Sit Stay Fit resumes play groups


Sit Stay Fit has resumed trainer-led play groups the first and third Saturdays of the month. The groups are kept small, and a trainer is on hand to help keep play appropriate and work on skill building. Play groups run two hours at the SSF studio, located at 7100 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd in Portland. Participating dogs must either be clients or have trainer approval. Learn more at

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 or e-mail

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.

Up for a coastal outdoor adventure?

Citydog Countrydog offers a variety of canine events, classes and fun for puppies and dogs in Yachats on the Oregon Coast. Puppies and adult dogs can brush up on social skills during monthly events through October; other offerings include Willderness Companion Training, Testing & Certification, Adventure Hikes, Reactive Dog Practice Groups, Canine Caching and more. Learn more at

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 or e-mail

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:  

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 or e-mail

PETtalks - Low Stress Pet Care and Handling

Can you imagine your fur-kids taking part in their own care? Willamette Humane is hosting a discussion on low-stress pet care and handling techniques covering everything from trimming kitty's nails to drawing blood from an unrestrained, captive hyena. Attendees will learn how to teach animals these key concepts and more. The goal is force-free, fear-free training, less stressed animals, safer handlers, and stronger relationships. The discussion will be held Feb. 11, 6-7:30pm at WHS, 4246 Turner Rd in Salem. To learn more, call 503-585-5900 ext. 318.

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

Keepin' it clean

We’re getting plenty of rain now, and most owners are now experiencing the woes of muddy/wet paw prints all over the house.  Here are some quick tips and training ideas to keep your pooches’ feet clean.

Get the right gear!

Set yourself up for success with wet weather accessories such as absorbent mats, dog booties, and rain coats. 

Absorbent Mats

These are great during the winter. Place one mat outside the door and one inside so your dog walks over both. The Dog Gone Smart Dirty Dog Doormat is a great addition inside, and I have taught my dogs how to spin in circles on the rug after they come in. Instructions below.


Yes, I said it: dog booties. Not only will they keep your dog’s feet warm, they can also help keep your house clean. Throw some on before you let your dog outside — muddy paw problem solved!

Rain Coats

Suit them up before sending them outside or going for walks. It keeps the body dry and minimizes wet dog smell and excess drying time.  


Keep a basket of towels near the door for easy access during winter. I prefer a small wash cloth or hand towel for drying paws because they fit easily into my hand.

Training Games

Now that you’ve set yourself up for success and have everything you need in place, make cleaning your dog’s feet part of your daily routine!

Spin the doggie

If you have a dog who loves to tug, keep a tug toy and an absorbent mat near the door. When your dog comes inside, play a good game of tug and spin them around on the rug a few times. It’s an easy way to clean their feet and they love it!

Teach your dog to spin

Keep a jar of treats by the door and whenever every time your dog comes inside, tuck a treat into your hand and lure him or her around in circles. Do one circle, then feed one treat. Repeat 2-3 more times with the treat still in your hand, then do 2-3 more without a treat in your hand, holding your hand in the same position both ways. When the dog completes the spin feed a treat. This will teach your dog to spin with just the hand signal. E-mail me for a video on teaching a spin with a lure at

Happy Feet

If you would rather teach your dog to enjoy having his or her feet cleaned with a towel, keep a jar of treats and a towel by the door. Every time your dog comes inside and comes to you on the mat, immediately feed one treat. Then wipe one paw and feed one treat. Repeat this with the remaining 3 paws, one swipe, one treat. Repeat this process every time your dog comes inside. Gradually you will begin to wipe two paws before giving a treat, then three, until eventually you can do all four for one treat at the end.  

If you have questions or need more tips, ideas, or videos on any of the exercises above, please e-mail and we will happily send you more information. Have a clean winter!

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 or e-mail