Train your Dog: Save Your Sanity, Save Your Dog

Biscuit became mine as a six-year old. Our very first day together, I took Biscuit for a walk to Redmond Town Center. While crossing the street, I lost my grip on the leash handle and suddenly there stood Biscuit in the middle of the intersection realizing she had no tether whatsoever. I didn’t know if she’d come back to me, but I knew we’d bonded when she did – she came back to me very slowly though, barely allowing herself to trust me, and I knew I could never let that happen again.

I was Biscuit’s third try as an owner, and she came to me with lots of issues, most related to trust. She was very afraid of feet – evidently she’d encountered feet in her past (probably because she is an underfoot kind of pooch) and whenever feet came too close she’d scoot off – into the path of the runners or cyclists on the trail, into the street. Biscuit was also very fearful of strangers and inclined to bark; she’d bark at people she saw out on our walks, who walked past our door, on the sidewalk… on the other side of the street! Biscuit’s best skill was barking, probably because she got a lot of practice.

Recently, Biscuit and I took a little time to learn some new skills. Our trainer, Cathy Madson of Pawlogic, explained that by giving Biscuit some skills and a reason to focus, she’d gain confidence and security. At the same time, I’d gain confidence in my pooch – that she’d do as I asked, behave with decorum and dignity, and most importantly that she’d come when I call and stay when I asked her to.

We’ve been developing her skills with clicker training and high value treats. In just a few weeks, she’s learned Watch me, Come, Sit, Down, Stay… (She’s a rock star with Stay!) We’ve also learned very respectable Loose Leash Walking, Go to Your Spot, and Say “Hi” (she’ll touch her nose to a stranger’s outstretched hand). We’re still working on Spin, and Twist. These skills are all useful in our day-to-day interactions, and now she recognizes encountering new people as an opportunity for to practice her Say Hi skill and earn a treat or little bit of loving instead of being a fearful occasion worth barking about. Biscuit is also excited about her new skills, and prances around with her tail waving proudly with each new success. 

Biscuit Sits

Biscuit has become a more comfortable dog, and now that she’s not scaring my neighbors anymore, life has also become more comfortable for me. Most important, though, these are skills that could save Biscuit’s life. With Reliable Recall mastered, when I fumble the leash handle I know that Biscuit will come back to me when I call, every time, while I have no hold on her at all. 

Our experience in training together has been invaluable, not only for sanity and safety, but also because learning the skills together has strengthened the bond of trust between us. We will continue with our training efforts, learning new skills and practicing our skills together.

If you have concerns about your dog’s behavior or social skills, or would like to build on your already strong relationship, take a class from one of the very highly skilled dog trainers in the area. Whether you’re learning basic skills or learning advanced Agility Skills, you’ll see a world of difference in your dog and in your life.

Submitted by Linda Olsen, Partner, Scampers Daycamp for Dogs in Kirkland.  Contact her at or call 425-821-9100.  Pencil these dates in: Pawlogic will be holding free seminars at Scampers – July 30th Reliable Recall,  August 13th Loose Leash Walking, and August 27th Coffee Shop Etiquette. Space is limited. Contact Scampers or Pawlogic (425-443-5280) to register.

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