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 in Chester County, PA. We also teach Basic to Advanced Manners classes and offer in house dog training at Dogtopia of Chester Springs.

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.


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 Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

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, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training 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 Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Maike Singelmann is a CCDPT certified  professional dog trainer.  She is also a graduate of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior and a VSA-CDT Certified Dog Trainer. Maike teaches group classes and leads private lessons for Pepper’s Paws, LLC. Read more about Maike here. Contact Maike at Maike@PeppersPaws.com
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.

If you prefer to learn in a group setting, group classes can be lots of fun for dogs and people – and we offer those too! Check out our group class schedule on our website https://Pepperspaws.com

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 Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

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, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training 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 Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

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, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

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Introducing Dogs to Cats

Properly introducing dogs to cats can help ensure they get off on the right paw. Many dogs can live successfully with cats if introductions are done properly and slowly. Here are some tips to prepare your home for a dog when you have a cat, how to select a dog to live with your cat, and how to lead the introductions so they are successful.

Preparing your home for a new dog and your cat

Before you bring your dog home, make sure the cat’s litter box and feeding area are out of the dog’s reach. To a dog, a litter box is Dog Cat Introa big temptation, as is the cat’s food. To avoid behavior problems with your cat, the cat should be able to eat, drink and use the litter box without the dog being able to see or get to them. Baby gates with cat doors or adding cat doors to doors work great for this. These management tools and preparations should be put in place before you bring the dog home.

Your new dog and your cat should be separated for the first week that the dog is in the home.

Introducing dogs to cats: what to do

  1. The dog should be on a secure collar and leash for the introduction and any other time he could meet or see the cat. The goal  is to prevent the dog chasing, lunging, or getting too close to the cat. If the introduction goes well, keep the dog on a leash (with the leash handle removed or cut in half to prevent it from catching on furniture) for the first month in the home. Having a leash on the dog at all times ensure that if a chase looks imminent, you can grab the leash to prevent it.
  2. Have the dog sit and take treats near the cat. If the dog is able to sit and take treats, let him approach and sniff the cat. Many cats who are new to being around dogs will get defensive and can hiss, growl, swat at or try to run from a dog. Let the cat move away from the dog if it chooses too. Do not punish the cat for defensive behavior or the dog for being too interested in the cat. If the dog is excited by the cat, back him away return to having him sit for treats. Repeat this step several times over the course of a few weeks before progressing to the next step. It can take 30 days or more for dogs and cats to get comfortable around each other. Go slow and have patience with dog and the cat.
  3. If the dog and cat meeting sessions continue to go well (no chasing or fixating on the cat), drop the leash and actively supervise the dog and cat when they are together. Interrupt any inappropriate behavior on the dogs part (fixating on the cat, playing rough, or otherwise doing things the cat does not like) and ask the dog to sit to refocus the dog on you. Again, have patience, this can take 30 day or more.Do not leave the dog and cat unsupervised until you have seen 60 days of appropriate interactions.

If the dog is the newcomer, make sure the cat gets plenty of dog-free attention from you. Make sure the dog has had a long walk orIntroducing Dogs to Cats training session before introducing him to the cat. Dogs qualities that make for good cat friends: puppies, adult dogs who have lived with cats in the past, dogs who are laid back, dogs who don’t have a high prey drive (i.e. dogs who don’t get excited by squirrels outside). Cat qualities that make for good dog friends: relaxed and laid back cats, cats who have already lived successful with other dogs.

Introducing Dogs to Cats: Cat Tests

Many rescues and shelters will introduce dogs to cats – referred to as a “cat test” – prior to adoption. A positive cat test does not always mean that the dog will instantly be a good cat buddy. Many dogs are overwhelmed in shelter environments, so seeing a cat doesn’t register as exciting to them because they are also around dozens of other dogs, strangers, sites, and smells. If you are told a dog is “good with cats” that generally means that the dog did not have a negative reaction to a cat when exposed to one. Sometimes dogs don’t react in a shelter environment, but do get excited in a quiet home environment. Always assume that a dog will need time to adjust to a new cat, and the cat to the new dog, and make keeping them both safe a top priority for the first few months of them living together.

If things aren’t going well…

If you bring a new dog home to live with your resident cat and things don’t seem to be going well, ask for help. A skilled trainer can help manage the introductions and also assess if the dog is a good fit for the cat. Making sure your dog gets some basic training can greatly enhance his listening skills around cats as well.

