How Making Yourself a Sundae Can Help You Train Your Dog

If it’s 8:30 pm, you better believe my mind is scrolling through the options of ice cream that are lurking in the back of my freezer.  Dinner > put toddler to bed > prepare for tomorrow > sit on couch > want ice cream–it’s a very predictable sequence for me.

But this post is not to talk about my obsession with the creamy deliciousness of this nighttime treat or my conditioned behaviors.  Today’s blog is to highlight the teeny tiny steps that need to occur in between identifying “I WANT TO EAT THAT ICE CREAM” and actually consuming it.  

All learners have to figure out what they need to do (behavior) to get to their end goal (goal + reward).  Often, we think of what the end behavior should look like (when my dog sits, he gets a cookie), but we forget that the end behavior has a bunch of tiny behaviors that need to take place on the way. To save you some frustration and your pup some confusion, let’s figure out why we should split instead of lump when training any behavior.


Splitting: breaking down the criteria of a learner’s behavior into smaller approximations to the end behavior

Lumping: assuming that the learner knows what behavior specifically helped them get to the end goal


If my end goal is to eat a sundae, let’s see the steps I would take to reach my reward.

  1. Go to freezer.
  2. Grab ice cream.
  3. Scoop ice cream into a bowl.
  4. Add toppings.
  5. Put ice cream back in freezer.
  6. Eat ice cream : P

You probably followed all of my steps with no confusion, right? Sure, you’ve gotten yourself a bowl of ice cream before so it makes sense.  But what about someone who has never gotten ice cream before? Someone who doesn’t know English?  Someone who doesn’t have the same physical abilities as you?

The roadmap to this behavior above is an example of lumping.  We’d reinforce (read: give treat) after each step along the way.  For someone who has a good understanding of english and has done these behaviors before, you could probably get them to the end goal with just these few instructions.

But for someone who is new to your house, language, physical demands, etc., you’d tell them to go to your freezer and they wouldn’t even know where to begin.  Let’s see what questions we can ask ourselves about these smaller goals. Your answers will help you to split these behaviors to create more opportunities for success.


1. Go to freezer.

“Where did I start? Did I feel like getting up?  How does my body have to move to get myself into a position to walk? Where is my freezer with ice cream (the garage)? Do I need to put slippers on to go into the garage? Is the path clear of baby toys as I make my way through the house or do I have to step over things? How heavy is the freezer door? Do I have both hands free?”

2. Grab ice cream.

“Where is the ice cream in the freezer? Are there more than one? Which do I want to eat? Is there anything in the way of grabbing the ice cream? Do I have enough hands to hold the door/move the vegetables/grab the ice cream?”

3. Scoop ice cream into a bowl.

“Wait, am I scooping ice cream in my garage by the freezer? Did I have to go back inside? Where are the bowls? Where is the ice cream scoop? Where are the spoons? Which hand should I use? Do I always use this hand? Why is the ice cream tub so cold and sticking to my fingers? Is there a towel around for me to hold this? Why is the ice cream so hard? Would it be better to soak the metal scoop in warm water? Should I just wait for the ice cream to soften? Should I have worked out my biceps today? Do I want to put anything on this ice cream–I’ve done it before and it tasted good so maybe I’ll do that again?”

4. Add toppings.

“What do I have in my cabinets? What do I feel like eating? Do I like all these textures? Does this make the ice cream taste better or is it more work than reward? Where are my toppings located? What ice cream to sprinkles ratio makes sense? Is my whipped cream still good? How long after the expiration date can I use these maraschino cherries? Should I just risk it? Yep, they smell fine.”

5. Put ice cream back in freezer.

“Do I have to do this now, or will it make it until I finish eating? Where are those slippers again? Where should I put this sundae while I go put the ice cream away so Opie doesn’t taste test for me?”

6. Eat ice cream : P

“Ugh, finally.” (*sits on the couch and turns on an episode of The Amazing Race from 2004 as Opie sits hopefully alongside*)


There are so many things that you have to have a handle on in order to achieve your goal.  Maybe you don’t normally have to go to the garage freezer for ice cream (learner confusion). Maybe you have thought about other ways that were easier that got you ice cream before (reinforcement history).  Maybe the set up of your house or your physical limitations make getting the ice cream more difficult (management of environment).  Maybe you just don’t think that ice cream is worth getting off the couch for (value of reward).  The same stuff happens in our dogs’ brains when they’re trying to learn something new.  They don’t exactly know what we want.  They try out other behaviors that have been rewarded in the past.  The environment is not set up for success. They do the things that are most valuable to them.  

When you’re feeling frustrated or stuck with a behavior that you are trying to train, just take a beat.  You aren’t a terrible trainer. Your pup is not stubborn, or disrespectful, or dumb.  The team just needs to reevaluate what is going on.  Ask yourself some guiding questions and see if the answers can help you split the behaviors into smaller, more successful chunks.  You’ll get it (or you’ll find someone to help you get it).


Now what?

  • Make yourself a bowl of ice cream (It’s for science.)
  • Identify a training trick/behavior you and your pup are struggling with.
  • Ask yourself questions to help break down the smaller steps that need to occur.
  • Reward consistently as the team experiences success.


You’re doing great!


August 2021 Training Challenge: Teach A Trick

I love trick training.

I love how fun it is to see animals learning.  I love the relationship built between species. I love how cute the end results are. AND I love that the pup doesn’t always realize that this fun game we’re doing is actually functional for our lives.  

As I was thinking about this month’s training challenge (“Teach A Trick”), I mentally scrolled through the whole Rolodex of tricks I’ve seen and done with dogs, and I kept coming back to wanting to teach you something that can be adorable AND functional.

This summer, our household became a playground as we celebrated our human kiddo’s first birthday.  I had no idea we had so many cabinets, and to a toddler, behind that cabinet door lies a world of wonder that needs to be explored. Everything stores something and after a few minutes… all of those somethings are on the floor (stay tuned for a future Slick Tricks to teach your pup how to help you clean up toys).

