviors for a lifetime. Sure, the phrase “It’s science!” is nice, but this is very expensive (read: time- and energy-consuming) behavior.

Say this same person decides to place a prong collar on the dog. Each time the dog growls and lunges on leash, she pops the collar. As an immediate reaction, the dog may stop growling. And, the owner thinks that as long as the collar is on the dog, she can use it at any time to stop unwanted behaviors. Of course, as a force-free trainer this situation would make me cringe, but I recognize its allure. To some, it certainly seems so much easier to put a prong collar on a dog because of its immediate benefits and the relief of not having to do all the expensive behavior mentioned earlier. Not to mention the fact that many compulsion trainers unethically promise guarantees and immediate results – again, very alluring to the harried dog owner.

Of course, what this person may not predict is that by using the prong collar as a quick-fix solution, the dog will not overcome the leash reactive behavior, and is likely to develop even more aggressive behaviors down the road. In fact, this dog may end up biting another dog or person because the behavior was never actually addressed. But this may happen years later – long after the owners had met with the force-free trainer -similar to the “big, but to most people, invisible” problems Gawande discussed in his article.

Communicating Expensive Ideas

So, if making the argument that force-free training is a “slow” idea, does that mean the situation is hopeless? Far from it. In fact, Gawande argues that honest, compassionate communication does wonders. He presents three different types of communicating great (but slow) ideas to an unconvinced public:

  1. Public service campaigns or, as he terms it, “Please do X.”
  2. Punishment or, as he terms it, “You must do X.”
  3. Offering incentives to soften the punishment of “You must do X.”

The problem with these options? According to Gawande,“neither penalties nor incentives achieve what we’re really after: a system and a culture where X is what people do, day and and day out, even when no one is watching. ‘You must‘ rewards mere compliance. Getting to ‘X is what we do‘ means establishing X as the norm.”

And, as far as the force-free community goes, we want to get to “force-free is what we do,” too.

I agree with Gawande’s argument that forcing compliance or pleading for compliance aren’t viable long-term solutions. After all, force-free dog trainers realize that pure punishment does not create effective behavior change, nor does pleading with a dog. What does work? Motivating the dog and showing the dog what behaviors lead to desired outcomes. We need to do the same with dog owners: Motivate them to train force-free, motivate them to change their training behavior patterns, and show them how using science-based training methods provides better, long-lasting results for their dogs.

Unlike forcing compliance and pleading, motivation gets to the root of behavior change. Instead of finding mistakes, which will only put dog owners on the defensive, we need to give them good, solid reasons for adopting non-traditional training techniques. These reasons need to be more enticing and more powerful than the potential drawbacks (time, money, carrying treats around, changing routines for the dog, letting go of previous habits and beliefs).

We also need to communicate at an individual level because each person’s source of motivation will be different. “To create new norms, you have to understand people’s existing norms,” writes Gawande. “You have to understand what’s getting in their way.”

Here are two examples of how trainers can create new norms for dog training clients:

  • A client uses a prong collar for her rambunctious pit bull. She is also dealing with pressure from friends and family to train with traditional methods and “get control” of her dog, and is hesitant to be criticized or ostracized. This person needs encouragement to communicate why she is training force-free, and also needs the confidence that these force-free methods will produce the behavior change her family and friends are looking for.
  • A client has an aggressive dog and he is afraid that without a shock collar, his dog may run away and get hurt or killed. If this person realizes that he can build a much more solid recall through force-free training, he will be much more motivated to drop the shock collar.

We have a long ways to go before we realize the goal of a force-free training society. But as the history of slow ideas has shown us, with the right communication and motivation, it’s possible. And that’s quite motivating.

Thresholds: When dogs reach their emotional edge

Until recently, I never thought I’d utter the phrase “Dog training is just like yoga.” However, in researching fear in dogs and the best practices for treating it, I’ve found a distinct parallel.

After countless yoga sessions of stretching and twisting, I’ve encountered the term “edge” quite frequently. In yoga, you are encouraged to work toward your physical edge in a pose – the moment when your muscles and joints tell you, “That’s it, this is as far as I’m going to go.” If you move into your edge too quickly, you’ll definitely experience discomfort. You might even experience injury in the form of a strained or pulled muscle, which will impede your overall progress. But if you acknowledge your edge, concentrate on it, and move into it gradually with proper breathing and alignment, you end up going deeper into a pose and opening tightened muscles.

