Worried Dogs

Dietary Supplements Can Help Ease Anxiety


I have three dogs. One of them, Aksel, is an outgoing goober — a ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback with the soul of a Labrador. Aksel hasn’t a worry in the world, and he's never met a stranger he didn’t love. When meeting people for the first time, he's 90 pounds of lap dog trying to wrap his giraffe-like tongue around their faces.

My other two dogs also love people, but unlike the carefree, imperturbable Aksel, both of them have anxiety issues.

Rhoda, my Pit/Boxer/Who-knows-what mix, is a hot mess of worries. She’s a rescue dog, but I got her as a puppy and know that worried is just her nature. She loves the car, but thunderstorms, fireworks, and loud noises freak her out. And now at her advanced age of 13, even changes in routine make her quake.

Then there’s Biggie, my rescue Pit Bull, who had been kept tied up in a yard until being dumped at a high-kill shelter. Despite this mistreatment, Biggie just adores people — family and strangers alike. But if I leave him alone in my car, he gets worried. Really worried. Barking, seatback-mauling, windshield-smashing worried. Even mellow Aksel, lounging in peaceful oblivion on the adjacent seat, has no calming effect on Biggie.

A friend overheard me mourning the shredding of my car’s seatbacks after one of Biggie’s anxiety attacks and suggested I try Composure, a calming dietary supplement produced by VetriScience Laboratories. It worked for his cat, he said.


According to the VetriScience website, Composure’s “colostrum calming complex” — a mix of bioactive proteins — “supports stress reduction and cognitive function.” Colostrum, the protein-packed “high octane” milk moms produce soon after childbirth, sounded comforting to me. (Composure uses cow’s milk for its formulation.) The second active ingredient, L-theanine, “helps the body produce other amino acids to bring specific neurotransmitters back into balance." The last active ingredient, thiamine (vitamin B-1), “affect[s] the central nervous system to help calm anxious animals.” Composure Pro, a stronger, vet-prescribed version, additionally contains L-tryptophan, a calming amino acid many people associate with the “calming effects” of turkey.

VetriScience’s studies show that Composure, which comes as a chewable treat or liquid, works at an effectiveness rate of 79 percent, even without the L-tryptophan. Other clinical studies show that colostrum helps doggie diarrhea (something Biggie has thankfully not inflicted upon my car . . . yet). It’s also good for coat quality and periodontal disease. Between the colostrum and the studies, I was sold and decided to give it a shot.

You can give Composure to your pet daily — one or two treats a day, say — or just as needed. A 60-treat bag of Composure runs about $12 on Amazon; the Pro version costs about twice that. I tend to give Biggie his Composure as needed, and he absolutely loves it. Personal experience is by no means a clinical trial, but when I remember to give Biggie this special snack, he barks less and my car gets fewer marks on it. I’ve started giving Composure to Rhoda too, and she seems all the better for it.

If Composure for some reason doesn’t work well for your anxious pet, you might try another popular supplement on the market: CBD oil (cannabidiol). One day I was chatting about Rhoda with Dr. Doreen Hock of Pacifica Veterinary Services and The Healthy Pet, and Dr. Hock suggested I look into this remedy, sold at The Healthy Pet. Hock told me she’s seen CBD change the demeanor of older pets. She said her own dog, who had become anxious due to age-related changes like hearing loss, became less stressed after starting CBD.

Sorry I freaked out and broke your windshield.  Love, Biggie

Sorry I freaked out and broke your windshield.  Love, Biggie

Dr. Hock explained that cannabis for pets is made from hemp and only has CBD in it, not the THC that will make your dog sick if he gets into the pot cookies left on the table. It’s not legal in Oregon to put marijuana in cat or dog food, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Animal Health program. But CBD derived from hemp is legal in vegetarian food or treats in this state.

Thanks to federal restrictions, studies of the effectiveness of CBD on pets are lacking, but according to Dr. Hock, CBD oils, biscuits, capsules, powders, and tinctures fly off the shelves at her Eugene store.

Speak with your veterinarian about behavior issues. There are many treatments for anxious pets, from supplements, pheromones, and simple behavior modification to anxiety medications. Anxiety is a health issue that can be treated.

We started giving Rhoda a daily dose of CBD, sometimes using Canna-Pets Canna-Biscuits and sometimes Austin and Kat Hemp Biscuits. Sure enough, she soon started acting noticeably calmer and more comfortable.

