7 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe on Halloween

Halloween can be a time of costumes, candy, and fun and games for kids. For dogs? Not so much. For dogs, Halloween can mean scary looking people, people carrying strange things in their hands, the over-stimulating and sometimes over-whelming sounds of children’s laughter and screams, and the ever-ringing door bell and lots of strange people visiting their home. PepperUnexpected surprises and sounds can rattle even the most socialized dog. So what is a good dog owner to do?

1. Take you dog for a nice long walk or training session – before the sun goes down and the Trick-or-Treaters come around. Or better yet – take your dog on a long walk that includes some basic manners training along the way. Have your dog Sit, Down, Stay, or do a hand touch at each mail box or driveway you come to. Mix up the rewards for the doing the behaviors too – sometimes a Sit gets a treat, sometimes some pettings, sometimes the reward is “Let’s go!” and the walk continues. The goal is to mental tire your dog out while he/she is exercising – a great way to twice the bang for your dog walk buck!

Bear2. Arrange for your dog NOT to have access to the Treat-or-Treaters. Set up a secure area for your dog – a crate in a room far away from the door, behind a bedroom door, on a leash with a person in another room are all good options. To help your dog want to stay away from the excitement at the door, turn on the TV or radio for your dog and give him/her something yummy to chew on – a Kong stuffed with a yummy treat (Kongcompany.com has some great recipes!), a long-last dog treat, or a fun toy that your dog loves. The idea is to remove your dog from the action of Halloween and reward them for doing so!

3. Prevent Trick-or-Treaters from using the doorbell! Cover the doorbell and hang a sign saying “Please Knock – Doorbell Broken” – or plan to hang out outside your home during Trick-or-Treat time. Reducing this one excitement inducing sound can make the difference between your dog having a bad night or a great night!

4. Make sure your dog has ID tags on at all times around Halloween – if he/she does manage to slip out in all the commotion of Halloween, you have a better chance at having a swift reunion if your phone number is on your dog’s collar.

5. If you insist on taking your dog out Trick-or-Treating (and by the way, we suggest you do not) don’t take your dog to each house, have the dog holder wait on the street while the Trick-or-Treaters go door to door. This will keep everyone safer (imagine your dog’s surprise is a scary monster answers a Trick-or-Treaters knock – it could be scary for all involved).Justice League Gang

6. Remember Halloween costumes can be scary for dogs. When people don’t look or sound like the dog expects (i.e. sans masks, carry fake swords, or walking like the Hunchback) – dogs don’t know what to make of it – so he/she may bark, lunge, growl, jump, or all of the above at the costumed person. Wouldn’t it be a better idea for your dog to think Halloween is just a day for him/her to get a great treat and some quiet time?

7. Halloween candy – in a word: NO. Chocolate, artful sweetness, and all the other goodness that ends up in Trick-or-Treat bags can spell trouble for dogs. Keep all candy, sweets, gum, and their wrappers away from dogs. Top of the fridge or in the hall closet are great places to store them (and it makes it harder for kiddies to over-indulge as well!)

Halloween is a fun time for kids and adults – let’s make it fun for dogs to by following these 7 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe on Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training at the Delaware Beaches – Rehoboth, Lewes, Bethany and surrounding area in DE.

Head trainer Deb Murray, CPDT-KA is certified by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, an AKC Evaluator, a Distinguished Graduate and now Mentor Trainer of the Catch Canine Academy, and APDT C.L.A.S.S. Evaluator and Instructor.


Back to school in a mid-COVID world – tips for helping your dog adjust to your new normal

Back to school time can be stressful for families and dogs. Schedules change, priorities change, and spare time can be hard to come by. Your dog will likely start spending more time alone than he/she has been used to for the last year and half – or ever. Pepper’s Paws Dog Training has some tips to help you and dog adjust to the new normal this school year.

dog left alone
Is your dog ready to left alone?

Keep it simple

Start a routine that you stick to most days of the week. Try to keep wake up and bed times around the same time each day. Same thing for walk/potty breaks. Consistency is important for building confidence in your dog. When your dog knows what to expect when, anxiety usually goes down. A few walks each day and a few minutes of dedicated training time each day is our recommendation. Committing to this level of enrichment can create a meaningful behavior change in most dogs. Don’t overdue it by trying too many new things all at once. 

Be mindful of not making starting new things – exercise, training, dog sports, etc. that you cannot continue. The last thing you want to do is fill your dog’s time with you and suddenly stop what you have started because you realize you don’t have as much time to dedicate to your dog as you thought.

