Holiday Parties – So, is the dog invited?

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Perhaps one of the hardest parts of having a dog around the holidays is deciding how to handle parties and get-togethers in your home. As someone with a small swarm of canine housemates, I completely understand the struggles and frustrations that go into hosting any sort of event. It can be really tough to plan such a thing, and I’ll tell you now that you can’t please everyone. But I do have some tips that may be helpful as you sort through the holiday havoc.

The first step in being successful, of course, is to decide whether or not embarking on such an endeavor is even realistic. Is your dog able to accept visitors into your home? Can he be trusted around food or decorations? Are your guests dog lovers, or at least willing to be in their company for a few hours? Is your dog trustworthy with children, if any will be in attendance? If you can’t answer “yes” to all of those questions, it’s probably best to reassess the entire plan and perhaps revisit the idea next year when you’ve had more time to train and make accomodations.

However, if you are confident that your dog and guests can coexist, your best bet is to throw yourself into planning right now. Consider what could go wrong, and find ways to prevent it. Here are a few of my favorite tricks that you may want to consider:

Gate off the entrance. If your dog is a door dasher or an excited greeter, you’ll want to prevent him from bolting to the doorway every time someone arrives. Use interior doors or baby gates to keep him contained to other sections of the house. This also gives your guests an opportunity to be welcomed without being jumped on.

Post a sign. If your dog tends to get over-excited when people enter your home, type up a quick warning sign to post on your door. Giving your friends or family a heads up will not go unappreciated, especially if they don’t visit you frequently. Plus, you can always use it to ask people to avoid knocking or ringing a doorbell if that sort of thing tends to cause something of a frenzy in your dog.

Groom your dog. You wouldn’t want to be smelly or muddy when company arrived would you? Bathe your dog, trim his nails, and continue to wipe his feet after every trip outside. Or, book a visit with your favorite groomer leading up to the big day.

Provide an escape. For crate-savvy pups, having access to their safe space in the midst of holiday chaos can be a lifesaver.

Pick up chews and squeaky toys. I usually leave out a couple of new (read: not stinky yet) plush toys that my pups use to engage with guests, but antlers, balls, and anything else get tucked away for the evening. This keeps flying objects and annoying noises to a minimum and ensures people won’t be accidentally stepping on anything that the dog left lying around.

Plan ample potty breaks. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in conversation and before you know it, hours and hours have passed. If you’re guilty of this, set an alarm to remind you when it’s time to let the dog out to relieve himself. And try to make those breaks more frequent than normal. If your dog is experiencing any stress, it can affect his ability to hold it. And we can all agree you don’t want to be cleaning up an accident in the midst of your debut as a host or hostess.

Set and enforce boundaries for guests. If you don’t want your dog begging or sneaking pieces of people food, you have to be firm in conveying this to your guests. Stand your ground. And if your well-meaning aunt or uncle just can’t seem to follow directions, you may need to remove your dog from the scene until the meal is done.

Alternatively, provide treats for guests to feed to your pup. Set out a couple of small treat jars and ask people to reach for them instead if they’re easily won over by the “puppy dog eyes” begging for a snack.

Exercise your dog before the party. This one really doesn’t require any explanation. If you can tire your dog out in the hours leading up the event, you absolutely won’t regret it.

It’s possible to pull off a wonderful get-together with dogs and humans alike; you just have to put in the work to make it happen. Of course, I remind you again to use your best judgement. There are some dogs that simply cannot succeed in such an environment, no matter how badly you want them to, and it would be unfair of you to ask them to try. Those dogs may be happier to board overnight or spend the evening with neighbors.

As much as anything, try to remember to enjoy the season and time spent with loved ones. Roll with the punches as best you can, and consider any hiccups something to learn from in years to come.