Edges in yoga are similar to a concept in dog training known as the “threshold,” and you’ll encounter it often in training publications and this blog. When dealing with fearful and anxious dogs, the threshold is similar to the physical edge in yoga. Once a dog goes over his threshold, learning shuts down, the emotion takes over, and harm occurs. However, by knowing a dog’s threshold, working through it gradually, and ensuring a dog never crosses it, dogs overcome their fears and anxieties, much like conquering a difficult yoga posture.

To understand the concept of a threshold, it’s important to understand the science behind fear. Fear is a reflexive response, an automatic reaction to a stimulus. When a dog encounters a stimulus that signals danger, whether through a learned association or an innate one, two different systems in the dog’s brain enter the playing field. The autonomic nervous system sends information to that prompt physiological changes like increased heart rate and increased breathing rate, enabling the “fight or flight” capabilities in the dog’s body. In the second system, a fearful stimulus triggers the activation of the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands), releasing cortisol and adrenaline that further assist the body during “fight or flight” situations. (Jordan, 2012).

Emotionally charged situations inhibit a dog’s normal learning processes because they cause the brain to focus solely on the arousing event. A fear-inducing stimulus overrides the brain’s GABA, a nerve-calming neurotransmitter, thus leading to emotional reactivity. (Bond, 2008). It also activates the HPA axis quite rapidly, nullifying any chance of in-the-moment counterconditioning. (Jordan, 2012). While frustrating in the moment, this makes sense from a biological standpoint; dangerous situations require immediate attention for survival.

With all of this activity, we can hardly expect a dog to focus on an obedience command or to “get over it.” It’s simply not in his biology. What’s more, stress hormones stay in the system long after the fearful stimulus is gone, resulting in long-term effects on training and learning.

When a dog crosses his threshold, the above biological processes in the body kick in. Each dog has a different threshold, and his threshold can vary depending on the stimulus. For example, one dog’s threshold for encountering strangers could be 10 yards, whereas another dog’s could be 3. These distances could be reversed if the dogs were presented with a different stimulus, such as an oncoming dog.

The effects of fear are cumulative. If a dog is presented with a fearful stimulus over time that is never addressed through proper training, or worse, has encountered aversive training methods in combination with the fearful stimulus, the dog may go from relatively little intensity to a full-on growl, lunge or bite. Why? Because aversive techniques that suppress the behaviors signifying fear do nothing to change a dog’s behavior and instead serve to reinforce a dog’s fear of the stimulus. By suppressing behaviors such as growling, snarling or barking, and without removal of the fearful stimulus, the dog is left with only the most intense and damaging option: biting.

As James O’Heare writes in Aggressive Behavior in Dogs, fear thresholds can be raised or lowered, but not done away with altogether. “Aggression, which is present in all individuals, is never cured. Rather, the important issue is what evokes aggressive behavior and whether active attempts are made to change the dog’s aggression thresholds” (98).

The best way to recognize your dog’s thresholds is through understanding his body language. Dogs who are under stress may show any combination of the following behaviors:

  • low appetite
  • shallow, rapid panting
  • low focus ability
  • sweaty  paws
  • yawning
  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • shaking
  • excessive thirst, grooming, or sleeping
  • compulsive behaviors
  • confusion
  • increased urination or defecation
  • whale eye (where you can see the whites of the eyes)
  • stiffness
  • reactivity
  • dilated pupils
  • self-mutilation

These behaviors are a signal to create distance between your dog and the fear-causing stimulus. View them as a message from your dog saying, “Hey, I’m really uncomfortable, help get me out of here!”

At some point, every dog is going to cross his threshold. It happens and isn’t a catastrophe if handled the right way. In the moment, take control of the situation by getting your dog away from the stimulus, luring with treats and praise. Once you’ve gotten your dog to a calm location, give him a chance to calm down. Remember, the biological processes mentioned above are still at work, and your dog’s body needs time to normalize. Try to remember exactly what happened so you can identify what caused your dog to go over his threshold, and work on a plan should you encounter that situation again.

Remember, fear generalizes and can bleed into other behavior areas. If you notice your dog going over threshold, it’s important to get in touch with a dog trainer to set your dog up for success and to prevent the fear from worsening.

You and Your Rescue: Navigating the first weeks after adopting a dog

Imagine living for days, weeks, months in a shelter. Your home is a kennel, surrounded by lots of other kennels and unfamiliar barking dogs. You may have come from another shelter or been given up by your previous family. You may have been living as a stray. You may have been with an abusive owner. You may have bounced from various foster homes. Your environment is stressful, to say the least.