So what did I do when I grew tired of constantly closing the half-opened cabinet to the pots and pans with my foot as my boy whisked me away by pointer fingers to his next exciting discovery? I said to myself, “Corinne! Opie is amazing and he knows how to close the cabinets!”


So let’s learn the trick that I like to call, “Can you get that for me?”

When teaching a trick, it’s important to consider all of the actions that your animal has to do in order to complete the task.  When we break the behaviors of the trick down and reward in tiny, manageable steps (“splitting”), we create clarity, increase confidence, and ensure success for our pups. 

In order for a dog to close a cabinet door, they need to know how to touch something with their paws or their nose.  First, we will teach “paw/high five/shake/fist bump”, then we will transfer this to the cabinet using a target.  My pup likes to touch with his paw, but feel free to replace the term “paw” with “nose” if you’d rather your dog close something with his/her snout.

Teaching this skill takes multiple training sessions, so make a note where your pup leaves off at the end of one session and start a step or two before that when you begin your next session. Practice each step until your dog is accurate 80-90% of the time. As always, keep training sessions short, positive, and fun. 


What you need for this trick:

  • Treats
  • Marker: an auditory cue that tells your dog “what you just did will bring the goodies” (i.e.- click, “yes”, “good”) 
  • Target: a visual tool to help with precision (i.e.- piece of painters tape)


Part 1: Teach “paw”

  1. Put a treat in a closed fist.
  2. Offer the fist to the pup.
  3. The curious pup may sniff/lick/explore. Wait the pup out.
  4. When your dog touches your hand with his paw, mark, then reward with the treat.

**Continue this step until your dog is consistently offering his paw **

  1. Start to offer your fist without the treat inside.  Mark and reward with the other hand when his paw makes contact. Repeat.
  2. Start to open your hand.  Mark and reward with the other hand when his paw makes contact with your open palm. Repeat.

**Congrats!  You just taught your pup “shake/fist/high five!”  Party time!  Name this whatever you want and continue using this cue for the next few steps (or stop here, get a high five from your pup, and bask in your training glory). For more info on adding a verbal cue, check out this video.**


Part 2: Transferring the touch

  1. Continue practicing “high five”, but now add a target on your palm. I like to use a piece of painter’s tape.  When your pup touches his paw to your target (the tape), mark and reward. Repeat.
  2. Start to move your hand (with the target on it) to different levels and angles (in front/side/below/higher/lower/behind/further).  Mark and reward each success.
  3. Move the target to the end of your fingers and repeat the above step.  Mark and reward.
  4. With the target at the end of your fingers, place your hand near/in front of a closed cabinet door, gradually getting closer to the door so that your hand is flat on the cabinet, palm facing out. Mark and reward each success.
  5. Gradually move the target from halfway on your fingers/halfway on door > to ¼ on your fingers/ ¾ on the door > 100% on the door.  Mark and reward each success.

*Congrats!  You successfully used a target to transfer the pup from touching your hand to touching the cabinet.  Now let’s add the new verbal cue “Can you get that for me?”.  For more info on switching cues, click here!

  1. Once your pup is consistently touching the target on the cabinet, practice doing it with the door open.  Mark and reward each time your pup touches the target, even if it does not close the door.  Gradually increase the criteria by waiting to mark until the door moves, and eventually, closes.  Your goal is to mark the moment you hear the door shut. *NOTE: if your dog has a history of sound sensitivities, consider laying a dish towel over the edge at the bottom of the cabinet to dampen the sound.
  2. Once your pup is responding to your cue and closing the door all the way, you can start to take the target off the cabinet and transfer it to other doors.

You did it!  Your kitchen will never look like that scene from The Sixth Sense again.  Have fun with this trick by making a little maze throughout your kitchen that your pup can clear.  It’s a very fun 15 secs for both the dog and the humans cheering him on!


Now what?

  • Have fun working with your pup on these tricks! Tricks are awesome because the necessity is so low.  Tricks are a great way to deepen your relationship, discover your pup’s motivators, and learn their signals for when they’ve hit their limits (and apply this knowledge to any behavior modification plans you are working on as well).
  • Share your pictures and videos of your pup helping you keep the house in order with our Facebook and Instagram pages! You can tag us @PetHarmonyTraining! We love seeing cute things!

You’re doing great!


How & Why Remote Consulting Works


2020 was the year of Zoom and it looks like at least part of 2021 is going to be the same way. We at Pet Harmony were fortunate that we’d been offering effective remote consulting services for years already; it was an easier transition for us than for many other training and behavior companies. But, just because it was an easy transition for us doesn’t mean that it’s been an easy transition for pet parents to take the leap and try remote consulting services. 

We address concerns every single day– usually multiple times per day– from pet parents who know they need help from a behavior consultant but are skeptical if remote services can help them. And, what pains me is when people choose to hold off on much-needed professional help because they’re skeptical about remote services. 

The hard truth is that I know they’ll likely contact us again, but the next time it will be when the behavior is worse and more difficult to modify. I’ve had a number of clients this year who decided not to take us up on remote services at the beginning of Covid, only to contact us months later in desperate need of our help when their dog had bitten someone again or the family was at the end of their rope. I wish I had gotten to work with them sooner. 

After receiving another response today of, “We’re looking for in-home sessions only. We’ll be in touch when things open back up.” I decided that it’s high time I write a blog post specifically about how and why remote consults work to help struggling pet parents understand that they don’t need to put off seeking much-needed help. Let’s talk about the main concerns folks have with remote consultations and why they’re not as concerning as you may think.

If you’re looking for a quicker answer, check out this video pulled out of one of our recent FB live chats:



Common Concerns About Remote Sessions


“I don’t know how you’ll help me if you can’t see the behavior.”

This is by and large the number one concern we hear from people, especially for pets displaying aggression or reactivity. And, the short answer is, we don’t need to see the behavior to help you. Even if we were doing in-person sessions we still wouldn’t want to see the behavior (especially if the behavior is biting strangers coming into the house.) The longer answer to this is in this blog post about how your pet is not like your car. 