Taylor Herr IACP-CDT

Littermate Syndrome

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What’s cuter than a brand new puppy? Well, what about TWO puppies?! It’s true, doubling the puppy count does increase your odds for lots of “awwwwhh” moments as they grow up together. Sibling puppies will often learn social cues from one another including how to share, how to interact, and they can even influence each other’s training. They’ll have a built-in playmate for life, too, which sounds like a dream for busy pet parents. You may be wondering why everyone doesn’t add dogs to the family in pairs. I’m here to explain.

As much fun as it might be to take on littermates, the odds of disaster skyrocket the moment one little wet nose turns into two. Bad habits develop twice as quickly, double the stuff gets destroyed, and two times the energy is required to keep up.

You may be thinking, “they’ll grow out it – it’s just a little tougher through the puppy phase.” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not necessarily the case. Littermate Syndrome, as it’s been coined, will carry on throughout the entirety of the dogs’ lives. Puppies that grow up together (actual littermates or not) are more likely to bond to one another than they are to you!

Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad to you. Perhaps you’re thinking, okay great, that sounds like less work for me! ….again, not the case.

A puppy that doesn’t establish a proper bond with its owner (and I’m not talking anything over the top here, just a regular, healthy, pet-owner relationship) becomes infinitely more difficult to live with. Training feels impossible. Socialization can become a nightmare. Exercise routines are never simple. Instead of turning to you for guidance or play or reassurance, your two puppies will rely heavily on each other. When this happens, you’re not only left out of the loop, but your dogs end up shaping one another’s personalities. This is part of the reason why there tend to be an excess of behavioral issues in one or both of the dogs when puppies are raised together.

What I see most frequently in sibling (or raised-as-sibling) pairs tends to be one dog developing a more confident, independent personality while the other tends to shy away or be more codependent. These traits can, of course, result in any number of other issues from incessant barking and whining to avoidance and destructive behaviors. Left unaddressed, this can easily spiral into aggression or reactivity. Then you’re left wondering why you have one nice, “normal” dog and one unmanageable one when both were raised just the same.

Generally speaking, it takes tons of knowledge, support, and commitment to simultaneously raise two puppies to adulthood without creating or fostering issues. Each requires the same amount of one-on-one time that any solo puppy would receive, on top of time spent working together. Exceptions are out there, but they’re few and far between. So, my advice to you is to adopt and raise your puppies separately if at all possible. Enjoy each dog for what he or she is, and if a playmate seems like a good idea at some point down the line, go for it!

And finally, if you already have sibling pups, don’t feel like all hope is lost. Lots of people have been in the same boat and survived it. Just remember that each one has individual traits and needs, and that spending time with them individually is just as (if not more) important as them spending time with each other.


Taylor Herr IACP-CDT

Director of Training


Predation and Dogs-Normalizing Behavior

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We love this article about a dog’s natural predatory behavior from Lisa Skavienski. It really illustrates why we/you experience similar behavior from our dogs at daycare/home.

One gorgeous summer morning, I watched from across the pool as a small grey bird fluttered down out of a tree and hovered just a few feet in front of my foster dog, Quinn. Quinn tilted her head to the side and froze for a brief moment before lunging forward and snatching it from the air, issuing a neck-breaking shake, and then tossing it aside—all in one quick movement. She nudged it with her nose once or twice before continuing her sniffari in the pachysandra, as I stood there wondering about the absence of this bird’s self-preservation. I did not wonder about Quinn’s behavior. Quinn is a dog, and dogs are predators. More accurately, they are scavengers and predators.

We tend to forget this about dogs. We easily accept predatory behavior in cats for some reason, marveling at the “good little hunter” that dropped the decapitated mouse at our feet while we washed dishes. We might find it unpalatable, but we rarely classify it as a moral fail, nor worry the cat is deviant and a potential threat to people. We don’t mistakenly assign labels like “aggressive” to our rodent-killing cats. But cats hunt and sometimes kill vermin and birds for the exact same reason our dogs do: preinstalled software that comes with our companion animals from a time when food acquisition skills were necessary for survival.