One day, your routine changes. A new person takes you from the shelter and brings you into a new home. All the surroundings, all the people inside the home, are new. You have no knowledge of your new home’s rules or schedule. You aren’t even sure if you will stay in this new place.

This situation would be traumatic for any person, and would arguably require the support of a myriad of social services to help that person cope. And yet, this is a common situation for many dogs who are adopted from shelters. Although a dog may have come from the best possible shelter and is entering a loving home, the change in environment will undoubtedly cause stress. Most dogs don’t have a support team to see them through the storm, but they do have you, and are depending on you to guide them through this transition period.

The time following any adoption is critical – not simply because you and your dog are getting to know each other, but because you are laying the foundation for your dog’s new life. While the transition from a shelter to a new home will always be a considerable change for a dog, there are ways to make the journey more comfortable and soothing. The following is a guide to help you prepare for your adoption and lay the foundation for a successful transition for your dog.

Plan Ahead

– The day you bring home your adopted dog is a big one, as both you and your dog will be under an adjustment period. By planning ahead and readying your home, you will ease the transition. Make sure you have the essential equipment and supplies for your dog’s first week:

– Soft, comfortable bedding is essential for senior dogs, and giving your dog several places in the house to snooze will help him relax. If your dog isn’t a senior, he will still appreciate some designated cozy spots!

– Set aside a place for water and food bowls.

– Check with your shelter regarding what food your dog has been eating, and whether he has any allergies. If you want to change his food, be sure to do so gradually so as not distress his digestive system. And don’t forget to stock up on treats to use for training and rewards!

– Get a properly fitting harness (such as the EasyWalk), as well as a sturdy five- to six- foot leash. To ensure your pet’s safety, purchase tags to place on his collar and consider whether you want to use a microchip.

– Install gates and barriers to keep your dog out of hazardous areas of the home.

– Stock a pet first aid kit and first aid guide in case of emergencies, as well as phone numbers for your vet and local pet hospital.

– Depending on your dog’s age and temperament, toys are a great way to provide stimulation and comfort. Plush toys, Kongs and puzzle games are great options.

House set-up

– Think about your home’s floor-plan and where your dog will live. Will he be allowed in all rooms? Will he sleep in his own bed or under the covers of yours? Where will your dog stay when left alone? Making these decisions ahead of time not only helps you determine where to place beds and gates, but also reduces anxiety for you and your dog on the big day.

– Give your dog some “safe spaces” in the home. Provide treats, puzzle toys and bedding, and reward him whenever he goes to these areas. This will help your dog settle in and feel more comfortable in his new environment.

Set aside time

– Your dog will undergo a significant adjustment when you bring him home. If he is coming from a shelter, he has been under environmental and emotional stress, and will need time to adjust to new people and surroundings.

– Keep your schedule free for several days after your adoption, and avoid inviting lots of people over to your house. Even though everyone will be excited to meet the new family member, your dog needs time and a calm environment to adjust to his new home.

House training

– Your dog may or may not be house trained. If the shelter says he is not, refer to this basic house training plan and get in touch with a trainer if you have questions:. (This plan can be helpful even if your dog has been previously house trained because it establishes a routine and addresses any potential training gaps.)

– If your dog is house trained, be prepared for some accidents. Stress, change in environment and anxiety can all lead to house training lapses.

– Set your dog up for success by heavily rewarding (praise and tasty treats) each time he eliminates outside. If you catch your dog in the act, don’t punish, but simply pick him up and immediately take him outside to finish. Reward if he finishes outside. If your dog has an accident and you don’t catch him in the act, don’t punish after the fact; your dog will not remember the accident and will not understand why he is being punished.

– If your dog continues having accidents, check with your vet for any underlying medical conditions that could be causing incontinence. This is especially important if you have adopted a senior dog.

Absences and anxiety

– Chances are, your dog will be experiencing some anxiety after the adoption. One common behavioral challenge adopters run into is separation anxiety. This is no surprise, since changes to the environment, the addition of new people or dogs into the home, and past trauma are all triggers for this behavior.

– Practice brief absences during the initial settling-in period. As part of this practice, go through your ritual before leaving the house. Dogs quickly learn that the tip-offs that an absence is coming.

– If you have taken some days off work, be sure to leave your dog at random periods throughout the day, starting with short increments and mixing in some longer ones of 5-10 minutes. Don’t make your dog’s first absence be an 8-hour workday, as that will be quite stressful for him!

– When introducing the absences, keep your dog occupied with toys and treats. Kongs stuffed with peanut butter and then placed in the freezer make great long-lasting treats, as do puzzle toys filled with irresistible treats like freeze-dried liver or chicken.