Not every dog can have Aksel’s love of everything and be unfazed by new situations. Luckily for Biggie and Rhoda, we’ve been able to find alternative remedies to ease their fears (and the damage to my car).  


Camilla Mortensen is editor-in-chief at Eugene Weekly. She is also a folklorist and a community college instructor. She has two horses, Flash and Cairo; a cat named Woodward; and an assortment of dogs — Rhoda, Aksel and Biggie Smalls — and lives in a 1975 Airstream trailer outside Eugene.

The ABCs of Socializing

When it comes to socialization, the clock is ticking! 

Socializing puppies is vital to helping them grow up to be wonderful companions. And because most people have high expectations for their dog’s ability to be quite social these days — like riding nicely in the car, behaving around people and other dogs, and spending time at the park — socializing puppies early is among the most valuable building blocks for a long, happy life.

Most development happens in the first 2 two years

One of the best investments — of time and money — a new pet parent can make is enrolling their puppy in a class or classes combining the best elements of veterinary behavior and dog training.  Such programs typically follow these developmental guidelines:

8- 18 weeks are typically the most crucial for socialization. This is when puppies should approach and be exposed to novel objects and situations.

8-19 weeks are sometimes called “fear periods,” when dogs may begin to approach novel situations fearfully.

6mos – 1 yr is when some say a secondary fear period may occur.

Dr. Valli Parthasarathy of Synergy Behavior Solutions (SBS) supports the statement on puppy socialization from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. It reads, in part: “Because the first three months are … when sociability outweighs fear, this is the window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals and experiences.” 

This is a great time to consider a rewards-based puppy preschool that emphasizes experiential socialization and dog-dog socialization (as opposed to manners/obedience class). “If your puppy is sick or injured during this critical socialization period, then private work should to be done to ensure the opportunity is not missed,” Parthasarathy says.  

Counseling pet parents on the fear period is routine for certified animal trainers Scott Raymond and Sara McLoudrey, also of SBS. “During this time puppies are more likely to have a fear response to novel situations, people or other animals. It is especially important to avoid frightening events during this time of their lives as it may have a lasting impact,” says Raymond. “This is best done by making the experiences they do have with novel situations very positive and not too intense.”

When is it safe to play with others?

Your veterinarian will provide guidelines for when your puppy can safely start socialization classes. S/he must have had at least one series of vaccines at least seven days prior to the first class. Perhaps surprisingly, it is now believed that puppies can start socialization classes as early as 7-8 weeks of age. Remember that the most crucial socialization period starts at 8 weeks.

“There is no evidence that a puppy with his or her first round of vaccines is at risk in a structured, well-rounded puppy class,” says Parthasarathy. “Many animals are euthanized because of behavior issues, so we think of socialization as a behavioral vaccine.”  

“But that doesn’t mean taking them to the dog park either,” adds McLoudrey. “There are lots of places you can socialize your puppy without interacting with strange dogs.”

Your best bet?  Get puppy to puppy class — the sooner, the better!

“Puppy classes should include structured time with other puppies, which helps set up the dog for positive interactions,” says Raymond. “Classes should also include experiential socialization — things like walking over unusual surfaces, exposure to a running vacuum, and mini agility equipment.”

Early socialization classes that teach a balance of both self-confidence and self-control are very important, says Casey Newton of Wonder Puppy. “Over the years, I have discovered that there are five stages of play that are very important to be aware of. We teach this in Wonder Puppy's Social Puppy class. Each stage shows pet parents their puppy's specific level of comfort in social situations. That way you know how to help them best so they can become a confident and well-behaved adult.”

Dr. Parthasarathy notes that while anxiety is typically associated with older dogs, it can affect puppies too, and that medications can be helpful. “If behavioral medications can reduce anxiety from the onset, then the puppy can have better experiences.”   

Quick n Easy Tips for socializing your puppy

Let the baby explore new environments at his or her own pace. This also means happy visits with the groomer and your veterinarian. Happy visits should be “pop ins” when you’re not there for nail trims or vaccinations. The visits should include treats — on the way, when in the lobby, and even in the parking lot. Visit your favorite technician or customer service representative as they’ll be happy to see you and your new addition (please extend the common courtesy of calling ahead for the okay to stop by).