When someone knows enough about behavior (which an evidence-based consultant should), then we don’t need to see a behavior to know how to modify it. Behavior is much more predictable than people think; it follows specific rules. That means that professionals know what questions to ask you to understand your pet’s behavior and even if a behavior seems unpredictable to you, it usually isn’t to us. If something does sound funky or we need additional help aside from asking questions, we’ll ask for a video if it’s safe to get one. 

Again, this is the same for both in-person and remote services. Purposefully stressing out an animal so we can see the behavior in real-time doesn’t help us or the animal and usually means your pet is less capable of learning later on in the session when we’re doing hands-on exercises. Trying to show us the behavior in a session (remote or in-person) usually comes back to bite people in the butt. 

While we don’t need to see a behavior to know what’s going on, watching you work with your pet is a different story. That’s where videos come in! And, to be honest, I find videos more helpful than watching someone in real life (and I know my fellow PH consultants agree). We can watch the video as many times through as we want and focus on different aspects each time: something that’s not possible in real time observation. The other great thing is we can then play through the video for our client (via screen share) so they can see what we’re seeing, too. We’ve seen that videos are a more effective teaching tool in that way as well.  

To sum up this concern, we don’t need to see your pet’s behavior to know how to modify it and what we do need to see we’ll ask you to send us a video of it. 


“How can I get hands-on practice in a remote session?”

This is probably the second most asked question we get when someone is skeptical about remote services. The answer is: pretty much in the same way you’d get it in an in-person session! There are a number of ways for us to demonstrate exercises: videos, demonstrating with our own pets, props. We then watch you over the video feed and provide real-time feedback as you practice. The only difference is that we can’t demonstrate exercises using your particular pet. But, if we’re doing our jobs well by providing clear instructions and splitting steps into small enough approximations (I.E. baby steps) so that you and your pet can be successful, hands-on practice is just as effective remotely as it is in-person. 


An example of hands-on training in a session (and Oso lounging after his demo work was done!)


“I’m not great at training, so I want a professional to do the exercises with my pet.”

We know our clients aren’t professional trainers (usually). If you knew what to do and how to do it you wouldn’t need us! The great news is that you don’t need to be a professional trainer in order to see results with a good behavior modification program because so much of a good behavior modification program is not actually about training. 

Behavior modification techniques can actually be fairly simple at their core and our consultants purposefully choose the simplest exercises we can for our clients. If you can toss some treats on the floor you can already do several of those exercises. The implementation and what to do in different situations is usually the trickier part and where a behavior consultant is vitally important. But, again, the training mechanics are often easier than what you’d see in, for example, a trick-training class. 

The other side of answering this question has to do with how relationships and training for real-life situations play a part in behavior. I frequently tell my clients that it doesn’t matter if I can get their pet to do something, it only matters if they can do the same. I don’t live with them so it doesn’t matter that much if I can do it. I can absolutely help teach the dog foundation skills and then transfer that knowledge to the humans, but over the years I’ve found it more effective in the long run to spend that time helping the human train those foundation skills instead. 

The reason for this is that when we move to a different environment or situation, we often need to reteach those skills to our pets (who don’t generalize very well). If I taught the foundation skills, the pet parent is now stuck. If I taught the pet parent to teach that particular behavior all the way through, then they know exactly what to do in those situations and don’t need me. Behavior consulting is one of those jobs where we teach you how to not need us. 

The last part of answering this question, as I mentioned above, comes down to relationships (which includes a learning history with someone). If a dog learns that they can trade coveted items with me in exchange for something delicious, it doesn’t mean they’ll do the same for anyone else. A human example of this is that I’ll let my husband take my credit card but wouldn’t let someone else do the same. It will take less time (and money) for me to teach someone how to trade with their dog rather than building that skill with me first then transferring it to the pet parent. 

To sum up this answer, you don’t need to have amazing training skills to see great results and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if a professional can get your pet to do something. It only matters if you can.  


“I don’t know how remote sessions can be effective.”

This one really boils down to not knowing what the behavior modification process entails. At the end of the day, your behavior consultant is a human trainer who knows a lot about animals. A whole lot of the behavior modification process is actually educating the pet parents in topics like body language, management, and enrichment. So as long as we can communicate effectively, we can educate effectively. That doesn’t have to happen in-person.

We have hundreds of clients whom we’ve never met in person who have successfully worked through their behavior modification plan with pets presenting really challenging behavior issues. We’ve also worked with all of the typical maladaptive behaviors remotely quite successfully: stranger danger, leash reactivity, intra-household aggression, resource guarding, separation anxiety (this one works way better remotely, actually), stereotypic/compulsive behaviors, and so many more. Remote services have not limited our effectiveness or the types of cases that we see. 


Pros and Cons of Remote Sessions vs. In-Person Sessions


Aspects of remote consulting that are more effective than in-person sessions


It’s easier for the human learner

As I mentioned above, behavior consultants are really human teachers who have a lot of knowledge about pets. And, just like our pets, it’s difficult to learn when our attention is split between different things. That’s exactly what happens in an in-person session. I’ve seen so many people worried about what their pet is doing or going to do in an in-person session that they haven’t really absorbed the necessary information I’m telling them and that they’re paying for. Because that happens so frequently, I ask all of my clients to put their pets away before I arrive (also for safety reasons) and then they’re often worried about what their pet is doing while they’re away or what their pet will do when they’re let out. Their attention is still split. 

From my experience, remote clients have a much easier time absorbing the necessary information they need to know to keep their pets and others safe. That also means that we don’t need to go over the same information as many times so we can often progress a bit quicker. 


You can revisit your session

We try to record all of our remote sessions and either send them to clients afterwards or let clients know to ask us if they want access to them. So in addition to their training plan and other training resources we send, clients can share their session with household members who didn’t get to attend or go back to helpful tips we shared while they were working with their pet. 