Crate training is key

All dogs should be able to be comfortably crated. A crate is a safety device. Crates keep dogs from getting into trouble when owners are not home. Sleeping around the house all day can be boring for dogs. Bored dogs getting into the trash, destroy dog beds, and chew on things they should not chew on. Unless your dog is an adult dog who has proven to be trustable when left alone, plan to crate your dog.

Crate training can take time – the time to start is long before you need to leave your dog alone. If you need help with crate training, here is a short video to show you how to get started. If you find that your dog is struggling to get used to being crated, we can help you in private in person lessons if you live in the Rehoboth/Lewes, DE area or via Zoom if you live outside of our in person private lessons service area.

Physical exercise

Most dogs benefit from leash walks. Dogs who are very reactive or fearful may not be able to relax enough on a walk in their current state. Working with a positive reinforcement dog training can help these dogs. For dogs who enjoy leash walks, hit the road with them! 20 minutes to an hour – depending on your dog’s age, health, and weather conditions – can be a great way to ensure your dog is ready for a nap when you leave for work or school.

Mental enrichment

Every dog breed was originally bred for a purpose. Tapping into your dog’s natural breed needs can be a great way to mental meeting their needs for enrichment – think of it as giving your dog a job. Hounds love to sniff. Retrievers like to fetch or retrieve things. Many dog breeds just like to do training or work for their food. Not sure of what your rescue dog’s breed is? Experiment with different things like sniff walks, playing fetch, basic obedience training, snuffle mats, or puzzle toys to see what your dog enjoys.

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Trainerand an AKC Evaluator.

Do You Need Pet Insurance?

Do you need pet insurance? Are some breeds more susceptible to illness or injury? How do you find pet insurance providers? We get asked these questions every week. Shopping for pet insurance can be daunting. Where should you start?

No fear of cone

Is your dog currently healthy?

Consider your dog’s current health situation. Did you adopt a pandemic puppy or kitten? Is your new dog a rescue dog? The age of your dog can influence the cost of a pet insurance policy. Breed can also be a factor in terms of what what policy will cover. Is your new dog or cat currently healthy? Existing and pre-existing conditions can impact the cost and availability of pet insurance too. Co-pays and premiums are important to consider too.

What can afford?

Can you afford to pay a co-pay if you dog or cat gets sick and needs medical care? Some pet insurance policies have deductibles. Some policies do not have deductibles. How much per month can afford to pay for a pet insurance premium? As you compare pet insurance offerings, don’t forget to compare these out-of-pocket costs. Policies have varying coverage options too.

Policy coverage options

Another important comparison factor is what does the policy cover. Some policies cover routine check ups, preventive medications, and vaccinations. Does the cost of this coverage exceed what you would pay out-of-pocket without insurance? Does your dog’s breed have health risks that are included or excluded from the policy? Some policies don’t cover certain conditions or diseases, or breed-specific conditions. Make sure to review age limitations on the policies too. Your dog’s age could also impact cost, coverage options, and availability of coverage.

Insurance or personal savings?

Do you need insurance at all? Some people opt to start a pet savings account in lieu of buying an insurance policy. A quick survey of the cost of a serious illness or injury will give you an idea of whether or not you can or want to cover this out-of-pocket for your pet.

Other things to consider

Some policies cover exotic pets. Some offer multi-pet household discounts. Employers sometimes offer pet insurance as part of their employee benefits program. If you are covered by an employer-sponsor benefits program be sure to ask about this as an option.

Does your dog’s behavior necessitate an insurance policy? While not pleasant to think about, some dogs and cats are more likely to eat things they should not eat. Some destructive chewers are a toy away from a foreign body ingestion. Talk with your vet about this. Ask them if they think your dog is good candidate for a pet health insurance policy (and start working with a positive reinforcement dog trainer to change your dog’s behavior too!)

How to get started

This is a great resource for getting started on your pet insurance research. The folks at Money.com have done a lot of the research for you. They have rated companies by several factors. They looked at value, simplicity, coverage for exotic animals, dental coverage, early coverage, multi-pet coverage, preventative care coverage, discount clubs, older pet coverage, and no deductible coverage. The article also explains what key insurance terms mean. They offer COVID-19 specific information too. This is a must read for new pet parents and anyone considering pet insurance.

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home private dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression at the Delaware Beaches – Rehoboth, Lewes, Bethany and surrounding areas , and via Zoom remote dog training for dogs and owners who do not live in our service area.

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.

How can I socialize my dog during a pandemic?

yellow lab puppy

How can I socialize my dog during a pandemic? This is a question I have been asked almost every day since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March. Just because you can’t be around other people doesn’t mean you can’t socialize your puppy. Socialize means showing your dog that new things are no big deal, or they are awesome! Sure, meeting dogs and people is an important aspect of socialization. But socialization isn’t just about dogs and people. There are many categories of “new” that your puppy can safety be introduced to during social distancing.