  • If your puppy is showing fear-based response behaviors at 6-8 weeks, seek out a trainer for one-on-one work with. The session with the trainer will likely mimic many elements of puppy class but the trainer may arrange safe play with just one well-mannered dog, and lessons will be conducted and paced according to puppy’s individual needs. 
  • If you cannot leave the house, explore scary things/places in the house — crinkled paper, rippled flooring, a running vacuum
  • Take puppy along for car rides
  • Take him or her to Dairy Queen for a tiny cone or to Starbucks for a Puppacino (positive experiences)
  • Exposure to family pets is not enough. Puppies should be exposed to (vaccinated) dogs of varied age and appearance
  • Every experience should be positive! If you think your puppy needs help with desensitization therapy, seek out veterinary behavior consultations and private socialization 


Puppy Start Right: Foundation Training for the Companion Dog, Kenneth Martin

Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right, Dr. Sophia Yinn




Christy Caballero writes from the heart about all things pet-related, from a couple deer trails off the beaten path, typically juggling a cat (or two) on her lap as black kitty AsTar teeters on her shoulder and Mojo the retired Greyhound quietly calls for reinforcements!!

Getting Good Behavior

So why is it that dogs tend to be really good at home but not in other locations? The answer is generalization. Dogs are very context specific, so they tie in everything that was happening during training when the behavior was learned. Where they were during the training, what you were you doing — standing, sitting, wearing a hat, etc. Unless you generalize training to other situations and contexts pups will often be slow to respond and confused or unclear about what you want from them.

If you teach your pup to sit while you are in your living room, then s/he will sit really well .. . in your living room. Reward with a cookie while s/he is sitting in front of you, facing you, then that's where s/he thinks s/he should sit, not next to you. Dogs will be best behaved where you have trained the most, and typically this is inside your home.

So how do you get your dog to be really good at home, and really good out in the real world? The answer is generalization. This means changing the location and context you train in slightly and with gradually increasing difficulty. For example, if your dog is really good responding to a sit inside the house, change the context slightly and make it more challenging. Train in another room of the house, open the front door and practice inside the house. It will be slightly more difficult, but still easy enough that your dog will succeed!

Try it!

Step 1 Pick a behavior that is important to you and spend 5 minutes a day working on it.

Step 2 Gradually change the context. Think about all of the situations in which you might need your dog to be able to offer a behavior, write it down if it is helpful, and then rank them from easiest to hardest.

  • Can your dog do the behavior on leash or off leash?
  • Can your dog offer the behavior at your front door? With the door closed? Open? With people standing on the other side of the door?
  • Change the location. Train in your kitchen, living room, bedroom, back yard, front yard, friend’s house, local park. Start in the easiest location and build to the hardest. Take a step back to an easier location if you find a certain place too hard.
  • Change the context. Can your dog do the behavior if you are sitting, standing, lying on the floor, wearing sunglasses, a hat, talking on your phone, etc?

Jennifer Biglan, owner of Training Spot in Eugene, OR, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner in Eugene, OR. She knew she wanted to work with animals at a young age.  After graduating from the U of O and volunteering at a dog shelter, she found her calling. Jennifer is well known through the community, and by many area veterinarians for her work in solving behavior problems, and she has extensive knowledge and background training dogs. Learn more about Training Spot at trainingspot.us or e-mail info@trainingspot.us.

Behavior - It's not you, it's me

Finding the fit, building the fit, sometimes accepting it's not a fit

Dream Dog

You’ve always dreamed about the perfect dog. You met a beautiful Golden Retriever who was so well behaved and sweet you just couldn’t wait to take one home. The two of you will enjoy leisurely walks, s/he’ll greet you happily when you come home, love you unconditionally, potty right where you want him or her to, and come when you call. So you go out and get a new companion.  


A dog in the house can bring joy. But it can also bring chewed shoes, ruined furniture, drool, poop and barking. Behavior problems — , things like separation anxiety or leash reactivity — add another layer of challenge, and are all problems we see every day. 

Setting up for success 

1) Research your breed. Learn what was your dog bred to do and whether you can or will meet his daily physical and mental needs. Some dogs love nothing more than to lounge on the couch all day while others need ample exercise and room to run and play. Not all breeds will fit your bill; my Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Jack Russell (JRT) mix are both couch potatoes. They can sleep all day, go for a short walk, and then sleep all night without a problem. Not all Staffies or JRTs are like that — if you have one you may be wondering what tranquilizers I give mine to get them to stop moving! 