Yet every year, once spring has sprung, my social media newsfeed blows up with posts from dog owners, upset—often angry—at their canine companions’ leisurely killing of all manner of critter. “Thanks a lot, Fido, you jerk! I’m so mad at him right now!” reads the script above the photograph of a broken bodied chipmunk. And I get it. It’s traumatizing to many of us. After all, most of us who share our homes with an animal are animal lovers, and so it saddens and upsets us to see any of them meet an end in our own back yards.

I remember feeling horrified years ago when my Tuck was still young and fast enough to successfully dispatch the squirrels that dared to run our fence line. He’d spot them from the deck and stalk slowly and quietly to the foot of the stairs. He’d flat run to the fence, leap up and slam his body against whatever panel the squirrel had made it to, causing it to lose its footing. He would catch it in his mouth as it fell, shake it dead immediately, and then run a victory lap around the yard with the limp body dangling from his mouth. Tuck was having a gleeful time while I was worrying that somewhere out there was a nest of orphaned squirrel babies.

I also occasionally receive emails from clients and friends after these events, the owners worried this means their dog is dangerous. Could this “aggression” be extrapolated to the dog’s behavior toward people? “The answer is no,” I attempt to normalize, “because this isn’t aggression. It’s a feeding behavior, and it’s as normal as a gull scooping fish from the sea or a fox pouncing on a field mouse.” Yes, they use those teeth, but if we classify this behavior as “assault,” we need to recognize that we, too, assault our breakfast every morning. But assaulting our over-easies doesn’t make us likely to pummel our coworkers or neighbors.

When dogs direct aggressive behavior at people, it is typically in one of these contexts: stranger fear, body handling discomfort, or resource guarding. In all three cases, the objective is to increase distance: “Stay away from me” or “stay away from my super important stuff.” In the case of predation, the goal is to get closer and to actually obtain the stimulus. Put simply, it’s just a biological imperative triggered by prey objects or objects resembling prey.

I recently saw a meme with a picture of a Boxer that read, “Squirrels are just tennis balls thrown by God.” While quite funny, it’s really the reverse. Tennis balls are just artificial squirrels thrown by man. It’s because they simulate prey fleeing that dogs chase them. Predation is the reason dogs grab, shake, and often “disembowel” stuffed toys. It’s why tug is so exciting and a preferred activity for many dogs: the tug toy simulates struggling prey. In fact, when played with a set of rules, it’s an excellent outlet for this activity and a fantastic impulse control exercise. If the drive to engage in predation for objects that resemble prey is so great, imagine how triggering a real live prey stimulus must be for our dogs!

Dogs also rehearse feeding behavior in play by chasing, along with all the other skills they need to function in the world, like fleeing (being chased), fighting (roughhousing), and fornicating (mounting). We see this rehearsal in play in early puppyhood and throughout their lives.

Some may ask why dogs feel compelled to hunt if we’re already feeding them plenty. While selection pressures are lifted for food acquisition in domesticated dogs, it hasn’t been very long since dogs were domesticated. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s just been a blink of an eye. Just because the pressure to get it right isn’t there, doesn’t mean it goes away entirely in such short order.

David Mech organized the predatory sequence of wolves as search, stalk, rush/chase, grab/bite, kill, dissect, and eat. It’s safe to assume that one-hundred percent of canids in the natural world that actually live to adulthood get this sequence right, because those that don’t will not live long enough to pass on their genetic flaw of poor hunting skills. In other words, there is a life-or-death pressure to get it right when no one is providing you kibble.

Not so for domesticated dogs, which is why we see only partial versions of predation, or the software gets a bit buggy and is triggered by inanimate objects like squeaky toys. With the selection pressure lifted, they might not complete the entire predation sequence. They may chase, but not grab; chase and grab and shake, but not dissect or eat (like Quinn and Tuck); and so on. But predatory behaviors persist because they once had adaptive significance, and boy is survival ever significant!

Dogs that engage in predatory behavior are just behaving in a way that is normal for their species. For that matter, we humans are also just animals behaving in a way that is normal for our species. It’s normal for us to feel upset about a young bunny being killed, and it’s even normal for us to feel a bit frightened when we see our dogs use their sharp teeth in this way (there is an evolutionary reason for this, as well). As my primary and favorite mentor, Jean Donaldson, once said, “We are all just animals. Animal behaving.” And we behave in a way that is natural for our species.