– Keep good-byes and greetings low key to help manage your dog’s anxiety.

– Many dogs will show some symptoms of discomfort at being left alone immediately following the adoption, including whining, some barking, and waiting at the door. Some of these dogs will overcome this initial anxiety as they settle into their new environment, whereas other dogs will not. If your dog’s symptoms persist or worsen, get in touch with a trainer or your shelter to get further support. Rest assured, separation anxiety is by no means insurmountable, but like any other fear-based behavior, needs extra attention.

Communication and Structure

– Dogs don’t know inherently how we want them to behave. In fact, many behaviors we identify as “problems” are quite simply dogs acting like dogs. (Think resource guarding, chewing, and marking.) It is our responsibility to teach dogs how we want them to behave, and to teach them in ways they understand. Animal behaviorist Jean Donaldson’s book “Culture Clash” is a terrific resource for learning how to communicate with dogs and understanding why they behave the way they do, and is an immensely valuable read for any dog owner.

– If your dog does something you love, and you want him to continue doing in the future, reward him! Lavishing with praise and treats immediately after the desired behavior communicates to your dog that he should do this behavior again!

– If your dog does something you don’t want him to repeat, give him a replacement behavior to do instead. For example, if your dog jumps on you when you come home, teach him to sit as a replacement for jumping. If your dog loves chewing on your shoes, give him a toy or bone to chew on instead. A trainer can help you with this, as well as teach you about positive reinforcement training techniques. Never use pain, fear or force to modify your dog’s behavior.

– Learn to recognize when your dog is afraid. When your dog is afraid, nothing else matters to him. Because fear is such a powerful emotion, he could care less about previously learned obedience behaviors or any commands you may give him. Comforting your dog when he is afraid will not reinforce his fear. On the contrary, when dealing with any type of fear-based behavior, it is paramount to address the fear first.


– It can take a shelter dog 6-8 weeks or more to fully adjust to his new home. Don’t worry if his behavior doesn’t fall into place after the first week, or if it takes awhile for him to feel like your dog.

– Listen to your dog. He will let you know if he’s uncomfortable or if he needs his space. Tell friends and family to let your dog approach them on his own time, and reward him with treats when he does. The same goes for other dogs in the neighborhood. As much as you might want him to develop a host of new friends right away, he needs time to feel at ease.

– Make it your goal to help your dog form positive associations to everything in his new environment. Have treats and praise at the ready. If you’re taking out the vacuum cleaner for the first time, dole out treats. If the noisy garbage truck drives by, praise and treat. If a kid crosses the street on a skateboard, praise and treat. And so forth. Even if your dog isn’t a puppy, these socialization techniques can help ease anxiety.

Cognitive decline and caring for your senior mutt

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic webinar hosted by Jean Donaldson for the Academy for Dog Trainers on senior dog wellness and canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. With special thanks to Jean for bringing attention to the topic, the following is a guide on how to care for your senior mutt, and what to do if you notice signs of cognitive declines.

CDS: What is it?

CDS, or cognitive dysfunction syndrome, is progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects senior dogs (ages 7 and up). Researchers have found that the disorder, marked by Aβ protein deposits in the brain, is similar to the degeneration found in human brains affected by Alzheimer’s. Because of this, a significant amount of research is available.

According to Landsberg (2005), while CDS can affect dogs as young as 7 years of age, the disorder typically goes undetected until 11 years. He attributes this discrepancy to the fact that most owners do not suspect anything is amiss because they rely on more severe symptoms, such as house-soiling and disorientation, as opposed to tests of memory and learning.

A 2010 study published in The Veterinary Journal found that CDS affects 28 percent of 11-12 year-old dogs and 68 percent of 15-16 year-olds (Salvin, McGreevy, Sachdev, and Valenzuela). However, this same study also found that many dogs go undiagnosed. As with many progressive conditions, CDS prognosis is best if detected early.