Grooming is important to dogs. It’s even better when dog love grooming. Grooming includes brushing, bathing, and nail trims. Ear cleaning and eye cleaning are also grooming elements that puppies need to learn to be comfortable with. Patience with gentle restraint is also an important skill for young puppies to learn too. What is the best way to do these things with your puppy?


When your puppy has had some exercise – so he is not loaded with pent up energy – is a great time to work on handing. Sit somewhere comfortable where you can securely hold your puppy. Your puppy can be on your lap or on the floor or on a piece of furniture.

Start with one aspect of handling to work on at a time. Say you start with brushing. Your puppy’s brush should not snag or pull at his fur. We like to start with a soft, rubber bristled brush (click here to see an example: https://amzn.to/2JsuibK). Start in an area on your puppy’s body that he likes to have petted. Back and shoulders are a good place to start. Gently brush your puppy following the grain or direction that the fur naturally goes. If your puppy doesn’t seem to mind the touching – he doesn’t pull away or try to bite the brush, continue. If he seems agitated, stop brushing for now.

Wait a day or so and then try brushing again. This time, show the dog your brush and then give him tasty treat. Repeat this a few times, then gently touch the dog with the brush and then give him the treat. Repeat this a few more times and then stop the session. Practice this over several short sessions over a few days. Your dog should be starting to associate the brush with food. This is what you want. Brushing = awesome! to your dog. Repeat this same process for brushing, teeth brushing, and handling.

Nail Trims

Nail trims are scary things for many puppies and adult dogs too. Start by showing your dog the clippers. Let her sniff the closed and locked clippers. Move the clippers toward your dog’s feet and then treat. Repeat many times, gradually moving the clippers closer and closer to your puppy. Work up to touching the clipper to your dog’s nails and then gently clipping the tip of your pup’s nails. Gently tip your puppy’s nails once per week and nail clipping will become no big deal to your dog.

Socializing Out & About

Think about your long term goals for your puppy. Do you want you dog to feel like he can say “hi” to every person and dog you see on a walk. Most people say no, this isn’t really what they want. When they walk their dog, they want to walk – not constantly stop for every dog or person they see. COVID time is a great time to reach your dog that seeing people on walk – not greeting everyone he sees – is normal.

Socializing to your dog to people

To get your dog used to the idea that seeing people is normal, you need to take your dog some where she can see people at a distance. Let your pup sit and take in the scenery and watch people and dogs walk by. Walking trails near fields are a great place to do this. Have your puppy on leash 20-30 feet away from the trail (move further away if being this close it too exciting for your dog). As people pass on the trail, gently praise your dog for just watching. If your dog barks or gets excited, don’t reprimand her. Move a little further back from the trail and let her get used to seeing people moving in the distance.

Socializing your dog to other dogs

This same technique can work for seeing dogs at a distance too. When your dog sees another dog and does not bark, praise and even treat your dog. You are essentially rewarding your dog for an absence of behavior (you are rewarding the “not barking”). The more dogs and people you dog sees, and the more he gets rewarded for NOT interacting with them, the more this behavior will become your dog’s normal or default behavior. When the COVID social distancing requirements are lifted and your dog is around more people, he will have developed a habit of not barking at people at a distance and you can then work on seeing and passing people at closer distances.

Socializing to New Experiences

What are three things you want to be able to with your dog in 3-6 months? Where are 5 places you want to be able to take your dog in 6 months? Just because these places or businesses are closed now doesn’t mean you can’t still visit many of them.

Have a favorite outdoor cafe you want to take your dog to this spring? Stop by now for a visit! It will likely be lesson crowded now than usual. It won’t be as exciting, because you may be the only ones there. This is a great time to get your dog used to going! Walk by the area, or sit for a few minutes at a table with your dog if you can. Stop by every few days and let your dog explore the outdoor area. By doing this, the first time you take him there in the spring, it won’t be nearly as big of new, big deal because he will have already been there many times with you.

Car Rides

Do you want your dog to love care rides? Now is the time to start taking your puppy on short car rides that end in fun! Short trips to the mailbox, down the street, or to the next street over followed by a short walk in a new area is great for dogs. Short car rides help dogs get used to riding in the car. By adding a walk to the end of the car ride, your puppy will start to learn that not all car rides end at the vet!