So while I empathize with upset owners, I have great sympathy for the dogs that are often punished—even if by verbal berating (and sometimes by painful tools like shock)—merely for being normal dogs. They have no idea why their owners are suddenly so upset with them.

I hope it helps people to step back and view these events for what they really are and find some patience and understanding for their pet dogs. They are not morally deficient for chasing and sometimes killing the critters that happen across our lawns. They aren’t a species with moral capability. We simply chose to co-habitate with an animal that comes with some degree of hunting software. We can give ourselves a break for feeling bummed about it sometimes, but we do well to recognize our natural differences and give them a break, too.

Article written by Lisa Skavienski

Camp Dogwood: A Weekend Haven for Dog Enthusiasts

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On Thursday, May 31st, I cut my work week short, loaded up my van with dogs and gear, and made a 7 hour trek up to Lake Delton, Wisconsin for a long weekend away at Perlstein Retreat Center. This was the scenic venue for an incredible event called Camp Dogwood.

Planning for this trip had been going on for months. Fecal tests and vaccine titers had to be run, vet signatures needed to be obtained, and flea and tick preventative had to be established well in advance to assure no pests preyed on our crew in the woodsy camp setting. I scanned the camp schedules over and over to see how we could make the most of our time there without overdoing it. We had a little bit of shopping to do in terms of supplies, and packing the van turned into a game of tetris. Eventually though, the day was upon us and we pulled out of driveway at 5:45am with a stocked cooler, fully charged phones, and four sleepy pups. 

Upon arrival, we were greeted by lots of friendly faces and wagging tails.  We got signed in, and after a brief misdirection, we did finally find where we needed to be. So we finally unpacked and began moving into the cabin that would become home for the 4 days that followed. Two people and four dogs in a cabin? you say,  Are you crazy?  Turns out these cabins are enormous. We had all sorts of room to spread out and get comfortable.

After we were all settled in, we ventured down to orientation to meet our camp staff and take a walking tour of the grounds followed by dinner and our first activity period. We chose to attend a session without our pups so that we could learn the proper methods and mechanics of throwing a disc, something I’m hoping to get into in the coming year. The night ended with us relaxing on the porch with the pups before crawling into bed to rest for a few hours before starting it all again in the morning.

Friday started with a bang. I woke up feeling energized and ready to take on the day. We trekked down to the dining hall for breakfast, went over our morning announcements, and then broke off to go do our own things. Activity session #1 was spent at Barn Hunt with Pike and Jinks. 

Neither had great interest in hunting rats, but both had the the time of their lives prancing around and leaping over straw bales. Session #2 landed us at the lure course with Swayze and Corona, followed by some time on the beach to cool off. We broke for lunch, more announcements, and a quick break before moving right along to shed hunting with Swayze and Corona again for session #3 and then drive building with Jinks in session #4. Dinner followed and we ended our activities in session 5 hiking a new trail with Pike. Once again, the night slipped away quickly as we chatted and laughed with friends, old and new.

Saturday was equally busy. Pike got to try core conditioning while Jinks went to another disc class.Then we took the whole crew over to another area and got to try weight pull in preparation for the mini competition that was held later that night. We played on the agility field in the afternoon, and then returned once more to take another lesson related to disc and freestyle foundations. There was a costume parade and happy hour before dinner, and then we competed in the weight pull competition in the rain that night.

Sunday morning was tough, as camp was winding down all too quickly and we had to use our remaining time wisely. I got up early to potty dogs and get a jump start on re-packing the van. We ran down to breakfast before coming back to the cabin to finish moving out. There were still several hours of camp left, but we knew that we wouldn’t have time to do it later on without being late to check out. We drove back to the lure course and ran each dog with varying levels of success. Not surprisingly, this was a popular spot that morning as everyone was hoping to tire their pups before hitting the road. Then we went to watch some more barn hunt games before meeting one last time for lunch and final announcements.

