Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Feisty FIZZGIG - Small Service Dog Ambassador in Training

Service Dogs come in all shapes, sizes & breeds.  Sadly there are people, especially with small dogs it seems, that abuse the service dog laws and bring their growling, snappy, barking, sniffing, pottying pet into public and this can create a very bad image of small breed Service Dogs.

FIZZGIG is in training to help remedy that.  I offer Business Education seminars where I go into businesses and help them understand their responsibilities to service teams under the current laws, but also their rights in terms of removing teams that are disingenuous or creating a problem for their business.  Fizzgig's job will be to showcase some of the ways that small dogs can assist their handler.  

She will be trained in a wide variety of tasks ranging from:

  • Hearing Alerts (for phone, doorbell, fire alarms, oven timers)
  • Diabetic Alert & Response Simulation
  • Seizure Alert & Response Simulation
  • Allergen Detection & Response
  • Medication Reminder/Retrieval
  • Item Retrieval (like keys or phone or any dropped item)
  • Wake from Nightmares PTSD Response
  • Anxiety/Self Harm Interruption
  • Autism Stemming Interruption
  • Hallucination Discernment
  • Dementia/Cognitive Dysfunction Finds (find the car, keys, phone)
  • Contact Emergency Services (Canine 911 Phone)
  • Turn on Lights/Room Check
  • Go Get Help
  • Pressure Point Physical Therapy

Training takes 100s of hours and she is obviously just a baby right now, but I have high hopes for her to success.  She is a focused, food motivated, play driven, goofy little whirling dervish at the moment but that is part of her charm.  

If you or someone you know needs more information about service dogs in general or needs help training for any of the type of tasks listed above - feel free to contact me.  

Saturday, October 14, 2017



This is Bella, a 4 month old GoldenDoodle who has been staying with me for a few weeks to work on some Puppy HeadStart basics. In this video, she is practicing her off leash recall. She starts chasing a toy and is able to stop mid-chase and return to me.
Come should always be a fun and positive experience for your dog. Too often we use it gruffly once we get exasperated or to mean something the dog finds negative. We call them to COME when we want them to stop playing, to come inside, to go in their kennel, to take a bath - and all of these things can lead to a sluggish or even non-existent recall.
Think of it this way. Let's say you suddenly had a new boss at work.
One day, they call you into their office. When you get there, they give you a $50 bonus and tell you they really appreciate all your hard work. The next day, it happens again. The next week, again. You very quickly start looking for ways to get their attention through the behavior they have been rewarding and head to the office quickly and happily when you hear your name. I mean - who wouldn't - you are getting praise and recognition for your efforts and a bonus that is high value to you.
Dogs are no different - when we recognize and reward the behavior we like, we cause it to increase in frequency and reliability.
Now say you have the same scenario except half the time this happens and the other half is them giving you a task you dislike or telling you that you are not meeting their expectations. Now you start checking their body language when they call you, listening to tone, looking at their go, but it is a much slower process. You likely still do what they ask for fear of repercussions (in dog training terms that would be a correction for not coming) but you can't trust the situation.
What if this same thing happened but you only ever got criticized or given tasks that you hated? Your efforts were never recognized and you experienced a physical cringe at the sound of your name... Some dogs feel this way about COME.
So how do we change that? It's actually quite simple.
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I use a whistle for my students because:
  • They cannot get gruff verbally with it.
  • It is a sound the dog usually has no preconceived feelings about so it is easy to set it as a positive only in their mind.
  • The sound carries well over a distance even in windy weather so you don't have to feel like you're yelling.
You start by simply deciding what sound you want to use - in my case I use 3 short pulses for COME. Some people use a mouth whistle, clap their hands, pat their legs or other sounds. I do find that those do not tend to carry sound as well outside but certainly use whatever is most comfortable for you. I tend to hand clap indoors and whistle outside.
Starting in a quiet space, make the sound you want to use and as soon as your dog looks over to see what it was about - say YES! excitedly. They will probably start to come over to you. Kneel or squat down - this change in body language encourages them to come more quickly. Once they get to you, praise and reward with something they find very rewarding.
For GRYPHON, my Rough Collie for instance, this could be food but given a chance to play ball is more rewarding for him in active exercises so he would get to do some retrieves with his favorite toy. FIZZGIG is a tugger so when she comes, she loves a chance to tug on her favorite scruffy. LUKA, he is all about the food - he doesn't play much so trying to reward him with the same thing as GRYPHON would not work for him.
Here are some 9wk old foster pups working on the same behavior -
It has to be what is important to them - something they are willing to work for, to get excited about and something that shares our joy with them.