Socializing your dog to new surfaces

It is a great ideas to gently expose puppies to all different types of surfaces and flooring. You want your puppy to learn that new = fun and safe. Grass, dirt, wood, concrete, wood chips, and metal are all great surface options to introduce your puppy to. Don’t forget to have your puppy experience all of these surfaces when they are wet from rain and also at night too!

Don’t let the pandemic stop you from safely socializing your puppy! Need help getting started? We are offering Zoom lessons for puppies and dogs and we’d love to help you with your pup!

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression at the Delaware Beaches – Rehoboth, Lewes, Bethany and surrounding areas. We also offer remote training via zoom for dogs and owners who do not live in our service area.

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.

Pepper’s Paws Fit Dog Club

Pepper's Paws Fit Dog Club featured in February 2020 AKC CGC Evaluator's Newsletter
Pepper’s Paws Fit Dog Club – out for group walk on a beautiful day!

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression at the Delaware Beaches – Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Bethany and surrounding areas.

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.

Getting started on training with your rescue dog

Your new dog is a stranger in a strange land

Imagine how you would feel if you were dropped into a foreign country where you did not speak the language, you didn’t have any money, and you didn’t know how to get your needs met. How scary would that be? Imagine if every time you did something wrong or tried to ask a question, someone yelled “NO!” at you? How scary and difficult would it be to learn the language and how to get a meal? That is exactly what we do with rescue dogs. These dogs don’t know how to get their needs met. They don’t know if they’re safe. They don’t know who to trust, and they don’t speak English.

Pepper at shelter

Many of our rescue dogs come from unknown backgrounds. We don’t know if they have ever been hit, yelled at or abused. We also don’t know what they have seen or been socialized to. Yet we expect them to know and follow our rules. We think they should know how they are supposed to behave. They should know what they are and are not supposed to chew on. We think they should know where the bathroom is and how to tell us they need to go, the list goes on and on.  

By showing your new dog kindness and compassion through positive training – being clear on your expectations, and rewarding behaviors you want more of and preventing behaviors you don’t want more of – you will set your newly adopted rescue dog up success with you in your home. 

When and how to get started on training

The best time to start on training your new dog is the first day you bring your dog home. Training on the first day is all about setting your dog up for success. Establish routines, boundaries, and habits to last a lifetime with your dog. Keep things simple. Reward behaviors you want more of – like sitting for petting and not jumping, sitting to have the leash put on, and politely waiting for a food bowl. Make sure to not reward behaviors you don’t want more of. Yelling at or trying to correct a dog for jumping gives the dog a simple message “I love it when you do that! Please do it again!” because to a dog, all attention is good attention (they can’t easily differentiate between good attention and bad attention). 

Of course, you can’t always just ignore behavior that you don’t like in your new dog. Behaviors like trying to run out of doors, jumping up on people, and stealing things off the counter are all things that we don’t want more of, so we need to prevent from happening in the first place. By simply following the two-week shutdown rule and keeping your dog on a leash, you can prevent your dog from running out the front door, jumping up on people, and stealing things off of the counter.

2 Simple things to do with your new rescue dog

Dog on leash have fewer house training accidents.  If your dog is on the leash and you are paying attention to her, you will notice when she starts to sniff the floor or walk in a circle or start to squat – all signs that she is about to go to the bathroom – you can quickly run her outside your potty spot. 

You should also keep your dog’s world small. Your dog does not need access to your entire house on day 1. Start by handing him in one or 2 rooms – with you actively supervising him on leash to prevent chewing problems and house soiling accidents.

What training methods work best with rescue dogs?

We recommend you use positive reinforcement training with your newly adopted dog. The premise of positive reinforcement training is simple: you reward behaviors you want more of. You also prevent behaviors you don’t want more of by using a leash or crate or active supervision. This prevents the dog from rehearsing unwanted behaviors. The more your dog rehearses behaviors that you like, the more he’ll realize how to get his needs met. He will offer these pleasant and positive behaviors more and more, because they work for him. Rewards that your dog can earn are food, treats, play and toys, access to the yard or a walk, petting, and praise. Consistency and contingency are key. They speed up your dog’s learning because he learns that he has the power to make things happen.

Why we don’t recommend shock collars and prong collars

Tools like shock collars, prong collars, e-collars, choke colors, pinch collars are all punishment-based training methods. The premise of punishment-based training is the dog learns how to avoid pain or fear. Punishment does not teach the dog what he is supposed to do. Dogs can have their necks punctured by prong collars if they suddenly pull or lunge. Prong collars can also pop off without warning. Choke collars can crush tracheas. Shock collars or e-collars can make dogs nervous, fearful, and unpredictable in situations they find scary or intimidating.