The drive home was long, but easy enough. Luckily, traffic was fairly light and we didn’t get held up in any accidents or construction. We made it in just before 10pm, unpacked, showered, and prepared to sleep. It was definitely a wonderful, rewarding weekend, but it was exhausting as well. Waking up for work on Monday morning wasn’t easy.

Now that I’ve had a few days to recover, I’m excited to be able to share my experience with everyone. Camp Dogwood was a great chance for me to grow my skills as a handler of my own dogs and as a trainer of client dogs. The world of dog training and dog sports can be a cruel place, but atcamp we stifled the controversies and used our love for our pups to forge friendships. I was able to try out different sports and activities that I don’t always have easy access to, and because of that, I’m beginning to find out what each of my dog’s “things” might be that they really enjoy and excel in.

As far as things that I’d like to do differently or see changed, there are just a small handful. Arriving at camp was hectic. We were misdirected andsome important move-in information was left out of our initial greeting, which led to mild chaos and stress-driven arguments. I’d like to have seen a more streamlined process, especially for first-time campers, to get us where we need to be and start us off feeling more confident and welcome. There were a couple of activities with rules that seemed to change from participant to participant. While I doubt this was intentional, it was frustrating in the moment. And unsurprisingly there were a couple of escaped dogs running free at various points due to ill-fitting collars and harnesses. This was the fault of owners rather than camp staff, but again, it was frustrating as it happened.

I do plan on returning soon and trying many of the things that I didn’t have time to make it to in my first go-around. I definitely recommend this camp to everyone who is hoping to get into the world of dog sports or who is just looking for a nice getaway and a chance to strengthen the bonds they have with their dogs!

Taylor Herr, IACP-CDT
Director of Training

The Affluent Goodbye

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We see it all the time. Every day, there are a handful of owners that bring their dogs in for one of our services, and before they hand over the leash (or sometimes even after!) they pause to say goodbye to their beloved furry family member. 

They make a fuss over their dog, linger in the lobby, and echo “it’s okay, Buddy” until the dog is out of sight. Meanwhile, we are having to coax the confused pup back into our hallway when his owner is crouched down talking to him from the other way.

These owners mean well – who doesn’t want their dog to feel comfortable and reassured, especially in what might be a new place? It’s human nature to want to comfort our dogs when they seem scared, but what we consider to be comforting often creates the opposite effect.

By baby talking, cooing, or hugging, you are working your dog up. They’re engaged, they’re happy, they’re experiencing a lot of excitement. And then, right in the midst of that, you leave. Speaking in terms of attention and emotion, the dog went from having everything to being left with nothing. 

So really it’s no wonder that many dogs whose owners part ways like this tend to be anxious, stressed, and reluctant to come back with us.  The solution is to put an end to the rampant, exaggerated goodbyes. Instead of bringing your dog up to that point of excitement, stay calm and collected.

Act as though this appointment is the most routine thing in the world, and your dog will reflect some of your certainty.

Get into the habit of speaking coolly and quietly, and do your best to just hand over the leash and move on.   This will not only help to keep your dog from getting worked up, but you’ll also find that you’re less stressed and worried as well!





Taylor Herr, IACP-CDT
Director of Training

Double Merle Awareness

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Pictured here is Swayze, a double merle Australian Shepherd that I adopted a year and half ago. He’s athletic, endearing, and goofy, and he’s a fabulous demo dog in my training classes. We love him to pieces. But there’s just one thing wrong.

Swayze shouldn’t exist. He’s the direct result of irresponsible breeding, and dogs like him are 100% preventable. And it doesn’t take much to understand why.

Instead somebody decided to breed two merle-patterned dogs to each other. There’s no way of knowing what their motives might have been, or if they even knew the trouble they were brewing. Merles are flashy and sought-after, leading many greedy backyard breeders to pair them together in hopes of throwing a litter of all merle.