Pepper’s Paws, LLC , All 4 Paws Rescue training partner, provides in home dog training and behavior consultations for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

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, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

Leash Walking Basics


Leash walking basics – does your dog walk politely on leash? Spring is fast approaching – now is a great time to brush up on your dog’s leash walking skills so you both can enjoy long walks in the warm Spring weather!

Does your dog pull on the leash and make walks uncomfortable? Do you dread the thought of walking your dog? If so, you are not alone. Many dogs struggle with leash walking – too many distractions on walks, lack of connection with the owner, the wrong gear, and lack of basic training can all contribute to dogs pulling on leash.

Leash walking basics: How to deal with distractions on the walk

Does your dog ignore you or disregard you on walks? Do and go wherever he wants? Have you given him a reason to pay attention to you? Many dogs focus on everything but their owner, but everything but their owner is interesting on walks. It’s not that they don’t love you, it’s just that everything else is so exciting! So how do you get your dog to pay attention to you on walks?

Be unpredictable! If your dog pulls one way say “ah ah!” and then go in the other direction. Don’t yank the leash, let the leash stay taut and then use your feet to move in the other direction. Do this every time the dogs pulls and they will soon realize that they need to pay attention to you because you are all over the place! When doing this, and your dog joins you at your side again, be generose with praise. A happy “good dog!” will help your dog get the idea that staying with you is a great thing. You can also punctuate the “good dog!” with a tasty treat for super fast attention.

Leash walking basics: Reward your dog for being at your side

It is amazing how many dogs figure out where to be when their walking buddy delivers the occasional tasty treat (or more than occasional in the beginning – a treat for every step may be needed for completely green polite leash walkers). Think of this exercise as rewarding your dog for being in the place you want him to be. It isn’t a forever thing either – but it IS worth working on for a few minutes every day to help your dog get the hang of where they are supposed to be (and who should be paying attention to) on walks.

Leash walking basics: Walking gear we recommend

A 6 foot leash is a must for a pleasant dog walk. Don’t use a retractable leash ever on a walk. Retractable leashes teach the opposite of polite walking – dogs have to pull to make the leash work and there is constant tension on leash – neither of which we want! I also do not recommend a short leash. The walk should be fun for the dog and you. Occasional sniffing and exploring is a great reward for polite leash walking. A 6 foot leash is great for this!

Sometimes dogs need some additional help to not pull. Our favorite harness is the Freedom No Pull Harness. This harness is well made, doesn’t change the dog’s natural gait, is padded and comfy, and helps deter pulling in a humane way. If your dog is much larger than you and a puller, a serious puller, or you feel need extra control, a Gentle Leader or Halti is a good option. If you aren’t sure how to get started with one, ask a trainer to help you. We don’t use or recommend prong, choke or pinch collars.

Basic training can help with walking behavior too

A dog who knows how to sit, lay down, stay, touch, and watch (make and keep eye contact) can be easier to manage on a walk. A sitting dog isn’t lunging excitedly at other dogs. A dog looking into his owner’s eyes isn’t eyeing up a squirrel. A dog doing a stay at a curb isn’t running into traffic. Doing obedience on walks is also a great way to get twice the bang for your buck in terms energy drain on a walk – thinking dogs become tired dogs.

Ready to head out for a great walk? See you on the trail or in the neighborhood! Here are come more tips for a great dog walk!

Looking for new places to walk your dog? Chester County has great parks!

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training and behavior consultations for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

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, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Five Reasons to Train Your Dog

train your dog in a class

Owners: You should train your dog. Maybe you think training is a waste of money or maybe just a waste of time. Or you grew up with dogs and know with enough repetition your dog will ‘get’ the important stuff eventually. Perhaps you think if people can rewire a house using YouTube tutorials, you can do the same to train your dog. Maybe your dog isn’t a puppy anymore and you know the familiar adage about old dogs and new tricks.

Well, let me share 5 reasons why you should train your dog.

Reason #1 to train your dog: Socialization

This is a common one but is so important that it’s worth mentioning again. In most cases, the best way to avoid having a skittish or aggressive dog is to well socialize them with other people and dogs. Group classes are a great way to socialize and train your dog.

No matter how many walks you take, nothing is as effective at socializing a young pup as spending an hour a week in a room with a dozen strange humans and 5 other dogs. You never know what you’re going to get with dogs on the street or at a dog park but in class you know your dog is having an opportunity to learn how to interact with others in a safe, supervised environment that will leave your dog feeling confident and interested in new things.