Almost all aggressive behavior is rooted in the dog being fearful. By punishing the dog for telling you he’s afraid – be it a growl, snarl, or refusal to do something – you do not make the dog’s fear go away. The dog learns that it’s not safe to show you he’s afraid, so behavior can be much more unpredictable. Also, if you punish a dog for growling, you risk him escalating his behavior the next time he’s afraid. The next time he is afraid, instead of saying “I am afraid” with a growl, he may say “I am afraid” with the snap because the last time he growled it got him a shock to his neck and the scary thing didn’t go away.  For more information on the negative effects of punishment-based training, read this article published by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior: https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Punishment_Position_Statement-download_-_10-6-14.pdf

Training and bonding takes time and patience

Studies have documented that it takes 3-4 days for dogs’ stress hormones to return to normal after going to a new home. It can take 3-4 weeks for the dog to feel safe, and 3-6 months for his personality to start to really show. What this means to the new dog owner is that it will take time and patience for you and your new dog to settle in and feel comfortable with each other. Look for teachable moments in the first few weeks with your dog. Teach them to say please and they say it over and over again when they want something.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, in over your head, or don’t know what to do with your new dog – ask for help! A class or few lessons with a positive reinforcement trainer are very effective ways to get started on a great life with their dog. If you see behavior that looks aggressive or scary, definitely don’t wait to ask for help. The longer you wait to start to change this behavior the harder the process can be and the lower the likelihood for success. 

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Rehoboth Beach, DE. We also offer private, in home lessons in Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Bethany Beach and surrounding communities. Zoom lessons are available dog training and behavior modification if you do not live in our service area.

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.

Boredom Busters: How to Keep your Dog Mentally Challenged in the Winter

Indoor ideas to keep your dog challenged and have some fun too!

Ah Winter…shorter days, slippery roads and sides walks, colder temperatures. None of these make exercising your dog sound like any fun. Dogs need more than just physical exercise, though. Many dogs benefit more from mental exercise than physical exercise. This is especially true for puppies and older dogs who can’t run for miles due to age or physical limitations. Young dogs can often go for miles and never seem to get tired, but are ready for a nap after a “brain training” session. 

Winter doesn’t have to mean boredom and no fun with your dog. When it is too cold or dangerous to go outside, work their brain’s inside! This is called enrichment – and it is critical to a dog’s overall well-being.

Ways to beat winter boredom

  • Daily training using your dog’s kibble can be a great way to give your dog some mental “work” to do. To dogs, this is fun!
  • Food puzzles – things like frozen Kong’s, Kong Wobblers, and treat balls or toys can all be great ways to teach your dog to work for his/her food – and get some mental stimulation too. Think food + fun!
  • Playing hiding seek inside with your dog is a great way to have fun and work on the ever important Come! command!
  • You can even practice leash walking skills inside too! Load up a treat pouch or pocket with your dog’s kibble, pat your leg and say, “Let’s go!” as you start walking, when you dog appears at your side, feed some kibble and say, “Let’s go!” and set off again. With practice, your dog will start to build the habit of walking at your side – instead of in front of you – which is the first step toward polite leash walking!

How to keep things fun and challenging

  • Change up what you do with dog. Some meals, use a Kong wobbler. Other times, use kibble for training. Try not to do the same enrichment activity several times in a row, or for the same meal each day. Changing this up will keep you dog guessing what is coming next!
  • Get creative! Does your dog know any tricks? Simple tricks like roll over, spin, or paw can be fun to teach your dog – and he’ll love it because it’s attention from you AND food for him — double win!
  • Have each member of your family work on the activities. When you change trainers, you change the learning picture for your dog so they have to work harder to understand the new trainer. Keep these sessions short and fun and your dog will love to play along and learn with your whole family.

When you can get outside, make it fun!

As the ground thaws and snow melts, the scents your dog gets to smell are amazing! Give her time to take them all in all walks. These sniff walks are great ways to enrich your dog’s life. When walking: think quality of the time, not quantity in miles. The more your dog uses her brain sniffing, the more tired and fulfilled she will be at the end of the way.

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Bethany Beach and surrounding communities in Delaware. We also offer lessons via Zoom so we can help people who do not live in our in home service area. 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.

Tips for Hiring a Dog Trainer

Finding a Dog Trainer

Where to find a dog trainer

There are many ways to find a dog trainer. You can ask your vet for recommendations. Neighbors and friends may have used a trainer in the past and will recommend him or her. You can ask your Facebook network. Or you can do a Google search. You can also search leading industry group websites for dog trainers. All of these sources will yield dog trainer or dog training company names.

group dog training class puppy class
Harper loved puppy class!