Our presence changes the pet’s behavior

A large portion of the pets we’re working with have anxiety-related issues and for many of them the presence of new people in the house or a change to their routine is stressful. That means that our very presence is going to change the pet’s behavior and oftentimes also means that it’s going to be harder for them to learn the skills we’d like to implement during that session. There have been many times where a pet has been too stressed to learn during an in-person session and I’ve had to explain how to do something just like I would do in a remote session (actually, I have access to videos and can use Oso to demonstrate in a remote session so it would have been a better explanation if it was done remotely). 

The other side of this is that, because we’re professionals, your pet isn’t going to act the same way they would with us as they would with someone else. We know how to set up the environment, how to move and act so we don’t elicit unwanted behaviors as much as someone who doesn’t work professionally with pets. I’ve heard so many times, “Well, he’s not doing it with you but he usually barks at people when they come in.” Or, “He must know something’s up. He’s on his best behavior.” Our presence will change your pet’s behavior but sometimes not in the way you’d expect. 


It encourages taking video of your training session

As I mentioned above, video is a wonderful tool for learning. While we make the offer for our in-person clients to send us videos, it realistically does not happen often. The remote setting lends itself to folks taking more videos for us and that is incredibly helpful for both the client and the consultant. 


Aspects of remote consulting that are less effective than in-person sessions


We can’t troubleshoot for ourselves, which is sometimes harder

There are occasionally times where a client is working on something and I wish I could reach through the screen and try a few things with their pet to troubleshoot so I can better help them through a sticky spot. While it’s not impossible to do that troubleshooting remotely, being able to troubleshoot in person in those situations would likely save us some time. 


Videos of walks are more difficult because of the scope of the camera

I’ve worked on a lot of leash reactivity cases without ever seeing the dog out on a walk. It’s very doable to work on the issue without the consultant being there walking alongside you. That said, there are times where clients want me to see their dog on a walk or are having trouble explaining something and so want me to watch a video of their dog on a walk. 

One of the nice things about being able to go on a walk with someone in person is that I can watch their dog and all around the environment at the same time. That’s more difficult to do in a video because of how wide the frame is. There are some videos I’ve seen where this isn’t a problem because the person videoing is at a great angle and/or distance, but that’s not always the case. 


Stranger danger with us

I’ve also worked on a lot of stranger danger cases without ever meeting the animal. It’s also very doable. That said, many people feel more comfortable feeding a professional to the lions, so to speak, than starting out with their friends and family. There are many things that we do and have in place to keep people safe (including practicing first with known people to troubleshoot the set-up), but many people still feel more comfortable going through a meeting people protocol with a professional first. We obviously can’t do that remotely. 



How our remote consults work

Throughout this blog post I’ve been speaking specifically about our remote sessions at Pet Harmony, and I recognize that different companies perform them differently and they’re probably not all created equal. I can only speak to ours, though. The short answer to how our remote consultations work is there’s a discussion portion and a hands-on portion and the amount of time with each is dependent on where folks are in their plans and what we’re working on. 

The longer answer is found here



Now what?

  • Have you been putting off getting professional help for your pet because you don’t want to try remote sessions? Look at the above concerns and see which speaks to you. 
  • What concerns do you still have after reading those relevant sections? Think through them and start fleshing them out.
  • Tell us those concerns. Email us at [email protected] to start a dialogue about what remote sessions can do for you. Or, if this addressed all of your concerns email us to set up an appointment. 
  • Behavior professionals: are you looking for help on how to do effective behavior consults? Check out our How to Do– And Love!– Remote Consulting Course


Happy training!


How Cherry Picking Your Plan is Getting in the Way of Your Progress– and What to do About it!


There are a lot of factors that go into how successful a behavior modification program is. Some of those factors are uncontrollable: genetics, certain things in the environment (i.e. city-living is always going to be louder than rural living), age, etc. Some of those factors are controlled by your behavior consultant: science-based, empathetic, ethical training techniques, splitting steps down small enough for both you and your pet to be successful, etc. And then there are those factors that are controlled by you, the pet parent: communicating successes and hardships with your consultant, practicing the exercises, managing stress and unwanted behaviors, etc. 

There’s one pet parent factor in particular that I want to talk about today: cherry picking parts of your behavior modification plan. What I mean by that is following some parts of your behavior plan but not all of them. Let’s dive into why it happens and why it’s so detrimental. 


Why Cherry Picking Your Plan is Detrimental

Cherry picking parts of your plan and ignoring other parts is detrimental to your progress. Yes, you can still make progress this way. Yes, sometimes you can even reach your goals this way. However, it’s probably going to be slower than it could be if you followed all parts of your plan. If the behavior modification journey already typically takes several months, why would you risk adding more time onto it?

It may also not be possible to reach your goals if you’re cherry picking. For example, if you want your pet to stop counter surfing but you keep leaving food on your counter while you’re not home and your pet is loose, you’re not going to reach your goal. Your pet could have an amazing stationing (go to a spot and hang out there) behavior when you’re cooking, an amazing “off” cue, and other foraging opportunities. You’re still not going to reach your goal without that particular management component.

Because there are so many factors that go into behavior, we usually need to address several factors to be successful. Think about it this way: all of those factors are like an orchestra that comes together to create one end result. All of the factors of behavior come together to create one end result, too. Now, if our orchestra is practicing and we improve the woodwinds, brass, and percussion, but completely ignore the strings, the end result isn’t going to be the same as if we improved each section. We can’t cherry pick and expect the end result to be the same. 


Why Cherry Picking Happens

I see cherry picking happen for a lot of reasons:

  • Not knowing what a recommendation is for, does, or why it’s important
  • Not knowing how to do or implement that recommendation
  • Not seeing the recommendation work, including not knowing how to troubleshoot it to make it work better
  • The consultant put in too many recommendations at one time
  • Forgetting a part of the plan
  • Old habits– and concepts– die hard

I’m probably missing a few but those are the most common reasons I see when speaking with my clients. Almost all of these merit an entire blog post to themselves, but let’s briefly explore each and talk about solutions. 