2) Meet your dog’s basic needs: 

  • Environment: Provide an enriching, low-stress environment. Notice where your dog likes to sleep, what s/he likes to play with, assess their breed needs and make adjustments. Look at daily stressors, too. If my Terrier has access to a window she will “protect” the house from invaders, barking at every person who passes during the day. Simply closing the curtains, creating a visual barrier like paper, or moving furniture so she can’t see out the window reduces her stress substantially and helps her feel more relaxed during the day.
  • Physical Exercise: Can/will you provide daily walks or running, play, chase, etc.?
  • Healthy diet: Is your dog getting the nutrition s/he needs? Talk to your vet — sometimes a change is in order.
  • Mental Exercise: Can/will you provide training, food puzzle toys, play, ample time to sniff during walks, etc.? 

3) Train some more! Training provides ample mental exercise, which will help your dog feel tired and teaches them what you want them to do.  

Sometimes it’s just not a good fit.

What to do when it’s not a good fit? One thing I love about pet parents is their commitment. They have taken a dog into their home and they want to make it work, they want their dog to be happy, and they’ll do whatever it takes. However, sometimes whatever it takes involves re-homing your dog and finding a better “match.” I recently helped a client family re-home their two-year old Golden; it was a very hard decision for all involved. He is a beautiful dog, and they are a wonderful family — they were just not a fit for each other. Four kids, busy jobs, and an unfenced property made meeting their dog’s needs nearly impossible. I am proud of their bravery in deciding to re-home him; it’s a tough decision to make, but it was the best decision for their dog. A little work, a few phone calls, connecting with local rescue groups, and we found a home for him that is absolutely perfect. He even has his own instagram page!

Jennifer Biglan, owner of Training Spot in Eugene, OR, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner in Eugene, OR. She knew she wanted to work with animals at a young age. After graduating from the U of O and volunteering at a dog shelter, she found her calling. Jennifer is well known through the community, and by many area veterinarians for her work in solving behavior problems, and she has extensive knowledge and background training dogs. Learn more about Training Spot at trainingspot.us or e-mailinfo@trainingspot.us.

HALL PASS . . . May I be excused?

Yo, Teach! Gonna need a hall pass. Know what I’m sayin’?  

Few topics inspire more jokes and euphemisms than this one. You know: dog logs, kitty roca, doggie doodie, and of course, “Look! The dog just did a Number Three: he went Number One AND Number Two.” 

Let’s face it: we all have a bit of adolescence in us and bathroom humor tickles us. And with furry companions around, there’s no lack of potty jokes.  

I don’t know about your household, but in ours, the first conversation of the morning is usually about poop! My husband is an early riser. He takes the dogs out first thing, and then announces to me, still semi-conscious in bed, “This one only peed; this one both peed and pooped....”  

Sometimes (rarely, thankfully) there’s also an update on any offerings the cats might have left us in the night. 

Truth be told, I never know what to do with this information. If we were parenting human children, we’d be in for a few years of obsession with bodily functions, until they learned to “go” on their own. But parenting pets means never outgrowing potty conversations: did the litter boxes get scooped, who bought litter, what’s that funky smell in the corner, the number of times (and quality) the dogs did Number One and Number Two, which went mining in the cat box, and . . . “Ewww! That is super gross — what did she eat? Did something crawl up there and die?!” 

All the score-keeping seems as if we’re reassuring ourselves our pets are normal and healthy — not that there’s a hard-and-fast rule for how many times kiddos should do their business each day. Are we aiming for a nice eight (two Number Twos and four Number Ones)? Do we need something more like a twelve? Should I sound some sort of piddle alarm if we score less than five? 

Honestly, counting doesn’t do crap for you. Here’s the straight poop: when somebody is going a lot more than usual (either #1 or #2), or having trouble going at all, or straining to go, or showing blood in their poo or wee, or having “accidents” in the house, get to the vet. This is important for your kid’s health, because any of these symptoms could signal a serious medical problem. Also, veterinarians love poop jokes, and they know some good ones. 

Doctor Blake Miller’s favorite poop story happened when he was fresh out of veterinary college and adjusting to the demands of a busy practice. Returning home from work at the Woodburn (Ore.) Veterinary Clinic, he fell asleep on the couch with a half-eaten pork chop nearby. His girlfriend’s cat, Floyd, finished it, and quickly got seriously ill from bone fragments that lodged in his gut. Dr. Miller rushed Floyd to the clinic and gave him “the first of several enemas,” which the cat grudgingly tolerated. The young doctor would wait for the “long and productive” bathroom sessions enemas produce, and then take more x-rays, only to find something was still in Floyd’s gut. Dr. Miller meticulously collected and dissected Floyd’s poop for several days while hoping his girlfriend wouldn’t find out Floyd’s sudden illness was his fault.  