 Mating merle to merle gives each puppy produced a ¼ chance of being solid colored, a ½ chance of being merle, and a ¼ chance of being what we call a double merle.

This Saturday, May 19th, is Double Merle Awareness day.

“Double merle” refers to a dog that inherited two copies of the merle gene, a gene that can be present in many breeds from aussies and collies to danes and catahoulas to dachshunds and chihuahuas. Any breed that carries the gene will likely have double merle specimens as well, and any double merle is subject to a handful of problems as a result of their poor genetics.

Swayze, for instance, is deaf and vision-impaired. He has almost no pigment throughout his coat and his eyes are smaller than normal with starburst pupils. And yet I’d consider him lucky because so many other double merles are completely blind, some born without eyes at all. Other specimens are luckier yet and have both their vision and hearing, but it’s a complete toss up and very few walk away without problems.

So I ask, does this bother you? Are you moved to help bring an end to this senseless practice? While it’s not practical to think we can immediately stop these irresponsible breeders in their tracks, there are steps to take to help bring awareness to the issue. First, don’t support this type of “breeder,” regardless of how cute the little white fluffball puppies may be. Do not buy these dogs, even if it’s in an effort to save them. Remember that unethical breeders are driven by economics, not ethics. By purchasing the double merles, you create demand that breeders will continue to meet with greater supply.

 Next, educate yourself and others about the dangers of the merle x merle cross. Finally, be an advocate. A variety of different events happen each year that shed light on double merles and irresponsible breeding practices. Attend these, invite friends, and share your experiences.


No matter how phenomenal Swayze is, I don’t want to see any more dogs like him out and about in the world. For more great information on Double Merle Awareness, check out and


Taylor Herr, IACP-CDT
Director of Training


Puppy Essentials Checklist

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So you’ve made the leap and decided to bring home a puppy! Congratulations! Hopefully this was a well thought-out, carefully made decision that everyone in the family was on board with. Hopefully you did your research and knew well in advance what you were getting yourself into before falling head over heels for a sweet little fluffball. Hopefully you chose a breed or mix that truly suits your lifestyle. And hopefully you have loads of patience.

Puppies are such a tremendous commitment and the quickest ways to get in over your head are to 1) make impulsive decisions, and 2) have unrealistic expectations. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but most of the time puppies aren’t to blame for their alleged problems – owners are. Owners don’t learn how to effectively communicate with their dog. Owners get lazy with housebreaking routines. Owners expect the new puppy to behave just like a dog from their past. In short, as owners, we can easily be rather unfair to brand new puppies, whether we realize we’re doing so or not.

Being consistent, diligent, and patient will make the journey through puppyhood a bit smoother, but that’s not to say there won’t still be challenges. Luckily, being well-equipped with the right tools can make things a little bit easier. Below, I’ve put together a list of my Top 20 items and supplies to survive puppyhood.

If you’ve already pieced together most or all of this collection, good for you! You and your new addition are off to a fabulous start. If you’re still missing some of these items, it may be worth your time to do some more research and perhaps invest in a couple of new tools. Your puppy will thank you!

What are your must-have items when it comes to surviving puppyhood?

Taylor Herr IACP-CDT
Director of Training

Meet your trainer!

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Hello everyone! I may be a familiar  face to some of you, but for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting me yet, I wanted to take a few moments to introduce myself.

My name is Taylor, and I’m the Director of Training here at Happy Dogs. I joined the team in early 2017 and have since tackled a wide variety of tasks within the business. Training is obviously my primary responsibility, but as it turns out, I can step in to fill a few other roles, too. On any given day, you might find me outside facilitating one of our daycare groups, doing a temperament evaluation on a new dog, helping out at the front desk, or up to my eyeballs in fur doing baths and blowouts in the tub room. And in between those tasks, I might be doing paperwork, answering phone calls, or writing blog posts. Happy Dogs is a busy place, and it’s pretty much exactly where I hoped to end up.