That is because it is easier for a dog to associate a new behavior with a cue word when they are ACTUALLY DOING the behavior than us just repeating it over and over.
Say you were trying to learn a new language and you want the word for walking. You are sitting at a cafe and the person teaching you can explain it several ways:
  • They simply say the word to you over and over while you are sitting at the table. They may give you other body language cues but generally they just say the word to you. It can be very difficult to understand what they want. Asking a dog to COME when they have no idea what that means is the same. You tell them to COME while they stand and look at you and you are creating an association with standing there instead of one with coming to you.
  • The person teaching you gets you moving by either getting you to follow them out of the cafe or leading you gently. Once you start walking - they smile and say YES! and then give you the word for "walking". As you keep walking, they reinforce that is correct by continuing to encourage you and say the word as you are doing the behavior (walking). Much easier isn't it?


Once your dog can respond to your sound in a relatively quiet space - you want to start increasing criteria one step at a time. Don't jump from the living room when no one is home to the dog park...that's not fair LOL
Gryphon and I recently played the COME GAME at our local Tractor Supply with a total stranger to him. New environment, new person and he still thought it was the best game ever. If something ever happens and your dog is running loose - wouldn't you rather have them go to a stranger then continue running loose? How many dogs are lost or hit by cars because they just won't go to anyone?
Criteria that you can increase include:
DISTANCE - How far away can you be and they still respond?
DISTRACTION - Different environments, practicing around other pets, kids, inside, outside...
DIVERSITY OF REWARD - Will they recall for a toy instead of food? What about a chance to go on a car ride? What other types of things do they find rewarding?
The basics of this are simple - be that $50 giving new boss you loved to work with above. Recognize effort. Reward success. Pay them well, with things they find valuable and you will have an amazing recall in no time!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Maggie May Goes To School!

Today the very beautiful, and very talented Miss Maggie accompanied me to Hinton Area Elementary School to give a presentation on Therapy Dogs to classes K-2. She's staying with me boarding while her family is away and they kindly allowed me to use it as a training exercise for her.
Kids learning to pet dogs on the chest - not over the head

She did phenomenally. I couldn't have asked for better. She was amazing with the kids, listened really well, settled beautifully after the first group. She was just everything I could have asked for.
Amy Brewer Lane and family have a really awesome pup in her! She handled meeting and being petted by over 100 children in a two hour span. She set such a good example for these kids to go home and talk to their families about therapy dogs and what they do.
And I have to give the biggest praise and appreciation to my amazing friend Taylor Wall, an amazing Elementary School teacher from North Carolina who came up to give me a hand with this presentation. Without her help and advice today I would have been lost. I'm great with dogs, not so great with lots of little people at the same time. She was fantastic and I am eternally grateful for her help.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

SCOUT Passes his LEVEL 1 Test!

This handsome young man just passed his Level 1 Test including extra credits! He and his family have been working very hard at his training on the way to making him a service dog for his Dad. Great job guys!

He sits his AKC Star Puppy test next week and is now working on both his Level 2s and passing the APDT B.A. level of Canine Life and Social Skills!
Congratulations Scout & the Chasse family.

Friday, March 17, 2017



Pressure Therapy is one of many helpful tasks a Service Dog can be trained to do to assist their handler with pain, spasms or light mobility issues. It breaks down differently depending on the individual handlers needs. Essentially, it involves a dog applying their body weight in different ways to help with various aspects of their handlers condition.
I see many handlers benefit from this task in so many ways. This can range from acting as a focus for grounding/anxiety to calming muscle spasms or support during seizure activity to learning to apply and shift their weight on specific acupressure points. In my case, my Service Dog in training, Gryphon, is learning 3 types of pressure therapy for assisting with my Fibromyalgia/MS symptoms and Anxiety response.
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LPT - Light Pressure Therapy