Not knowing what a recommendation is for, does, or why it’s important

This one is all about buy-in. Some people need to know why they’re doing something before they’ll do it. There are plenty of times that that’s applied to me, too! If you don’t know (or remember) why you’re supposed to do something or do it in a particular way, ask your consultant. There’s no shame in asking and, believe me, we’d much rather you ask straight off the bat if you’re not sure why instead of avoiding it for a few weeks. 


Not knowing how to do or implement that recommendation

This usually comes down to a break-down in communication when you’re given instructions (or can come from people skipping ahead in their plan instead of following instructions as they were relayed). An example of this is when a consultant might say “separate your dogs with baby gates and perform this exercise on either side of the gate” and you have an open-floor plan. Even though the instructions seem straightforward, the environment makes it a whole lot trickier to implement. Again, speak with your consultant and relay specifically what you’re having trouble with. The more specific the better!

If the reason you don’t know how to do something or implement it is because you’ve skipped ahead, go back to what your consultant recommended. When we say, “practice this only in your yard or with someone they know for the next 2 weeks”, we really mean it. There may be tweaks that need to be made before the recommendation can work in other capacities and we don’t want you to have to figure that out yourself. Plus, moving too fast is a prime reason for seeing setbacks later in the process. 


Not seeing the recommendation work, including not knowing how to troubleshoot it to make it work better

Reasons for a recommendation not working can run the gamut and is going to be based on the individual case. That said, almost all of those reasons can be resolved with some troubleshooting. Before giving up on a recommendation completely, talk to your consultant (noticing a pattern here?) Tell them what you tried, for how long, and send a video if you can! We don’t expect you to know how to troubleshoot something to make it more effective; that’s our job. 


The consultant put in too many recommendations at one time

I was incredibly guilty of this when I was a newer consultant, and am still sometimes guilty of this! Your consultant should tailor their recommendations to you as they get to know you better, but in the beginning it can be difficult to find that sweet spot. Tell your consultant when there’s too much, but only after you’ve made sure that it’s not actually because of one of these other reasons. I often hear someone say they don’t have time for one thing in particular, but when we talk more about it we discover that one of these other reasons is the real culprit. 


Forgetting a part of the plan

Okay, we’ve all been here, right? Remembering everything you’re supposed to do can be hard, especially in the moment. I see a lot of my clients get around this by posting their training worksheet (which we send to all of our clients after every session) on the fridge. Others opt for post-it notes around the house. The point is that the system needs to work for you. I recently spoke with a client who was cherry picking her plan. When I brought it up, she admitted that she forgot about some parts of it and doesn’t check email frequently and so wasn’t utilizing the training worksheets I was sending. We decided that her taking her own notes would be more effective. No system will work unless it works for you! Think through what systems work for you in your regular, daily life and figure out how to incorporate what you should be working on into those tried and true systems.


Old habits– and concepts– die hard

This one is part buy-in, part forgetting, and part habit. There are so many times that someone has come to me with a history of leash popping their dog and looking for a more LIMA-friendly way to walk. Usually the short-term solution involves them looping their thumb in their belt loop or pocket to keep them from leash popping. Even habits that we want to change die hard! And, sometimes, we have no idea that we’re even doing them. Give yourself some grace as you’re working on changing your own thoughts and behaviors- and remember that your pet is going through the same process. Ask your consultant if they have any recommendations to help you change particular habits (like looping your thumb in your belt loop). 


Now What?

  • Take an honest look at your behavior modification and what you’re doing. Does it match up? Even the little details? If yes, awesome! Keep on keeping on. 
  • If it doesn’t match up, which of the above (or combination thereof) best describes your situation? 
  • Talk to your consultant about what’s going on, even if you’re not quite sure what the issue is. They’ll be able to help troubleshoot the issue to set you up for success better!


Happy training!


How to Work with Multiple Pets at a Time


Last week we discussed the pros and cons of working with pets individually vs. with multiple at the same time. Check it out here if you haven’t yet read that post. Now that you’ve considered if you should be working with an individual pet vs. your whole crew, let’s get into the details of how to make that possible. 


Working individually

I observe body language for a living: canine, feline, and human. Often when I make the recommendation to someone to work with one of their pets individually, I’m met with a look of apprehension. Sometimes that apprehension stems from time or worrying about not being fair to another animal, but sometimes it’s because they’ve tried it before and it didn’t work well for them. In those cases, the client usually describes to me that their other pet– the one left alone– spent the entire time barking or scratching at the door. I can understand the apprehension of trying it again if that was the case before!

When this happens and it’s not a matter of separation, isolation, and/or confinement anxiety, then I recommend to my client to give the other pet something really awesome to work on while they’re alone: stuffed Kong, bully stick, food puzzle, etc. If that doesn’t work, we can work on building duration with the other pet in the separated room. If it is a matter of separation, isolation, or confinement anxiety we can work through a behavior modification plan to address those more serious behaviors. 


Working with multiple pets simultaneously

There are a number of ways to be successful at this task and each situation may look a little different depending on the specific needs of the animals and what you’re working on. Here are some tips for working with multiple pets at the same time (but know that there are other options out there than just these!):


Many hands make light work

So often I hear that people are worried about two animals trying to take the same treat at the same time and a fight ensuing. In that case, if your pets don’t yet have a great “wait” behavior, treat each simultaneously from two hands like in the picture below. 


You can also get additional help from others. Have 4 animals? Get 4 hands into the training mix. This can help with letting you focus on your particular task, too, if you’re working on growing your animal training skills. Many hands really do make light work in this case.


Baby gates can help improve safety

As I mentioned in the post about how Covid-19 is impacting behavior (read it here), I have a lot of clients at the moment currently working on dog-dog interactions within the house. I’ve seen a significant uptick in dogs having trouble living with one another and I know some of my colleagues have mentioned seeing the same trend. In those cases, we will eventually need to work with the dogs in relatively the same space. We’ll also need to make sure we do so carefully and safely. 