As in all the best stories, Floyd lived happily ever after. The last remaining gut blob that kept appearing in x-rays turned out to be a harmless fat deposit that a senior doctor diagnosed. Dr. Miller counts it as a great early learning experience, and, yes: he eventually confessed. He also thought Floyd was a great patient.  

Floyd has a kindred spirit in the form of a young Boxer whose eating habits landed her in overnight observation at Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center in Medford. She had eaten a toy, and x-rays showed the pieces had a good chance of passing on their own. All night, doctors checked for poop and waited for pieces of toy to see the light of day. Early in the morning, the doctor did a routine rectal exam. She reached in and pulled out an intact, fully functioning squeaker, no worse for its journey through doggy doo canyon. Clinic staff still love to tell this story. They told the doctor her disappearing-and-reappearing-squeaker trick was impressive, and she should do parties.

 You’re no doubt asking the obvious question, but there’s no widely accepted answer. Yes, a poop with a squeaker inside is definitely more than a Number Two. It could change on a case-by-case basis, but it almost never scores less than a 4.5. 

Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband warns you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

Down Dog, Up Dog

How positive reinforcement transforms lives 

Tera and I have seen the transformation that takes place when dogs are trained using positive reinforcement so often, we’ve given it a name: “down dog, up dog.” Dogs that come to us “down” are shut down, scared, or uncertain. Then, after being introduced to positive training, they become “up dogs” — more relaxed, joyful, playful, outgoing dogs who enjoy learning and being with their pet parents.

What’s the difference between positive reinforcement and punishment?

Reinforcement strengthens or increases behaviors. Anything you want your dog to do more of, you should reinforce. If your dog comes to you, praise, pet, let him or her go play again, give a treat. If s/he likes those things s/he will come to you more often. 

Punishment weakens or decreases behaviors. Your dog barks, you bop her on the nose, squirt him with a squirt bottle, or drop a shaker can full of pennies. If the timing was right, s/he may bark less. A potential side effect of punishment is that unless your timing is impeccable, you can accidentally punish the wrong behavior, or worse, create other problems.

Which is better for me?

We at Training Spot are committed to using the most effective and modern training methods with dogs (and their humans). We love and use positive reinforcement. It is more fun for both you and your dog, strengthens your relationship, builds trust and mutual respect, is easy for the whole family to participate in (including kids), teaches your dog what you DO want them to do, and is scientifically proven to be more effective than using punishment.


Great books on positive training


The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller

Positive training tools to share a lifetime of fun, companionship, and respect with your dog. Plus: information on the importance of observing, understanding, and reacting appropriately to your dog's body language; instruction on how to phase out the use of a clicker or treats to introduce more advanced training concepts; a diary to track progress; suggestions for treats your dog will respond to; and a glossary of training terms.

Plenty in Life is Free by Kathy Sdao

In this new book, renowned dog trainer Kathy Sdao reveals how her life journey and her decades of experience training marine mammals and dogs led her to reject a number of sacred cows including the leadership model of dog training. She describes her own training philosophy, emphasizing developing partnerships in which humans and dogs exchange reinforcements and continually cede the upper hand to one another.

Jennifer Biglan, owner of Training Spot in Eugene, OR, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner in Eugene, OR. She knew she wanted to work with animals at a young age. After graduating from the U of O and volunteering at a dog shelter, she found her calling. Jennifer is well known through the community, and by many area veterinarians for her work in solving behavior problems, and she has extensive knowledge and background training dogs. Learn more about Training Spot at trainingspot.us or e-mail info@trainingspot.us.

Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog

A few minutes of training every day will build a lasting, loving, relationship 

We love our dogs, and want nothing more than a loving, lasting relationship that includes fun walks and exercising, off-leash romps, snuggles on the sofa, fetching, and the simple joy of companionship. When our dogs are at their best we love them endlessly. When at their worst, however, it can sometimes make us wonder whether we can handle their doggie antics. Pulling us on the leash everywhere they want to sniff and explore, barking incessantly, sometimes seemingly at nothing. While my Lucy has heard about the little boy who cried wolf, she’s the little dog who barked "woof"!   

So, what to do and where to start?  