There are two things that were the biggest players in landing me here – background and education. I could bore you with all sorts of other details and stories about me, but we’ll save those for another day. For now, let’s keep it all about the dogs.

So for starters, I attended Purdue University right out of high school to study pre-veterinary medicine. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize they had degrees and choices that appealed to me more than the idea of vet school. And so I changed my concentration and took off down a path of Animal Behavior and Well-Being. It was awesome. The College of Ag was a wonderful place for me, and I had some of the greatest professors in the country as I worked through each semester. A short four years passed and I had my Animal Sciences degree in hand.

To follow that up, and to make things official, I joined the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP). Once I’d met their membership requirements, I went through a lengthy certification process to become a Certified Dog Trainer (CDT). So, if we’ve been emailing and you’re curious about that “IACP-CDT” tacked on to the end of my name, that’s where it comes from. I’ve also recently become an Associate Trick Dog Instructor (ATDI), and I plan to work through a handful of other titles and certifications in the next few years.



Having said all of that, now I’m going to turn around and argue that classrooms and evaluations aren’t where you learn your most valuable lessons. So much is to be gained through personal, hands-on experience. I’ve had dogs in the family every single day since I was born, and now have five of my own as an adult. Each of them betters me in different ways. The puppy still tests my patience every chance he gets, even now at 14 months old. The hound keeps me humble, reminding me that not every dog learns at border-collie-speed. The deaf one came pre-packed with special challenges that were entirely new to me. The heart dog pushes me to do and be better and to try new things every day. The senior is still teaching me about love and loyalty after almost 13 perfect years together.

I’m completely convinced that every dog I work with has something to teach me, and so far none have disappointed me. The lessons can be hard – even heartbreaking – but I owe pretty much all of my opportunities to the dogs that taught them to me. I can’t begin to express how rewarding it is to get to do this every day. When I began organized dog training at age 11, I couldn’t have guessed it would lead to my dream job and a house full of quirky canines, but here I am.

I look forward to getting to know more and more of you, our clients and friends, and I can’t wait to continue to expand our training programs at ‘your dog’s favorite hangout!’

Taylor Herr IACP-CDT
Director of Training

Jackpot! – Choosing the right training treats

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Treats are often one of the basic staples that come to mind when one thinks about modern dog training. We want to motivate our dogs to do as we ask, and what better motivation than a tasty snack? Humans are much the same in this regard. Let’s face it, you’re probably a little more likely to try something new if there’s a dish of your favorite dessert waiting for you when you’ve finished.

But, how hard would you work for a plate of lettuce or a plain piece of bread?

I like to make that comparison because it’s easier to think in terms of human motivation. All the time, I see well-meaning folks bringing regular ol’ Milkbone biscuits with them to training class. I applaud them for bringing treats and for rewarding their dog, but I also pose a question. How hard would you work for that? Does it smell good? Is that treat motivating enough that you’d obey the same commands over and over and over to have a piece of it?

Generally, the answer is no. And that calls for a change. I’m not here to police your trips down the treat aisle, but I do have a few tips for those of you who are hoping to get the most out of your pup’s afternoon snacks.

One of the top criteria, apart from choosing a treat that is safe and healthy, is to select something with a strong scent. It’s no secret

that dogs love stinky things, so choosing something like salmon-based treats is going to engage their sense of smell. Another thing to look for is size. Small treats, or treats that can be broken easily without crumbling, are ideal. You’re going to be handing out a lot of those suckers, so tiny pieces are going to save you money and save your dog from having to stop and chew up a bone after each successful command. It’s also important to keep in mind the caloric value of the treats you use. High-calorie, high-fat treats aren’t going to be the best option for a pup on a diet.

Another option is to skip store bought treats all-together and shop in your own kitchen. Plenty of dog treat recipes are floating around online, but some household staples are quick and easy to use too. I like to use small chunks of turkey, occasional tidbits of string cheese, and sometimes even Cheerios when I’m working my own dogs. Cheerios are a good base treat to occasionally reinforce what they already know, cheese is perfect for introducing tasks, and turkey is the jackpot treat for when they succeed at something new. That same idea of treat tiers should apply no matter what type of treats you choose. Always have a jackpot ready – you never know when your dog will stumble onto the perfect behavior, and you don’t want to be without a reward when they do.