We can absolutely have both dogs on leash (and for those of you working on dog/cat relationships, we often get the cat comfortable wearing a harness and leash, too!) with two handlers. That said, it becomes trickier when we need to rely on multiple people’s schedules to work on the pets’ relationship. This is where baby gates can be incorporated. 

Set up a baby gate so that you can work with one pet on one side and one on the other. This usually brings some peace of mind to the humans as well which can make the session more fun for everyone. If having pets on just one side of the baby gate is still too close for them, then you can set up two gates with however much “dead space” you need in between, kind of like an airlock:




The last technique we’ll talk about here is stationing: teaching a pet to go to a particular place and hang out there. Sometimes trainers will refer to this as place work, mat work, or something similar. With stationing you can have one animal on a mat or bed out of the way while working with another, then switch them. This is a more advanced approach in that you need to be able to focus on the animal in front of you but also keep whoever is stationing in mind and reinforcing each appropriately. I tend to give a treat to the stationing animal whenever I treat the one I’m currently focusing on.

This is a regular technique used in zoos where it’s more challenging to separate animals for training. Regardless of your feelings about zoos, many do a wonderful job of training their animals– usually to safely participate in husbandry and medical procedures– and can be a good place for inspiration of what’s possible with training. 

Check out this video showing crocodiles training and stationing from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Bronx Zoo:


It’s often easier to teach animals to station separately before bringing them together. A professional trainer can help you with this process; it will need to be well-proofed, especially if you have trouble keeping a high rate of reinforcement (aka how frequently you treat).


Now what?

  • Try your hand at training multiple animals at once. Choose one of the above options to start with.
  • Practice whichever option you choose before bringing your pets into the mix. Practice doling out treats single-handedly. Teach stationing separately. Practice splitting your attention between observing multiple individuals at a time. Whatever you choose, it will be easier for you and less frustrating for your pets to practice without them first.
  • Start short and sweet. Work with your pets just a minute or two at a time. Assess how it went and how it can be improved on then try again for another minute or two. 
  • Consult with your professional trainer or behavior consultant– especially if there are safety concerns between the pets. A professional can help you fine tune your skills, your pets’ skills, and help you keep everyone safe during the training process. Email us at [email protected] to be paired with a consultant and set up your first session. 


Happy training!



7 Tips for Working with Your Leash Reactive Dog

Does your dog look like this when they see another dog, human, car, runner, skateboarder, or something else when they’re on leash?

If so, you’re not alone! Leash reactivity is a common canine issue in the United States; it’s one of the maladaptive behaviors that I see and work with most. 

In this article, I’m defining “leash reactivity” as: a set of agonistic-looking behaviors, such as barking, lunging, and/or growling, when a dog sees an external trigger while on leash. I often hear new clients describing this behavior like:

He goes crazy when he sees another dog. 

I have trouble controlling her when joggers go past us on the trail. 

He’s leash aggressive. 

All of those typically fall under what I would define as “leash reactivity”. 

Why is my dog leash reactive?

There are a lot of factors that go into an individual’s behavior; we’ll get into all of those in a future blog post. For now, you’ll just need to trust me that this is usually a fear/stress/anxiety-related behavior. The best defense is a good offense. Yes, even if your dog plays great with dogs off-leash or at daycare, leash reactivity can still be a fear-related behavior! 

Every now and then I see a case where it’s excitement-based, but it’s far less than people typically think. And, it’s important to note that excitement can turn into frustration which can turn into anxiety. Speak with the behavior consultant working on your case to learn more about the factors involved in your individual dog’s behavior.

Tips for working with your leash reactive dog

  1. Manage. The more your dog practices his reactivity the better he’s going to get at it. The first step to working with reactivity is building a solid management plan to prevent your dog from practicing the unwanted behavior; this also lowers his stress levels. Management can look like: discontinuing walking in general and getting exercise in a fenced-in yard, walking during quiet times and in quieter locations, and crossing the street when you do see a trigger. It’s difficult to make expedient progress without a solid management plan. 
  2. Learn your dog’s body language. New clients are often amazed that I can tell them their dog is about to react before it actually happens. It’s not magic; it’s body language! When that happens, I explain to them everything that I saw that told me what was about to happen and teach them how to see all of that too. In no time they’re able to predict their dog’s reactivity outbursts just as well as I can! When you know your dog’s body language inside and out you can better predict their behavior and make more effective management and training decisions more quickly. This component quite frequently makes the difference between dogs who make a little bit of progress and dogs who make a lot of progress. 
  3. Distance is your best friend. Our goal is to keep our dogs under threshold and away from mountain lion brain so that we can teach them new skills when they’re capable of learning. There are a few ways to do this, but increasing the distance between your dog and the trigger when you see their body language signals escalating is one of the simplest. Subdivisions rudely are not constructed to provide great training spaces; you may need to go outside your regular walking areas to get the distance you need at the beginning of the process. I like giant parking lots and parks. 
  4. Practice before going on a walk. Behavior modification is a hard process for both you and your dog. You’re both learners in this! I rarely see clients perform spectacularly when they go for a walk and employ a new technique immediately after learning it. It’s like taking the test right after you attended the class with no study time in between. And, to add to that, working on leash reactivity while on a walk is hard regardless of your skill level. It takes a long time to master watching your dog and your environment at the same time, get the mechanics between handling your dog, leash, and treats, and you have triggers popping up unexpectedly. Start practicing your behavior modification techniques in the house, yard, or car (again, parking lots are great!)  so you can get the mechanics down first. Start implementing techniques on a walk only when you feel completely comfortable and confident in easier scenarios. Your behavior consultant can help you come up with ways to practice in easier scenarios before the big test. 
  5. Watch your leash length. Have you ever heard that your stress travels down the leash to your dog? One of the unconscious ways that we do that is by tightening the leash when we see a trigger, especially before our dog sees it. Your dog can associate the leash tightening with the trigger and make them even more reactive. I know it’s hard, but keep that leash the length you normally have it at (unless you have a retractable leash, which I don’t recommend using for a leash reactive dog) and cross the street instead of walking your dog nearer to the trigger on a tight leash. If you find it difficult to break this habit then have someone walk with you to help hold you accountable. 
  6. Work slowly and purposefully. I see the following mistake happen frequently: the dog is doing great across the street so the person decides to practice on the same side of the street. It rarely goes well. There’s a whole lot of distance between the opposite side of the street and the same side! I recommend decreasing distance only a foot or two at a time. When the dog (and you) has mastered that distance then decrease by another foot or two. Slow and steady wins the race; pushing rarely goes well in the long run. 
  7. Respect your dog’s requests by teaching a “flight cue”. Your dog has a few options when he is put into a scary situation; the most common we think about are “fight” or “flight”. The goal of these is the same: put distance between yourself and the scary thing. The first option involves telling the scary thing to go away whereas the second involves you choosing to move away yourself. We like the second option way more! But that means we need to respect that option and allow our dogs to move away when they ask to do so. I like to teach dogs that they have this option– even on leash– by teaching them a “flight cue” that means we’re moving away. We can then expand that by building a dialogue between the dog and handler so the handler can respect any dog-initiated flight requests when they happen. 