What to do

The answer in some cases is simple. Start training the instant you get your dog, or better still, before you get him/ her. Training goes both ways; you can learn how to speak dog or rather how dogs communicate, so you can better communicate and understand why s/he does some of the things s/he does.      

When to do it

Find a trainer who will help you incorporate training skills into your daily routine in a way that feels effortless. If you’re like most people, you want the training to be lifelong. For that you will need to occasionally fine-tune and review. 

    A little training goes a long way

    1) Train in short sessions (3-5 minutes each)

    2) Use real-life rewards every day (ask for a behavior your dog knows well before you:

  • let your dog: outside,
  • put food or water down
  • clip on his/her leash
  • invite him/her onto the couch
  • give snuggles/attention (some snuggles should be free)
  • throw a toy/ball, etc. 

What kind of training

The first question clients ask me is often "What kind of training do I do? Use force, choke chains?” etc. It’s an easy question to answer. No. I do not use force, intimidation, choke chains, etc. Why? Partly because I simply don't like those things and do not want my kids doing them either, but mostly because I just don't need to. It is simply more effective and more fun (for everyone) to use positive training.   

50 a day keeps the trainer away

In Kathy Sdao's book, Plenty in Life is Free, she discusses the Smart x50 program, and I love it! The idea is simple and sheds light on how easy it can be to get good behaviors. Have a goal of 50 rewards a day — approximately ¼-cup of your dog’s regular meal. Measure the food out in the morning when you feed your dog, and throughout the day, notice and reward things your dog does that you like throughout the day: coming inside, approaching with all paws on the floor, sleeping on their bed, chewing on their toy, etc. I bet you could do 100! 

Great books and videos on dog body language

     1) Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas (book or video)

     2) The Language of Dogs by Sarah Kalnajs (video) 

Share pics of you giving your dog 50 a day here: facebook.com/dogandcatllc.  

This article is dedicated to Scout.

You came into our lives and changed them forever.  

Thank you for the time you shared with us, it was too short, but it was full.  

Jennifer Biglan, owner of Training Spot in Eugene, OR, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner in Eugene, OR. She knew she wanted to work with animals at a young age. After graduating from the U of O and volunteering at a dog shelter, she found her calling. Jennifer is well known through the community, and by many area veterinarians for her work in solving behavior problems, and she has extensive knowledge and background training dogs. Learn more about Training Spot at trainingspot.us or e-mail info@trainingspot.us.

Sniff Nursery School opens

In yet another 1st, Portland welcomes the Sniff Nursery School, for pups 8-20 weeks.

A puppy’s fist 8-20 weeks is the time to establish a solid foundation through socialization, training and exploration. This is when they learn to socialize and play appropriately with other dogs, and skilled assistance can help ensure your puppy grows into a friendly, happy and safe adult dog. 

The Sniff Nursery school features educated, experienced trainers using only positive reinforcement. In a safe, clean and nurturing environment, puppies learn appropriate play behavior with big and small pups, including: bite inhibition, potty training, leash desensitization, name recognition, impulse control, crate training, separation confidence, boundary training and basic skills.

Puppies go home tired and happy, says owner Jamie Mollas. “We provide our puppy parents with resources to continue training at home." Parents also receive progress reports and ongoing communication throughout the program. Learn more at sniffdoghotel.com

Super Seniors

The benefits of training your elderly dog



We’ve all heard the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but nothing could be further from the truth. We may need to modify some of our tricks and stop asking a dog with bad hips to sit, but any dog at any age is ready (and happy!) to learn. Training your senior dog will enrich their life, provide much-needed mental exercise, and help keep them mentally sharp.

Transferring verbal cues (that your senior may no longer be able to hear) to hand or touch signals is a great way to get started. Even though your dog may have stopped being able to hear the verbal cues you are using, they still know how to do them, and it will only take a few short training sessions to teach them to respond to a new cue.

Transfer a cue

To transfer an old cue to a new cue, practice the cues in pairs. Count out about 10 small (pea-sized), soft training treats. Show your dog your new cue (a hand signal or touch to their body) then give the old cue (if your dog can still hear a little). Praise and treat when they get it right, then repeat nine more times. If your dog can’t hear at all you will need to help them with luring.

Hand Target

My favorite cue to teach senior dogs is to target and follow my hand with their nose. Hand targeting can be useful for teaching your senior to come, move when you need them to move, stand, and a lot of other fun and useful tricks!