Reason #2 to train your dog: The Internet Is Not Enough

There are a LOT of experts on the internet with advice on how to train your dog… a LOT. In fact, there are so many that it can be overwhelming. Many have respectabletrain your dog so you can go hiking backgrounds, but all their advice doesn’t always line up; more often then not they actually contradict!

To crate or not to crate? For how long? What kind of collar? What do you teach first? How? Is dominance and submission a reliable philosophy or is it an outdated fallacy?

While some online and book sources will admit that not all dogs fit every rule, they don’t empower you with the tools to identify those exceptions and grey areas. Trainers certainly have their own philosophies and a good trainer will get to know you and your dog. Then they  will be able to identify when is time to try alternative techniques and methods that best fit your dog.

Reason #3 to train your dog: Old Dogs LIKE Learning New Tricks

Just like humans, a puppy’s growing brain is more elastic and learns things faster than an older dog; however, that doesn’t mean an adult dog can’t learn something new. Most often, the benefit of class for older dogs is not even about a specific new trick at all; it’s the process.

Also like humans, dogs get bored. If all they do is go on walks or play a 5 minute round of fetch in the backyard a new challenge can be fun and exciting for your dog. A lethargic or grumpy dog can become alert and energized while trying to work through new commands. The attention and reward the effort brings is incredibly valuable to a dog.

If you’ve adopted an adult dog who already knows the basics and you are trying to build a relationship, going to a tricks or agility class is a great place to start! Your dog may not come out jumping through hoops like a circus dog, but the process of working towards a goal together will help create that special bond that is a little easier to develop with a puppy.

Reason #4 to train your dog: It Is Cost Effective

train your dog to have a tired dogThe value of a well trained dog can’t be overstated. How many stories have you heard of dogs tearing through couch cushions, digging up rhododendrons or ruining carpets?

The one to two hundred dollars you’ll spend on decent training can save you literally thousands in home repairs or furniture replacement.

Even the most well trained dog can act out. A good trainer will help you be prepared to identify the causes of common behaviors. And they will provide you the tools to address the issue.

Maybe your dog chews when he’s bored, digs when anxious or is marking as part of an adolescent phase. A dog trainer is a resource that will guide you to activities, products and solutions that will keep you from going crazy and keep your furniture intact. A worthwhile investment!

**Bonus Points** Well behaved dogs are often welcome in friends and families homes. This means not needing to hire a sitter if you travel for the holidays.

**Double Bonus Points** Have you ever had difficulty looking for an affordable apartment that would accept your four legged friend? Some landlords will make exceptions if you introduce them to your well behaved dog!

Reason #5 to train your dog: It’s Not Just About The Dog

It’s about you.

If you know you want a well trained pet you may be tempted by ‘boot camp’ training options; send your dog away for 3 to 10 days and they come back knowing all the commands and completely compliant.

For some that may be the best option. However, the dog owner doesn’t have the opportunity to learn nearly as much that way. Going to class gives dog owners the opportunity to observe their dog compared to others, have discussion, and ask questions. You have the opportunity to watch how your dog responds differently to commands from the trainer. This gives you the chance to  experiment with varying tone and body language to most effectively communicate with your dog. You will see what other families are struggling with. This can help you gauge if a particular challenge is a common phase or a problem unique to you which requires extra attention.

If you have what you consider a tricky situation (kids at home, work full time, your new pet has complicated history) a trainer will be ready with suggestions for how to handle things specifically tailored for you and your family.

An experienced and certified trainer can guide you through what is important. They give you the tools and building blocks of responsible dog ownership that clears away the stress of trying to figure out the right things to do.

There is also the bond that is created by going through the effort alongside your pet. Class feels like a series of games and challenges for your dog. You playing alongside them helps to create an ever lasting bond and increase your dog’s innate trust in you.

All in all there is a lot that happens on many levels in an hour class; with a good trainer the humans will leave just as mentally exhausted as the dogs!

The truth is that training is not the magic bullet that reliably turns all dogs in to rock solid pups as well behaved as a seeing eye dog. However,  the process has as much value as the results.

After a series of classes my dog still doesn’t quite understand fetch. She isn’t always so keen on ‘drop it’. But I have no concern about bringing her to visit a friends’ house or sitting on a busy patio at a restaurant. My boss welcomes her to the office. My landlord accepted her at home. I can leave her to entertain herself with out worrying about returning to the trash strewn about. We go on off leash hikes and play soccer on the town fields. At the end of the day, she snuggles at my side before putting herself to bed.