We recommend you first do these two dog training industry websites: www.APDT.com and www.petprofessionalguild.com. When searching on APDT.com, we recommend you limit your search to certified trainers. This ensures that you hire someone who has taken the extra step of obtaining a certification. This shows their understanding of learning theory and also that they have experience (hundreds of hours of hands on experience are required to sit for most certification exams).

If you have a fearful dog, www.fearfreepets.com will gives you names of trainers who have a certification in fear free training. This training is focused on helping pets feel safer at the vet and being handled by the vet and grooming professionals.

Dog training is unregulated industry. Literally anyone can put out a shingle that says they are a dog trainer. Certifications do not a guarantee that the trainer is excellent. They are a great step toward proving competency and dedication to the profession, hundreds of hours of documented experience, and that the trainer has a solid grasp of important topics like learning theory, and in most cases science-based training techniques.

How to know a trainer is good fit

Once you have some dog trainer names, contact the dog trainers and see how they respond. Do they answer the phone when you call? Do they respond to your email in a timely manner? Are they willing to talk with you for a few minutes? Yes’ or no’s to these questions don’t mean the trainer is good or bad, but they should give you a feel for whether or not you want to work with him or her. If a scheduling office answers the phone, are you able to talk with the trainer before they come to your house or you go to their class?

private training
Private lessons were a great fit for Mickey

We find that, at minimum, a quick chat or email exchange is the best way to get started in relationship with a dog trainer. This is a person that you are going to trust with your dog, and that will need to teach you as well. If your personalities do not mesh, or you are uncomfortable with how they talk to you, it can make learning difficult for you.

Bottom line: you (and ideally your dog) should feel comfortable with the dog trainer. Don’t just hire the first person to answer the phone, there may be a reason they are the easiest to reach.

What to ask prospective dog trainers

When you are interviewing your prospective trainer, here are some great questions to ask: What methods and tools does the trainer use to train dogs? What does the dog trainer do when a dog does something he/she doesn’t like? What type of rewards does the dog trainer you use? How many times does the dog training class meet, or how many private lessons are included in the program? What certifications does the dog trainer have? How long has the dog trainer been a trainer? Does the dog trainer have references? (either on line success stories or clients who you can talk with?)

Not all dog trainers have clients you can call. We generally don’t offer up client names because it would involve a lot of back and forth between the existing client, us, and the new client. We do have lots of Google and Facebook review and success stories on our website. Because our primary referral partners are dog rescues and vets, we rarely get asked for other references. Make sure to ask the dog trainer how much the training will cost. If they won’t quote a price – at least a ball park figure – over the phone, I would move on.

Deciding who to hire

At the end of the conversation, ask yourself “Did I enjoy talking with that dog trainer? I am OK with all of the answers to my questions – especially about what they do in training and how they get behavior?” If the answer is not a certain “yes!”, keep interviewing other dog trainers. It is imperative that you are comfortable with the dog trainer and the dog trainer’s methods.

Different Venues for Dog Training

Group Dog Training Classes

puppy class graduates

Group dog training classes are typically help in a facility of some sort. The facility may be a pet supply store, dog daycare or boarding business, vet office, or stand alone training business. Group dog training classes typically meet 4-8 times for a set fee. Fees vary by location, but generally fall into $25-50 average per class meeting. Group dog training classes can be effective for learning basic commands (sit, lay down, come, stay, leash walking). Classes are usually not recommended for dogs with fear issues, severe dog reactivity, or aggression towards people or dogs. They are also less effective for things that only happen in the home. Chasing the pet cat, house training, and separation anxiety are good best handled in private lessons.

Private Lessons

Private dog training lessons are the way to go for home-specific challenges. Aggression toward dogs or people should be handled in private lessons. They are also very effective for people who need faster results than group classes. They are also great for people have varying schedules or who can’t meet when the group class meets.

Day Training

Day training is where the trainer comes to your home and trains the dog one-on-one. Training happens in the dog’s home with owner not home or not always participating. This type of training can be great for leash walking, basic commands, leash reactivity, and more advanced obedience commands. In our day training programs we do several lessons with the owner involved throughout a 2-4 week program. These lessons are called handover lessons. They help the owner build on the progress the trainer is making with the dog. Owner included lessons are typically held every 4-8 lessons.

Board and Train

Board and train is an arrangement where the owner drops the dog off at the trainer’s location. The dog lives at the location for a set duration of training. If you decide to go this route, make sure you understand what tools and techniques the trainer will use on your dog. This type of training should also have a handover process for the owner to learn what the dog learned and how to continue the training.