The Symptoms

CDS has a specific clinical presentation, or criteria that must be met for a diagnosis. It is important to note that the disorder’s symptoms are not simply attributable to “old age” (again, this parallels cognitive decline diagnoses in humans), but are specifically linked to the disorder. The four main categories attributed to CDS are:

  • Disorientation: Dogs with this symptom get lost in familiar locations and often get “stuck” in narrow places of the house or yard. Their eyes may appear fixed on the horizon, and they may do things like go to the wrong side of the door or wander without an apparent purpose.
  • Disruption of sleep/wake cycles: Dogs with CDS often pace, walk or bark at night, and experience changes in sleeping time. They may show an altered daytime activity level due to nighttime restlessness.
  • Social interaction: The dog may have less frequent interactions with family members, or fail to recognize a family member. Greeting behavior decreases, as does responsiveness to stimuli (i.e., activity in the house, sounds, food).
  • Learning and house training: With the absence of an underlying medical condition, previously house trained dogs begin having accidents in the house. They may also appear unable to remember common obedience behaviors or tricks, referred to as learning and memory deficits.

Diane Frank, veterinary behaviorist at the University of Montreal, also lists the following symptoms that may occur in addition to the big four listed above: irritability, intolerance to exercise, increased vocalization, house destruction, increased attachment to owners, and the appearance of new fears or anxieties. 

As with any medical condition, it is important to thoroughly discuss your dog’s symptoms with a veterinarian before concluding that your dog has CDS. Senior dogs are susceptible to a variety of medical conditions that may show similar symptoms, therefore it is important to rule out any other causes of cognitive decline.

Your dog has CDS. What do you do?

If you research CDS on the web, you’ll discover a plethora of studies on the subject and an even wider swath of potential treatments. It can be overwhelming to say the least, especially when dealing with the emotional toll of caring for an aging dog. Before going overboard on supplements, new diets and homeopathic remedies, make sure you address three key health management areas. (I should add that these areas are beneficial to senior dogs regardless of a CDS diagnosis).

  • Maintain a healthy weight: How many times have you placed your dog on the vet’s scale and secretly hoped nobody would notice that your dog is leaning on the wall? I admit, I’m very guilty of this one! The fact is, being overweight puts immense stress on a dog, particular one of advancing age. The following is a chart taken from Jean’s webinar presentation that illustrates what a “healthy weight” looks like on a dog. For a bit of context, consider this fact: six pounds on a 45-pound dog is comparable to 20 pounds on a 150-pound dog. Just imagine the impact those six pounds have on a dog’s joints!
  • Keep those teeth clean: Brush your dog’s teeth daily. One of my colleagues at the Academy recently said that this is the number one routine that can maintain your dog’s health. If your dog is averse to having his mouth handled, check in with a trainer to receive advice on how to desensitize your dog to the process. Here are a few tips to get you started:
    • Go slowly, starting with introducing your dog to the tooth brush, working up toward touching your dog’s mouth and teeth with it.
    • Make sure to lavish lots of treats and praise every step of the way!
    • Once your dog is comfortable having his mouth handled and touched by the brush, gradually build up duration as well as comfort with light brushing motions.
    • If your dog shows any signs of discomfort, back up to the previous step. Never go quicker than your dog is comfortable.
  • Address orthopedic concerns: Make sure to talk to your vet about any pain your dog may be experiencing, as well as any assistance your dog might need navigating stairs or getting into the car.

Once you’ve covered these three areas, it’s time to make your home accessible for your dog’s aging body:

  • Place a mat over slippery surfaces to avoid injury from falls.
  • If your dog has difficulty with stairs, make sure to install ramps.
  • Provide your dog with ample bedding that will support aching joints – hard floors are not a senior dog’s friend!
  • Blocking off any narrow pathways in the house if your dog is getting “stuck” or disoriented.
  • A quiet space where your senior dog can retreat. This is especially important if you have children or younger dogs in the house.
  • Raise food and water bowls if your dog has difficulty bending over.
  • If your dog pulls on leash, make sure to fit him with a harness to protect the neck and trachea.
  • If your dog becomes disoriented easily, be careful when letting him off leash. Keep a watchful eye on him, or have him wear a 15-foot training lead in case he wanders.

Although their activity level is lower, senior dogs still need lots of attention and stimulation. Here are a few ways to keep your dog’s brain active:

  • Puzzle toys are a great way to stave off boredom and keep your dog’s mind active (like Sudoku for humans).
  • Don’t hesitate to do some basic training or teach your dog a few new tricks- training is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog and provides a fun activity for you both.
  • Spending time with them and exposing them to interesting stimuli, even if it’s just sitting outside in the yard. (If your dog has trouble walking and is small enough, you can put him in a stroller to take him for walks.)

Finally, it’s important to assess and treat any new fears or anxieties your dog may be developing. A trainer can help you develop procedures to ease these fears using classical conditioning techniques. In the meantime, provide structure, stimulation and comfort to your dog’s days to keep him feeling comfortable and secure, and be sensitive to any changes in behavior or anxieties.