The dog places a small amount of weight, usually with their foot, head or rear, onto their handler. This small weight is not generally enough to ease physical symptoms but can be very helpful during anxiety attacks, PTSD flashbacks or dissociation. They provide a focus for their handler to use as a grounding point which helps the handler avoid a full blown attack.
In this instance, the dog is taught to touch the handler with their paw or rest their head across the handlers lap when they notice early signs of distress like an increase in respiration, nervous or agitated behavior or any other cue the handler may have taught them to respond to. This task is not about the weight of the dog, but simply the act of interruption in most cases.
LUNA, a German Shepherd pup, is learning LPT with her Mom in one of my group classes
This behavior is taught in three stages.
  • Decide WHEN the behavior is needed - when should the dog do this?
    To count as a legal TASK for service work, the skill needs to be a trained response that can be replicated ON CUE - not a natural unshaped behavior.
This is one of the defining differences between Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals (ESA) that naturally respond but are not trained. Emotional Support Animals provide their disabled handlers with companionship and comfort however as of 2011, ESAs are NOTcovered under current ADA laws which means they are NOT allowed public access to non-pet friendly places like stores, restaurants or similar locations. Only trained Service Dogs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990).
  • Decide what cue/body language the dog should respond to - Breathing changes? Foot tapping? Hand clenching?
  • Decide how the dog should respond - for larger dogs, a head across the lap is often used but some dogs sit/stand on their handlers feet, put their paws onto their handler's lap and some small dogs will stand on their handler's chest. All of these are valid responses and it will vary depending on what helps the individual handler the most.

DPT - Deep Pressure Therapy

In this task, the dog places a substantial amount of weight onto their handler, often with large dogs this is at least half of their body. This is a targeted behavior (meaning the dog generally lays across a specific part of the body). The weight of the dog can ease muscle spasms, helps control body movements during seizures, stabilize tremors etc. It has also been paired with certain alerts in which the dog makes the handler remain still until the danger they are alerting to has passed (blood sugar dropping, heartbeat/blood pressure irregularities, vertigo).
Gryph is doing one version of DPT in this video. I had a rough day with muscle spasms and he places his legs and front half of his body over my legs/ hip and then his head over my ribs. Even when I told him he could get up ("Free"), he continued to lay with me. What just looks like a dog snuggling to most people can actually be a very helpful task. He weighs about 75lbs and was probably applying about 30lbs of that weight over my ribs and back, similar to a weighted blanket.

PPT: Pressure Point Therapy

This is a much more complex task we are still working on but essentially involves the dog being taught to target a particular part of the body or pressure point and stand on that point to stop spasms or relieve pain. They are taught to shift their weight for more or less pressure as needed. This involves the dog understanding several complex behaviors and being able to chain them together into one task.
  • Foot Targeting - placing their foot on the spot/mark indicated
  • Stay/Steady - to remain there until asked to move
  • Weight Shift - understanding how to lean in or away as needed to increase or decrease the pressure being applied
So if a handler asks for their dog to provide PPT to their lower back, the dog could be taught to target specific points along the spine and apply pressure until asked to move to another point or move away. Yes, pretty much a canine massage! Not many dogs are currently trained in this but I think it will be very helpful to chronic pain sufferers with conditions such as Fibromyaglia, Lupus, MS or Arthritis.


Many times cost and long waiting lists (which can average 2-5 years in some cases) make it difficult for handlers to get a dog and they decide to begin training their own. While this is certainly allowed, it is a hard road if you aren't working with a good trainer. Less than 30% of dogs who start the journey to becoming a Service Dog succeed. It is physically and mentally taxing work and it takes a lot of patience, perseverance and good training to make it happen.
I have several resources available to help with the process.
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I run a free group on FaceBook that offers training support on everything from Basic Obedience & Manners to Public Access and Tasking Skills.
It is based on a combination of Sue Ailsby's Training Levels (Canadian Service Dog Trainer), C.L.A.S.S (Canine Life and Social Skills), the AKC CGC series of tests and basic PA and tasking skill building.
It is an active working group so I do ask that people participate (there are no deadlines but you can post to the PRACTICE THREAD until you are ready to post the final behavior).
If you don't want to be part of an active group - here are the links just for more info:
APDT C.L.A.S.S (they offer certificates but you don't have to take any tests - you can just do the skills training)
I also offer training support locally (Southern WV/VA) with group classes, private sessions and boarding programs as well as offering an Online Classroom for eLearning.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Want a PAY AS YOU GO training option?  DROP IN GROUPS are the solution!

The TRAINING LEVELS system was designed by Sue Ailsby and has formed the basis for many service, sport, show and companion dogs training.  This DROP IN LEVELS GROUP is based on her old levels system and has 7 levels to work your way through at your own pace.

Behaviors covered combine Obedience, CGC, Tricks & Manners and can be built on for everything from basic house manners to Therapy and Service Dog work.

DROP IN GROUPS are held at the same time and location every week and you come as and when you can.  You pay as you go each time you come.  You work on whatever Level behaviors you are working on at the time with the support of both myself and others who are working through their own training. 

Each level culminates with a test for that Level, which you can earn certificates and prizes for.  While this is a DROP IN system - RSVPs are required as space is limited.  All dogs must be up to date with age appropriate vaccinations or have a current titer test.