Now what?

  • Go through the above tips again. What is the one category that you want to focus on? Where do you either need the most help or do you think with a little tweaking it can be an easy win for you? Write it down. 
  • Next, write down how you’re going to improve within that category. Your behavior consultant can help you here! This could include watching videos on YouTube to better see dog body language as it happens, videoing your own dog and yourself to see if you tighten your leash, or scouting out some additional areas to work in!
  • Schedule your tasks for improvement in your calendar. Aim for 5 minutes per day. 
  • Get to work! If what you’re working on seems too difficult then break it into even smaller pieces. Again, your behavior consultant can help you with this. 
  • If you’re not already working with a behavior consultant I highly recommend it. It’s hard to learn a brand new set of skills by yourself without guidance. A behavior consultant can set you on the right path and help you troubleshoot when things don’t work as expected. 
  • Join us for our upcoming FREE workshop: Roadmap to Behavior Solutions. Information and registration here

Happy training! 


Behavior Solutions

Helping you and your pet live harmoniously

Fall in love with your pet again
with pet behavior training

Check out the blog post in the FAQ section (under can remote sessions actually work)

You're in Good Hands with the Pet Harmony Team

Our team of certified trainers and pet behavior consultants- with over 75 years collective experience- includes published authors, international speakers, and professionals with additional specializations. 

When it comes to pet behavior training, we’ve been there, done that, and seen it all.

Our Teams' Certifications

Understanding Pet Behavior Training

What You Get

  • One-on-one attention from your personal pet behavior consultant
  • Personalized, actionable behavior modification plan
  • Supplemental resources to support your education
  • Support between sessions
  • Access to our entire team of science- based/ positive reinforcement/ force-free/ fear-free consultants
  • A supportive pet parent community who understands what you’re going through
  • Certified trainers & pet behavior consultants who care as much about you as they do your pet
  • Options for in-person, private dog training at home or virtual pet training

What We Specialize In

Nuisance Behaviors

Sad, Scary, or Dangerous Behaviors

Why Our Clients Love Us

Our internationally-renowned team has been featured on:

How it Works

Here's the pet behavior training process you'll go through to get help for your pet

Check out the blog post in the FAQ section (under can remote sessions actually work)

1. Choose your Initial Consultation Package below

2. Choose between virtual pet training or in-person services

3. Choose your pet behavior consultant and the date & time for your initial consultation. Check out, pay, and you're in!

4. Check your email for login details for your Initial Consultation Package prep materials (be sure to check spam & promotions folders!)

5. Attend your initial consultation, ready to learn

6. Start working through your training worksheet activities & schedule follow-up sessions

7. Work with your consultant(s) until your pet graduates.

8. Celebrate!

Beginning Behavior Modification

On-Demand Course that you can start right now
$ 47
  • 20 videos of foundation skills you need to be successful
  • Actionable steps
  • Additional resources

Lite Initial Consultation Package

Best for: dipping your toe if you're not sure you're ready for the process
$ 250 1 session
  • 90-minute initial consultation (remote or in-person [IL])
  • Actionable, personalized training plan
  • 1 month access to our Community Campus membership
  • Additional resources
  • Follow-ups available for purchase separately

Learn More: Remote & In-Person

Standard Initial Consultation Package

Best for: pets who have 1 or 2 primary issues to work through
$ 700 4 sessions in 2 months
  • 90- minute initial consultation (remote or in-person [IL)
  • Actionable, personalized training plans
  • 2 months access to our Community Campus membership
  • Additional resources
  • 3 follow-up sessions

Learn More: Remote & In-Person

Intensive Initial Consultation Package

Best for: pets who have a lot of different behavior issues
$ 1900 12 sessions in 3 months
  • 90-minute initial consultation (remote or in-person [IL])
  • Actionable, personalized training plans
  • 3 months access to our Community Campus membership
  • Additional resources
  • 11 follow-up sessions

Learn More: Remote & In-Person

Our Pet Behavior Training Guarantee

We will provide you and your pet with the most up-to-date, science-based, empathetic behavior modification journey we can, like we’ve done for thousands of pets and their people already.

Pet Behavior Training FAQs

About Our Services

Yes! Our team has seen it all and can help you with whatever issue you and your pet are facing. There will be times that we recommend seeking additional help from a professional in a parallel field (like a Veterinary Behaviorist or Neurologist) if we think that will be helpful, but for all things dog behavior modification – and other pets! – we have you covered. 

Additionally, our team is a real team: we often work together and collaborate on a case to make sure our clients get the best support we can offer. If your pet behavior consultant doesn’t have the answer they will ask another team member for support.