Odds are, your dogs want to make you happy – they just don’t always know how. It’s our job to show them the ways, and the road to success is going to be much smoother if everyone stays motivated along the way. Always leave room for dessert, but always work for it too.

Taylor Herr

Director of Training at Happy Dogs

A day in the life of a daycare attendant at Happy Dogs

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Most of our clients probably think that our job at Happy Dogs is all fun and games, and getting to “play with dogs all day” seems like a dream job for some. In reality, this job comes with a lot more responsibility than it may put off, and can be quite stressful at times! I’m not saying that our job doesn’t have some major perks (because it definitely does,) I’m just saying that it’s not ALWAYS a walk in the park. So here is a quick run-down of our day.

Prior to 9 a.m.:

During this time, staff and management communicate about what the day is looking like in regards to what dogs are here, number of dogs currently in house, number of dogs coming in for boarding, dogs going home, temperament evaluations, baths, and training. We must also take into consideration the weather for that day, and whether or not we are going to be outside for most of the day. At this time of the year outside play can be limited dependent upon the temperatures, we don’t want your fur babies to freeze! On days where there is snow/ice and temperatures well below freezing, we must make sure the dogs are able to go out to potty and come back in quickly and safely! This is also a time for staff to come up with the best, most efficient plan of action for all of this to occur.

9 a.m.- Noon:

This is the most fun, playful time because the dogs are so excited to play with all of their daycare friends! Because of this, when we start letting the dogs out at 9 we don’t rush, in order for all of the dogs to settle down as they go out for the day. We do this to prevent any possible accidents from happening and not allowing the dogs to get too overwhelmed in the process. Once all of the dogs are out into their appropriate groups, we must closely monitor the dogs to make sure play isn’t too rough and the dogs are interacting safely. If we notice a particular dog is overwhelmed, showing any sort of aggression, mounting, or any other concerning behavior, we put a “lead” on the dog and walk them around in order to get them back in a fun, playful behavior. We repeat this process as needed. If a dog continues this behavior after a few brief leash walks, we may give the overexcited pup a longer break. 

During this time we also work on basic activities such as group sits, gate management, name recalls, etc. This is beneficial to us because the dogs gain respect for us, as well as the other dogs in the group. This may also help with basic commands to help the owners at home!

Noon- 1 p.m.:

During this time the dogs are sent in from their play groups for lunch and an afternoon rest. Once the dogs are all in their appropriate enclosure, we begin passing out lunches, filling waters and cleaning up as needed. We refresh waters if any are beginning to look “mucky” from any slobber your dog may have produced during all of their morning play! We also use this time to catch up on laundry and for our trainer to work on any ‘Play and Train’ sessions  scheduled for that day. Lastly, we must come up with an afternoon plan in case additional dogs have come in for the afternoon portion of daycare!

1 p.m.-4 p.m.:

During this time the dogs will have really started to wind down and mellowed out for the day. This session of daycare is much like the first session, but we also like to work on a little more one-on-one interaction.  This may include nose to tail assessments and even just some individual “lovin’s.”

4 p.m.-Close

Once the dogs are up for the day, the madness begins! For the daycare workers, this is mainly the cleaning shift. After long and busy days, the place is likely to be a mess! To make a long story short, basically everything from the indoor daycare and boarding rooms to the groom tub room is vacuumed, sprayed with veterinary disinfectant, and scrubbed down. In addition to this, we must clean enclosures as the dogs go home, keep up with laundry, dishes, as well as feed dinners.  All of this must be done diligently, but in a timely manner in order for all of the evening duties to be completed.

7 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

And last but not least,  members of our staff let the dogs out one last time for a potty break. Finally, the boarding dogs get some extra attention before being tucked into bed for the night!


Eden Howells,

Daycare Attendant