August & September 2010 Newsletter


Creating a Focused Dog in Distracting Situations   
What Influences Our Dog’s Behavior?

Dogs are dogs.  That’s what we love about them, right?  As clichéd as it may sound, they win us over with their unconditional love and happy-go-lucky attitude.  It’s not so fun, however, when we end up in a situation where we can’t get their attention, especially when their safety is in jeopardy.  How many of us have lost a dog’s attention thanks to a squirrel, a cat, or another dog?

Distractions abound for dogs at any time of year, but become especially apparent in the summertime when we’re outside more often– and so is everybody else!  Don’t be discouraged, though.  Desensitizing our dogs to distractions is absolutely doable, but will require strategy, planning and a great deal of attention.  Think of it this way, though: if you have a dog that is prone to losing focus in distracting situations, you’re already using lots of energy managing your environment.  Putting that energy into helping your dog focus around distractions is sure to pay off in the long run – and you won’t spend the rest of your dog’s life avoiding distractions like the plague!

What Distractions?  What Do We Do About Them?

Distractions come from everywhere, whether we expect them or not.  You may be on a walk when your dog sees a squirrel and almost takes your arm off going after it, or you may find distractions the most problematic when another dog passes by.  The reason our dogs can’t focus in these situations varies, but (generally) regardless of the reason, we can use some fairly basic behaviors to help gain focus when we need it most.  Overall, we want our dog to go “Oh, there’s a dog!  I know what to do in this situation!”  If you think about it, your dog thinks the behavior they’re doing – chasing after it, barking at it, jumping at it, etc. –is perfectly acceptable!  It’s our job to redirect them and teach them what we want instead.

Setting Realistic Expectations & Managing the Environment
We aren’t going to have any success desensitizing our dog to distractions if we start in the middle of a park, ten feet away from squirrels, dogs and kids.  We’ll have much more success if we teach the behaviors we want in our living room where there are no other distractions and slowly add distractions.  Another key is maintaining distance to set our dogs up for success, and slowly building their focus as we move closer to the distraction at hand.  Always remember that changing training venues means we need to go back to square one with our dogs.  Just because they’ll sit and stay in the living room doesn’t mean they’ll have any idea what you’re asking them to do when you request a sit/stay in your back yard.  Dogs don’t generalize well.

Creating Successful Training Scenarios
So, how do you create this environment where you can maintain distance from other dogs, desensitize your dog to distractions and increase their ability to focus?  You can often find success training in a public venue, you just have to pick the right spot and be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Another option is taking a class from Happy Dog Institute!  If you’ve already taken Fun Foundation 1, consider moving onto Fun Foundation 2 and 3 or our Calm Dog Class.  Drop us a line! or 360.915.7130.
A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.   -Robert Benchley

Go to for more details
-We have puppy classes!  Don’t miss the most important socialization period for your puppy.  If you have a puppy or know somebody who does, send them our way for classes on Friday evenings or Sunday afternoons.  Have them mention your name and get a free toy or a free pound of coffee as a thank you.  We love referrals!
-Private Training Packages: if you need a customized training package to build a foundation with your dog, work on specific behaviors or resolve behavior issues, we’re here to help!  We’ll customize a package to fit your needs.  If you buy a series of training sessions, you’ll even get a discount!  Private training is also ideal for people who are unable to attend our public classes.

-Love Your Pitbull Day will be at Hawks Prairie Veterinary Hospital on Sunday, September 12th from 11-3.  Covenant Creatures is hosting it!  More details to come.  Hope to see you there!

-Work your dog around distractions with our advanced Calm Dog class and our Fun Foundation 3 class.  Check out our website for details:

-Do you have a Mini Aussie?  MARS (Mini Aussie Rescue & Support, Inc) is putting on a Mini Aussie Day at Fido’s Farm in the Fall.  It looks like the event will be on Sunday, October 10th, but we’ll have more details soon.  Happy Dog Institute will be doing Clicker 101, Trick Training, Introduction to Agility and behavior workshops.  It’s sure to be a good time!
-We’re now writing for Pet Connection Magazine!  Pick up a copy for yourself and take advantage of the great advice and local services offered.

Rescue Remedy! Although the Fourth of July is behind us now, we still look to Rescue Remedy from time to time to reduce anxiety.  It has been gaining popularity recently for use with our pets. There is even a website dedicated Rescue Remedy for pets: You might give it a try next time your dog is feeling anxious.

If you’re having trouble getting a behavior, examine your criteria and take a step back.  If you’re not getting a two minute sit/stay, try for one minute and build from there.
Classes – Happy Dog Institute teaches public classes at Fido’s Farm.  We offer basic obedience and manners classes through our “Fun Foundation” track to promote socialization and success.  We also offer specialized classes for certain behaviors such as Recall and Loose Leash Walking.  We also offer Foundation Agility classes and a “Grouchy Dog” class for dogs with aggression or reactivity.
Private Training – with Private Training, you’ll get a customized training plan designed just for you and your dog that fits your lifestyle and needs.
Day Training – we’ll train your dog for you!  Whether you need help with behavior issues or basic obedience, we’re here to help.  This service is perfect if you have a busy schedule and simply don’t have the time to establish behaviors you are looking for in your dog or solve those tricky problems.
Behavior Consulting – does your dog destroy the house when you’re away from home?  Does he bark at the neighbors or passers by?  Is she aggressive or reactive towards other dogs or people?  If so, behavior consulting is just what you need.  With an initial consult with you, we’ll assess the issue and develop a training plan to help ease unwanted behaviors and leave you feeling much more relaxed.
Day Visits – physical exercise largely decreases boredom-related behavior issues, including barking and chewing.  Overall, it creates a happier dog If you’re having trouble fitting in regular walks for your dog, or need some help training loose leash walking and/or heeling, we’re here to help!