Dogs can be great companions but they can also be incredibly frustrating. Making the effort to train your dog can help grow the kind of positive and rewarding relationship that make dogs so valuable in our lives.

Interested in group training classes? Private lessons more your speed?

The author of this post is Pepper’s Paws client Courtney Beard. Courtney and her dog Charlotte completed private puppy training lessons, AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy class, Level 1 Manners, Level 2 Manners, Dog Tricks 101, and Out and About Obedience class with us. Courtney gave me this post as a thank you gift for helping her have the dog of her dreams. She would still be training with us if she had not moved out of the area. Courtney’s dedication to her dog is a pleasure to witness! Thank you Courtney for trusting us to teach you and your dog! 

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

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, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

House Training 101 for Dogs and Puppies!

House training is a key skill to master to be successful with their new dog or puppy. House training can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. We get asked about how to house train a dog a lot. Here are our key points to help you achieve house training success!

House training Secrets:

How to prevent house training accidents

– If you can’t keep your eyes on your dog crate him/her. He/she have a toy or bone while crated. Crating isn’t a punishment. Crating  is a way to manage the environment so the dog can’t make a mistake.house training success

– Confine your dog to the room you are in actively supervising them with crates or other barriers. Your dog should not be able to wander out of the room.

– Put your dog on a house training schedule – take him/her out every 2 hours – more often if she continues to have frequent accidents (every hour if your dog is younger than 12 weeks).

What do if your dog has a house training accident

– Do NOT yell, scold, punish or rub your dog’s face in their accident. Not only does NOT help your dog learn where to learn to go, it can cause setbacks in the house training process.

– Clean up all house training accidents with a cleaning product that is designed for dogs. We love Nature’s Miracle.

How to know when you dog needs to go

– When does your dog need to potty? After a training session of more than 10-15 minutes. When they have been playing vigorously. When they wake up from a nap.  20-30 minutes after eating.First thing in the morning and last thing at night.

–  Anytime your dog wanders away toward another room or an out of the way part of a room, assume your dog is looking for a place to go to potty. Call your dog back to you (and if he/she doesn’t come go get them). If it has been more than a hour since your dog’s last potty break (or if he/she tries to wander away more than once) say “let’s go outside! time to go potty” (or something similar that you will say every time she goes out for a potty break) and take her outside.

– If you see your dog start to walk in a circle, be overly sniffy on the rug or mat, start to squat or otherwise look like he/she is about to go – say “time to go potty!” in a happy and excited voice and head toward the door, calling him/her as you go. The more successes your dog has outside (and the fewer accidents inside) the more likely your dog will be to go outside to go potty.

Not going? Going inside right after going outside?

– Does your dog go out and pee and then come in and pee again? If so, give your dog time to pee twice before bringing him/her in.

– If you take your dog outside and you expect him/her to pee and/or poop and your dog doesn’t go, when you come back in put your dog immediately in the crate. Take him/her out again in 10-15 minutes. Do not allow your dog to walk around the house “full”, you will have a house training accident on your hands if you do.

Keep a House Training Log

– Keep a log of his/her bodily functions on paper where your family can see/add to it. Track day of the week, time of day, pee or poop. Track whether it was a success (done outside) or failure (done inside). Note who was supervising (or supposed to be supervising) the dog too. This log will give you a clear idea on whether housebreaking is working. It will also show who needs a refresher on what it means to “actively supervise” the dog. If you suspect your dog has a medical symptom that you need to share with your vet (i.e. my puppy pees a little bit 25 times per day) the log will show this.

Fine tuning the house training process

– As your dog starts to squat to pee say “go potty” or whatever you want to call it. Say this in a calm voice (almost like you sound bored – not excited and not reaching for a treat). As soon as your dog finishes the FIRST thing he/she does outside (first pee or first poop) – give your dog a super awesome treat right there as soon as he/she takes that first step after going. Don’t mess with treat bags or do anything to distract your dog from the task at hand so you don’t interrupt the process.

– Once your dog has the gist of house training, consider teaching him/her to ring a bell to go outside. There are pros and cons to doing this, which we will cover in a later post.

Need help with house training? Give us a call or email us!

Need more getting started tips? Check out our posts on how to Start Our Right with Your New Puppy

Starting the process to add a dog to your family and need some help understanding how rescues work? how to select a dog? how to get started on training? We have a service designed just for that!

Interested in group training classes?

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

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, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.


Starting out Right with Your New Puppy!