When my senior Kyla started losing her hearing I transferred her verbal cue “Come” to a hand target. Now when I need her to come close I hold my hand out with my palm facing her and she “runs” over to touch her nose to my hand. To teach this cue, count out 10 soft pea-sized treats, put your empty hand with your palm facing your dog about 2 inches away from your dog’s nose, then, when they touch your palm with his or her nose, praise and give a treat.

While working on new cues, keep in mind your dogs’ physical limitations. I stopped asking Kyla to sit several years ago as she is arthritic and has hip problems. We now work on stand (which is pretty easy because she stands all the time), come, and nose targeting.

Teaching your old dog new tricks is good for him or her and you in many ways. For one, continuing to learn help keeps the mind healthy. It also provides you and your companion a “language” you can both use and understand, keeping you connected and making life easier for you both. And of course, as always, training/learning activities never stop nurturing the bond between you and your best friend. 

Jennifer Biglan, owner of Training Spot in Eugene, OR, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner in Eugene, OR. She knew she wanted to work with animals at a young age.  After graduating from the U of O and volunteering at a dog shelter, she found her calling. Jennifer is well known through the community, and by many area veterinarians for her work in solving behavior problems, and she has extensive knowledge and background training dogs. Learn more about Training Spot at trainingspot.us or e-mail info@trainingspot.us.

Puppy training business truly a wonder

Photo credit: Kforce Creative

Photo credit: Kforce Creative

Why have a good puppy when you can have a “wonder puppy”?  That’s Casey Newton’s question, and her customers have answered — honoring Wonder Puppy with three first-place wins.  

Wonder Puppy won 1st Place in Training/Behavior Services, Playgroups/Spaces, and Individual Trainer (Kerry Ryan), the latter finding four WP trainers in the top 10.  

While there are clearly many things people like about Wonder Puppy, Newton says a big one is class size.  “We only have four to five students per group class,” she says, “which is very small, so they get a lot of personal attention.  We know each and every one of our students.”  Small classes means students get the individual attention they need, even when they’re at different skill levels.  Another plus?  “We like people as well as dogs!” says Newton laughing.  “There are two learners in this situation — you have the person and you have the dog.  You need to be able to teach people, because they’re the ones ultimately communicating with their dogs.  So we’re people-teachers as well.” 

Newton is a seasoned pro.  In April, Wonder Puppy will celebrate five years, and for five years before that, she was owner and trainer at Portland Paws.  With WP, she decided to specialize in puppies.  Students progress through three levels:  Good, Great and Wonder.  “We do a really good job in what we offer because we specialize, so we’re able to do 100 percent foundational dog training,” says Newton.  To earn a Canine Good Citizen certificate, a puppy must demonstrate 16 skills in an outdoor setting with no treats.  “I created the curriculum to be the most positive and practical approach to training,” Newton says.  “It’s balanced in terms of positive reinforcement and boundaries.” 

Wonder Puppy offers about 38 classes each week, all focused on foundational training, with about 14 first-series classes offered days, evenings and weekends.  “We’re a tight team,” says Newton.  “We have public school, private school, and boarding school.  If someone trains with us for a group class we also have support for them outside of class, and even if they have a different trainer we all use the same methods so it’s not confusing.” 

Newton studied psychology at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, animal behavior at the University of Tennessee, and interned with well-known animal behaviorist Gordon M. Burghardt.  Her psychology background is valuable in serving her human customers:  WP offers tea, coffee and granola bars in case puppy parents come from work and are hungry.  “We have a little bar where you can watch the classes,” she says.  “We call it a sit-and-sip station; it’s a place to hang out.” 

Photo credit: Kforce Creative

Photo credit: Kforce Creative

Newton is gaining recognition in the dog training world.  She is the animal trainer for the popular television show “Portlandia,” and has done casting for the show.  “So fun!” she says.  Newton also offers webinars on puppy training and will travel to Chile in November to speak and present workshops at the Association of Professional Dog Trainers conference. 

Now, she’s ready to spread her wings even more.  Newton recently moved to Los Angeles part-time, and has plans to develop an iPhone app.  She’s also developing videos to support puppy parents who want to learn the Wonder Puppy way wherever they live, and is considering franchising in coming years, opening in Southern California and possibly East Portland.  “It’s really exciting,” she says. 

Wonder Puppy

1500 NW 18th Ave, Portland

503-697-PUPS (7877) * wonder-puppy.com