When to start training

The best time to get started on training with a new dog is within the first few weeks the dog is in your home. For puppies, get started within the first few days of getting the puppy. There is no replacement for starting out right with your dog.

puppy socialization and kindergarten
No time like puppy time to start working on training & socialization!

If your dog is starting to show challenging and potentially dangerous behaviors like aggression to people or other dogs, guarding objects, or separation anxiety, contact a trainer right away. These behaviors are unlikely to resolved on their own. Googling or reading about how to resolve these behaviors is not recommend as a replacement for working with a professional.

At the end of day, remember this: doing training with your dog is really about investing in you and your relationship with him or her. Learning how to understand your dog’s needs helps you feel more relaxed and comfortable with your dog. Your happiness with your dog is what makes him or her awesome, and you are worth it!

About Pepper’s Paws

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Rehoboth Beach, DE and surrounding towns. We also offer training via Zoom for anyone not in our in home private lessons service area.

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.

Tips for Travel with Dogs

Canine Adventures

If you could travel anywhere with your dog, where would you go? As dog people, many of us value quality time spent in the company of our furry best friends. I love to travel and choose to take my miniature dachshunds Lucy and Ruby with me when I go. Collectively, my dogs have been to California, New Mexico, Germany, Utah, Virginia, Maine, Georgia, Denmark and many places in between. They are the best co-pilots anyone could ask for and their presence enriches my travel experience without fail. If any of you are considering hitting the road with your dogs, there are two behaviors you should teach your dog before you go.

Training Tip: Go to Mat

travel training tip go to mat

I have found that the most useful skill to teach your dog for travel is a solid Go to Mat cue (see handout attached). This skill is beneficial because it allows you to settle your dog just about anywhere. I have used it in restaurants overseas, traveling on crowded planes, or simply when I want to enjoy a meal without being mugged for food by my long and low criminals. It gives my dogs a job that occasionally yields a reward and the end result is a well-behaved dog that is welcome and appreciated wherever it shows up. Even dachshunds can occasionally turn on the listening ears if you make it worth their while.

Training Tip: Crate Training

travel training tip crate training

Crate training is another essential travel skill for any dog. In everyday life a crate can be a useful management tool for you and a safe space for your dog. In an emergency situation it can potentially save your dog’s life. Imagine a house fire or an evacuation scenario: a rescuer could easily remove a terrified dog in a crate, whereas a terrified loose dog could dash out the door and end up lost or overlooked under the bed. When traveling with your dog, a crate can provide a home away from home. My Lucy loves her travel bag. It is a familiar and safe place for her no matter how crazy her surroundings may get. She retreats to it on her own when the travel hubbub gets too much. She uses it to nap in in unfamiliar locations (hotel rooms, trains, planes, restaurants, other people’s homes, etc.)

Final Thoughts

Overall, remember that travel is stressful on any organism. If you do choose to take your dog along on your travels, it is your responsibility to be aware of how your dog experiences his or her world in the moment. Be prepared to make adjustments in order to keep their stress at manageable levels. This means packing and training a toolbox of skills that you can resort to. For example: teach your dog to be comfortable in a variety of settings and situations ahead of time using mindful socialization. Try not to overwhelm your dog with new experiences. Keep each new experience safe, fun, and positive for your dog.

I like to use hunting games to keep Ruby’s little brain entertained during down times. I am also always very aware that Lucy needs her bag to feel safe. Know your dog and come up with a simple list of his or her favorite activities. If your dog is well exercised ahead of travel and has everything he or she needs in order to feel secure, the trip will be as enjoyable for your canine as it is for you.

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Rehoboth Beach, DE and surrounding towns. We also offer Zoom private lessons for people not in our service area. 

Post by Maike Singelmann

yellow lab

National Train Your Dog Month

yellow lab

Did you know that January is National Train Your Dog Month?

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers started National Train Your Month 8 years ago to promote training your family dog to have everyday manners. Their website, trainyourdogmonth.com is chock full training tips and videos on everything from new puppy challenges, safe interactions between dogs and kids, what to know when you own a large breed dog, and how to choose a kennel or groomer. New content will be added throughout the month too. Make sure to check out their site.

Why should you bother training your dog?

Dogs who have had some training are less likely to end up in shelters or being returned to rescues or breeders. Dogs who get regular mental stimulation through training are happier, more relaxed, and are easier to live with because they aren’t always brimming with unbridled energy. Training can take the edge off of a nervous or anxious dog. Training teaches a dog to look to his owner for guidance. And last but not least, training is fun for dogs and people.

What behaviors should you train?