1 HOUR Session $20
2 HOUR Session $35 (SAVE $5/session)

More info about this group can be found here:


Want to take a group class with your puppy or dog?  The next one is scheduled for March 16th at Tractor Supply in Bluefield, WV.  Class is limited to 4 teams so be sure to register early to secure your space!


Is your dog ready to take their CGC, CGCA or CGCU test?  Join me at Tractor Supply in Bluefield, WV on the first Thursday of every month for Walk In Testing!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Are you a business owner or manager?  Do you know the difference between a Service Dog, Therapy Dog and Emotional Support Dog?  Do you know only ONE of these is granted public access privileges when accompanying their disabled handler?  Do you know about the SCAM registries for "certification"?

Do you know the current laws regarding service dogs?  Do you know the 2 questions you are ALLOWED to ask?  Do you know when it is within your RIGHTS to deny access or ask for a dog to be removed? Are you willing to risk you, or a staff member representing you, getting it wrong and possibly facing not only bad press but court proceedings and fines?

All businesses open to the general public must follow the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regardless of OSHA rules, health/sanitation laws, fear of dogs or allergies.  States can add additional statutes that you must be aware of in regards to Service Dogs in Training and what allowances they have.

We understand how difficult it is for you to know what to do regarding dogs in your business - especially when their handlers are becoming irate or threatening legal action.

Our Business Resource Packs provide everything from staff training kits to store signage.

Want to make sure you are 2017 compliant with Service Dog laws?  I offer 3 options for Business Education seminars.

* 1hr seminar for you and your staff held between 9am - 9pm (by appointment)
* Prerecorded Webinar available at any time for new staff
* Includes ADA compliant Store Signage and Staff Training Information Packs
* Online (Facebook/Email) or phone support
* Held at your place of business for the following locations:

* 1hr seminar for up to 30 business representatives per location
* Prerecorded Webinar available at any time for new staff
* Includes ADA compliant Store Signage and Staff Training Information Packs
* Online (Facebook/Email) or phone support

Held in the following cities:

  • Charleston, WV
  • Beckley, WV
  • Princeton/Bluefield, WV
  • Wytheville, VA
  • Blacksburg/Christiansburg, VA
  • Roanoke, VA

* 1hr Prerecorded Webinar available at any time
* Digital copies of ADA compliant Store Signage and Staff Training Information Packs
* Online (Facebook/email) support


Federal and State laws can and do vary and as Service Dog handlers are covered by the law that affords them the greatest protection - there may be exceptions in your state for anything from the type of animal allowed to whether Owner Trained / Service Dogs in Training are given access to the same privileges.

I make sure you have the most up to date information from both Federal and State law, with credible/referable resources.  You do not have to worry about getting into a sticky situation and not knowing your rights! 

My Access Challenge Packs give you everything you need to make access easier for you and your service dog.

* 50 Access Allowed Translation Cards
* 50 ADA Law Cards
* 25 Service Dog Etiquette Cards
* 25 Non-Verbal Response Cards
* 25 Small Business Primer Booklets
* 10 Emergency Personnel / First Responders Info Cards

* Reasonable Accommodation Request Letter - Employment 
* Reasonable Accommodation Request Letter - Housing
* Medical Necessity Request Letter

* Top 10 SCAM Registries Information Sheet for Businesses

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


I now have the following products for sale:

FOAM HANDLE TARGET STICKS [top left] - extend to 4' long - comes in Blue, Red, Green & Yellow -$5.00
CLICKER HANDLE TARGET STICK [bottom right] - extends to 13" - $7.00

(Not sure what they are for - read about it here:

RECEPTION DESK POTTY BELL [bottom middle] - great for dogs that use their paws - comes in Black or Pink base - $4.00
Shopkeeper Bells for more Nose inclined dogs are on the way!

DOGZILLA TREAT POD MEDIUM FEEDING TOY [middle left] - excellent, rugged toy that is used just like a KONG - $8.00

MINI YUMZIES TRAINING TREATS [main image] - BBQ Chicken, Hickory Bacon, Cheese & Peanut Butter flavors - 5oz bag - $5.00

ZUKES MINI TRAINING TREATS [bottom left] - Savory Salmon, Wild Rabbit & Super Berry flavors - 6oz bags - $6.00


I usually use a combination of the first two items:
PIPE WHISTLE [great for recall work] - $2.00

ON SALE UNTIL FEB 28th - $2.00

Great for shy or nervous dogs, much quieter click