Yes! A healthy and communicative client-consultant team is certainly capable of making progress and we are committed to helping you through your pet’s behavior modification journey. That said, there are some things that you will need to bring to the table to ensure that your pet does make progress, including a willingness to:

  • Learn new information that potentially conflicts with what you already know
  • Adhere to your entire training plan and homework, not just the parts that are convenient or fun–or let us know when you’re having difficulty doing so, so that we can help you troubleshoot
  • Communicate with your consultant: the triumphs, the setbacks, the confusion, and the frustration
  • Treat our relationship and services as a journey, not a one-time thing

Please note that progress and goals may look different than what you originally thought it would look like.

Yes! The majority of our clients come to us with pets who already have a bite history. For extreme cases (I.E. many stitches, mauling, death) we will recommend you work with a Veterinary Behaviorist alongside our team.

Collectively, our team is able to work with any pet species. There is no additional fee for working with different species.

No. Our services are charged by the hour, not who we’re working with. We’re happy to work with multiple pets in one session (and often need to to see success!).

About Our Process

That’s okay! That’s a normal part of the process. Check out our blog, Facebook page, and resources pages to learn more about us and what we’re about. We’ll be here when you’re ready. You can also listen to our pet enrichment podcast to learn more about our expertise and hear us in action.

Our Beginning Behavior Modification online pet training course is a good place to start if you’re not sure if you’re ready to commit to the whole behavior modification journey or if you need immediate help to keep things from worsening before making a decision. 

A behavior modification journey is about so much more than just training your pet. It requires dedication in the form of time and work from the household members as well, and the humans are as much a part of the process as the pets are. There’s a reason we call it a journey!

More specifically, your pet behavior training will include history taking, considerable discussion with your consultant to create a plan that is sustainable for you, management, education, and skill-building for you and your pet. 

We will use scaffolding– splitting more challenging techniques into smaller steps and building upon already-learned skills– in order to help everyone learn successfully. That means we will not make you jump into the deep end until you’re ready.

It varies and there are factors involved in the timeline outside of our control. Nuisance behaviors can sometimes be relatively quick: a few weeks. For more serious behavior problems, expect your behavior modification journey to take at least several months.

That depends on a lot of factors: the complexity of your pet’s case, your training skillset, how much time you’re able to devote to training throughout the week, how much back and forth is needed between parallel professions like your vet, and more. We typically can’t provide an answer until we’ve started working with you and gotten to know you and your pet.

No, we do not have a facility. In-person sessions are offered in your home or an agreed-upon public space.

After scheduling we send you a questionnaire that has all of the questions we’d like answered prior to meeting so we do not require much information prior to booking.

Our in-person consultants have different travel radii. Check out our team page to see each person’s travel radius:

Or click here for our general IL travel radius and here for our NM travel radius.

If you’re on the cusp or not sure if you’re included in a travel radius, email us at [email protected]. And if you’re outside our travel radius, no worries! We offer our full range of pet behavior training online.

Yes! We have the same success rate with our remote sessions as we do with our in-person sessions. As we say, it doesn’t matter if we can get your pet to do something; it only matters if you can. 

We understand that many people are skeptical about how remote sessions can help them. We’ve addressed the most common concerns in this blog post about remote pet consulting. And more information specifically about why we don’t need to see the behavior to help can be found in this pet training blog post.

Usually no, because we’ve seen it all we know what it looks like and we believe you that there is an issue. If there’s anything that we’re unsure about we will ask you to safely video the behavior.

About Our Training Methods

We adhere to Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) principles. We also fall under the “positive reinforcement-based” and “force-free” training categories and believe in using the same methods for humans as well as animals.

Yes. The difference in training methodology is the difference between the behavior getting better or worse, being resolved or suppressed to manifest itself later, and the difference in the relationship your pet has with you. The pet behavior training methods we use are scientifically found to yield the most desirable results: saving you time, money, and hassle. Additionally, these methods also bring you and your pet closer together. It’s a win-win!

No, it is impossible and unethical to provide a 100% guarantee on future behavior. There are several factors affecting behavior that are beyond the scope of our control including but not limited to: prenatal environment, age, health, and genetics. A competent, ethical, and knowledgeable behavior professional should never guarantee results.

If you are looking to get started right now, then our Beginning Behavior Modification On-Demand Course is for you. This 20 video digital course will get you started with the foundation skills you need to be successful, actionable steps and curated additional resources before you work with a consultant.

If you are looking to dip your toe in before committing to the process, then the Lite Initial Consultation Package is for you. This 90-minute initial consultation will get you started on your positive pet training journey.  Lite Initials Consultations Packages with follow up A la Carte sessions provides the most scheduling flexibility.

If you are looking to address 1 or 2 behavior struggles with your pet, and you are looking for accountability through every other week sessions for 2 months, then the Standard Initial Consultation Package is the way to go. 

If you are looking to address multiple behavior struggles with your pet, and are looking to meet with your consultant at least once a week for 3 months, then our Intensive Initial Consultation Package is what you are looking for. 

Email us at [email protected] with your questions if you’re unsure which service to choose.

Absolutely! Many people choose to mix and match programs or remote and in-person sessions. Because our team works together, we can easily collaborate on cases in situations where a client is looking at services that multiple consultants offer. You can even mix and match virtual and in-person sessions within your package.

Our team has a variety of pet behavior training certifications, including but not limited to:

  • Certified Dog Behavior Consultant
  • Certified Professional Dog Trainer- Knowledge Assessed
  • Separation Anxiety Professional Trainer
  • Family Paws Parent Educator
  • Accredited Dog Trainer
  • Shelter Behavior Affiliate

More information about individual certifications can be found on our team page. 

Pet Harmony Community Campus (PHCC) is our exclusive membership group only available to clients who are working with us on pet behavior training. This is a community of pet parents who get what you’re going through and will help provide you with a support system that can be challenging to find in other ways through this journey. Not only that, but this membership provides access to our resource library and gives you additional facetime with your consultant through virtual weekly office hours.

Get Started with Pet Behavior Training Today

Ready to start your own pet behavior modification journey? Choose your training package and book an initial consultation to get started today.

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Results are not guaranteed because behavior- human, canine, or otherwise- is not guaranteeable.