Start with the basics. Sit, Lay Down, Come, Stay, and Touch are great commands to begin with. Think of your dog learning these commands as putting tools in your toolbox – behaviors you can call on your dog to do instead of things you don’t want him to do.

Have a dog that jumps on people? Teach him a rock solid sit and call on this behavior when she wants to greet people. If she sits, she gets attention, and a dog that is sitting can’t be jumping at the same time! Same thing with a solid down – a dog that is lying down is not jumping on people. A dog who comes when called can’t be doing a myriad of other things we don’t like – barking at other dogs, getting into the trash, chewing on your shoes – the list is endless!

By teaching your dog to follow these commands you are effectively teaching replacement behaviors – things your dog can do instead of the things he is doing that you don’t like. Remember – training and investing in your dog really is all about you. Training makes your life with your dog more fun (and the dog gets the benefit too!)

How do you get started?

If you are a DYI kind of person, YouTube and Facebook have great training videos and groups. Our recommendation for training is always to use positive training methods. Our favorite YouTube channels for this are Kikopup and Zak George. These two trainers have hundreds of great videos that are easy to follow and get great results.

If you prefer to have someone teach you one on one, private dog training lessons are the way to go. When we work with clients we customize our programs to meet our clients goals and dreams for their dogs. We provide written training plans and handouts and lots of other great materials to support you in your training.

No matter what route you take to train your train, remember to have patience with your dog. Dogs don’t speak English, and some dogs take longer to learn new things than others do. If you dog doesn’t follow your commands, assume he needs a minute to translate from people to dog language or he doesn’t understand what you want him to do. Believe it or not, most dogs are not stubborn. We just haven’t made our instructions clear enough for them 🙂

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Rehoboth Beach, DE and surrounding areas. We also offer lessons via Zoom for anyone not in our in person service area.

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.

Puzzle Toys for Dogs

Why should you use puzzle toys with your dog?

Puzzle toys are great for dogs! Dogs really do enjoy having something to do. Puzzle toys give them a problem to solve. This gives puzzle toysthem mental stimulation (think tired brain)! Toys come in all shapes, sizes, and challenge levels. Most puzzle toys reward the dog with food for solving the puzzle. That makes puzzle toys a great way to feed your dog a meal too! Puzzle toys are great for cold or hot days when a long walk isn’t safe. They add some run to a boring rainy day inside. They can also provide lots of challenge for very little owner work too!

Different Types of Puzzle Toys

Basic Food Puzzle Toys

Toys that are filled with kibble are great for feeding your dog her meal. All you do is put the kibble inside and let the dog go to work! Some of our favorites are the Kong Wobbler, Treat ball food puzzle, stop bloat food puzzle, slow feeder, and the original Kong.

More Challenging and Elaborate Puzzle Toys

Outward Hound has several more challenging and elaborate food puzzle toys. The Dog Brick Treat Puzzle has compartments that lift and slide, adding more challenges for the dog.

The Dog Twister Dog Puzzle Toy Dog Game is even more challenging for dogs.

If you have a hound or dog who loves to use his nose, check out the Wooly Snuffle Mat. This is a great way to your scent-driven dog to work for his food!

Some dogs need help using food puzzles – especially more challenging ones. If your dog seems stuck or frustrated by the puzzle, help him. You can give him a sneak peak at the reward, help some food to fall out, or just encourage him to not give up! If you make a puzzle too difficult (freezing the Kong, for example), work with him to get to the reward.

Low tech puzzle activities for your dog

Simple, low tech activities can provide enrichment for your dog too. Load up a muffin tin with your dog’s dinner, then put tennis balls over each muffin hole. Then let your dog figure out how to get to his food!

Scatter your dog’s food in your yard or a room in your house. Then tell your dog to “find it!” and let her search around for her food.

How to keep your dog interested in food puzzles

Just like with your dogs other toys, rotate the puzzle toys! Switch up which ones he gets and how often he gets them. If he seems to lose interest in a puzzle toy, put it away for a week or two. The next time your bring it back out he just may love it the most – just because it is new again to him! You also freeze the food in Kong toys. Or you can change up the food reward in the Kong. Things like new treats, baby carrots, blueberries, squeeze cheese, and other yummy food are great to entice dogs to dig into the puzzle toy. The Kong Company website has lots of great info on this!

As with all food training and enrichment for dogs, if your dog growls, snaps or bites when you go near him when he is eating or his food do not do these activities with him. Immediately consult a positive reinforcement trainer. Children should be supervised at all times around dogs. 

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Rehoboth Beach, DE. We also offer Zoom lessons for people not in our Delaware Beaches service area. 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Trainer, an AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.