Puppy Training: To kick off 2018, we will be doing a series of posts about how to get started with a new puppy. This is the first post in the series.

Is Santa brining your family a new puppy for Christmas? Maybe the new puppy has already arrived? The December holiday labradoodletime is a very common time for adding a new dog or puppy to your home. While December can be a great time for the new addition because people have time off from work or school, it is also a time wrought with it’s own stresses, let alone the stress of caring for a new pet. We have some puppy training suggestions and ideas to help you help your new dog or puppy settle in with you, adjust to your new home, and make sure you both get off on the right foot.

Puppy Crate Training

First up, invest in a sturdy crate. Your crate should be where your puppy sleeps during the night, naps during the day, and hangs out when you can’t actively supervise him. Active supervision means you are watching the pup – 100% of the time. If you can’t actively supervise him because you are making dinner, doing laundry, helping with homework, or anything else – that’s where the crate comes in.

Your puppy’s crate should be big enough for him to stretch out in, stand up and turn around in, and sit up tall in. It should not be so big that he can poop or pee in one end and still sleep comfortably in the other. You may think a large crate is “nicer” for your puppy. However, for a puppy learning where to go potty, a large crate is confusing and leaves too much room – literally – for mistakes to happen.

Your pup may need help to learn how to love his crate. He may be used to beign surrounded by his littermates, so being alone can be scary at first. To help your pup be comfortable in his crate, first make sure he is getting lots of exercise – play time with toys, play time with you, chasing balls, and learning new commands with you are all great ways to ensure your pup is good and tired when it is time for some down time in his crate.

puppy trainingIf your puppy doesn’t like his crate, try this

Some pups will walk in their crate and lay down without a fuss, some need some encouragement, some need to learn crates are awesome. Playing crate games can be a great way to show your pup that crates are fun. To play, get a handful of your pup’s food and toss 1 piece in at a time. Let your pup go into the crate to eat the food and when he comes back out, toss another piece in. You should soon see that your pup decides to hang out in the crate and wait for the next piece of food – this is what we want to happen! Toss in a few more pieces and then lure your pup out of the crate and start the process over again. After a few rounds of this, toss a small handful of food in the crate and close the door before your pup can go back in. Then, when he looks eager to go in, open the door and say “crate up!” in a happy, excited voice. This is the beginning of teaching your pup to go in his crate on command.

Look for more crating tips and tricks in our next post in a few days. Interested in puppy training classes? Click here to sign up for our next puppy class!


Team Pepper’s Paws – Bark of Life

Join Team Pepper’s Paws for the American Cancer Society’s Bark for Life event Oct 22!

JingleThe Pepper’s Paws dog trainers and their families will be taking part in this year’s American Cancer Society’s Bark for Life 5K Run/walk and 1 Mile Fun Walk and we’d love for you and your dog to sign up to walk as part of our team and walk or run with us! We are passionate supporters of owner’s walking their dogs with other dogs. In fact, we feel so passionately about this, we are one of the event’s top sponsors!

Pepper’s Paws trainers have hosted group walks for our clients and we have seen amazing group walkchanges – in both dogs and their owners! Walking your dog with other dogs can help your dog to be calmer around other dogs, and, since every dog has a person at the end of the leash, group walks can also help your dog be more relaxed around strangers. Dogs who get daily walks – with or without other dogs – are more likely to have their physical and mental exercise needs met, which leads to calmer behavior in the home, less destructive behaviors, and, in some dogs, less anxiety as well. Interested in joining one of weekday group walks? Would a weekend walk work better for you? Let us know!


Top 10 Reasons to join Team Pepper’s Paws for the American Cancer Society’s Bark for Life on Oct 22 :

  1. The event will have food trucks, vendor tables, and lots of great raffle baskets!
  2. Lots of great vendors will be there too – make sure to them for info and free giveaways!
  3. There will be fun things for kids to do!
  4. Bark for Life T-shirts!
  5. The event is held in East Goshen Township Park!
  6. It is a great opportunity to get to know our trainers and pick our brains!
  7. You and your dog may make friends to do your own group walks with!
  8. The proceeds go to the American Cancer Society
  9. Your dog will love it!
  10. You will love it too! Seriously, there’s just something fun about walking your dog with other dogs!

HenryPlease join us for this fun event to support a great dog rescue – they need our help to save dogs. Click here to sign up and join Team Pepper’s Paws! A limited number of Team Pepper’s Paws will be available for team members to purchase. Email us if you would like a shirt.