Training the Three-Year-Old-Puppy



By Sidney Mihls

This is an accurate title, because this is what you’ll be doing if you’ve adopted a retired Greyhound.

Before I continue, you should know something about me. I’m a dog training instructor, which means I teach people to train their dogs. I’ve been doing this since 1975, and have specialized in retired Greyhounds since 1985.

Why is that something to specialize in? That’s because retired Greyhounds are really different from most dogs, as I’m sure you’ll learn if you haven’t already. No doubt you thought you were getting an adult dog, but if you’ve taken on a retired Greyhound as a pet you’ve actually adopted a very large puppy—a sweet, gentle puppy who just looks like a adult dog.  But, as you’ll soon discover, doesn’t react like a dog. In some ways, doesn’t even react like a puppy. In effect, the retired Greyhound is from another planet.

For this article, I’m going to put all the traits into one dog. He’s a male named Jody, who’s 3 1/2 years old, just off the track, and was retired because he sustained a minor injury that affected his racing career, but not his ability to be an active, healthy pet.  Jody now lives with Ann and her husband, Marty, who doesn’t have a lot to do with him, though is kind and thoughtful, and sometimes takes him for a walk. But Jody is Ann’s dog. She got him because she’d been thinking about getting a dog, and saw a poster for a 40 mile-per-hour couch potato that intrigued her.

I learned in my first visit (which is an evaluation call—no training is done) that Jody did indeed exhibit the traits I’m going to talk about—all of them, in fact.

To begin with, Ann changed his name from Speedy Gonzales (referred to as Speedy on the track) to Jody, so he didn’t know his name. Actually, he didn’t know that the funny noise she often made—Jody—referred to him. So he paid no attention to it, or to anything she said. In fact he didn’t respond or relate to her at all.

But he did walk nicely on a leash, because racers learn to walk on a leash at the track, where they spend much time being led from one place to another. But, he didn’t sit! When he wasn’t moving around, he either stood or lay down. Actually track dogs can’t sit comfortably because their thigh muscles are so firm that the flesh doesn’t give when the dog sits, so racing Greyhounds sort of perch on their folded legs with their rumps not touching the ground. Definitely not very comfortable. So for the exercises that call for a sit, he was taught to stand. Eventually, of course, he did lose track condition and started sitting on his own. Then Ann taught him to sit on command, and to do so automatically when he stopped heeling, was told to sit-stay, and when he came on command.

But the reason Ann called me was because she had three real problems with Jody: One, he bit whenever she gave him a collar-correction, though he was on a wide Martingale Collar and she didn’t give him hard corrections. Two, he was aggressive to dogs he encountered on walks. Three, he wouldn’t release anything he had in his mouth. Well, I did a lot of thinking before we started the training, I decided it should be done with no corrections or confrontations. Thus, we had to manipulate his environment so that he was always right—was always a “good dog.”

We taught him his name by preceding anything and everything said to him with “Jody.” I used the focus exercise and the 30-minute down to teach him to relate to Ann.  As with most work done with retired Greyhounds, exercises had to be repeated many times before he learned them.  This is not because they’re “dumb,” but because the world they’re learning to function in is so radically different from the one they’ve known.

We dealt with his aggression to other dogs with the clicker. I’ve come to think click-and-treat was designed for retired Greyhounds. I haven’t worked with any other dogs who respond to it as enthusiastically as they do. We started clicking Jody when we saw a dog in the distance and he didn’t react to it. Then it was pure systematic desensitization until eventually Jody started looking for other dogs on his walks, and as soon as he saw one, he stopped and turned toward Ann with sparkling eyes and a wagging tail.

The last problem that needed to be addressed was his refusal to give up what he had in his mouth. This was important because sometimes he picked up things he found on his walks that he shouldn’t have, and Ann wanted to take him to nursing homes and have him pick up and return items people dropped. My goal was to stop him from clamping down on what he had in his mouth—in other words, to hold it gently and give it up. I did this by offering him a dowel, and as soon as his mouth was around it, I offered him a delicious treat and said, “Give.” Since I was still holding the dowel, when he opened his mouth to take the treat, I took it and praised him like mad. Eventually, he dropped whatever he had in his mouth as soon as I reached for it.

I’ve used Jody as an example of what may need to be done with retired Greyhounds. As I see it, four factors are vital to their training, I think of them as The 4 P’s: Positive reinforcement, Puppy training, infinite Patience, and Praise for the slightest effort.

It’s definitely a lot of work. But besides training the dog to live in your world, this will have an important effect on your relationship. Your dog will respond and bond very closely to you. Training affects a dog’s body and also its head. Through training, your dog will become devoted to you. You may well come to feel, as I do, that retired Greyhounds are very special dogs.

© All rights reserved.  Sidney Mihls.  March, 2006. 
Permission to reprint or copy any portion of this article must be obtained from the author.

Sidney Mihls has been a dog training instructor for over 40 years and is now living in Cary, North Carolina.

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Bonnie Brown – DTC



A few months ago I put dog training on hold to focus all my energies and time on Dog Trainers’ Connection (my other passion).  That changed when I got a call from a woman who was looking to train her year old dog.  She wanted the training that I truly love – basic obedience, long-line recalls, tricks and training games.  It’s been such fun working with her!

The next call I got was from a man with an aggressive dog.  I was feeling stoked again about helping dogs and their owners.  I agreed to an initial consult.  In my mind I would be visiting his home, observing the dog, making a professional judgment as to the severity of the aggression, then making recommendations.  I emailed him my fee schedule which lists my consult fee and several different training packages.  The man called back and said, “I want the package of 3 training sessions.”  Instead of saying “No, that’s not possible – I need to have a consult with you first,” I said “okay.”  I didn’t feel entitled to say no.  I liked the man and was trying to convince myself that this was the kind of aggression case that I could handle.

During my first visit I observed the dog and learned about its bite history (the dog was biting the owners when aroused and also guests).  I made recommendations for management, suggested they consider seeing a veterinary behaviorist, and talked about various ways to modify their dog’s behavior.  To me it wasn’t a situation to play around with since they were expecting a baby in 3 months.  We scheduled the 2nd of the 3 sessions for the following week, but I got a call saying they wanted to reschedule.  In the meantime, I had a sinking feeling in my gut about the case.  Would there be owner compliance, what about liability and most importantly I wasn’t comfortable around his dog – and you know what they say about dogs sensing fear.

I called my client and referred him to a colleague who specializes in aggression.  This trainer is excellent at fixing things fast, he isn’t afraid of being bitten, has a great deal of experience with bully breeds, he’s passionate about keeping dogs in their homes, and he teaches a course for expectant parents who own dogs – a perfect referral for him!  I assured my client that I would stay involved.

None of my reassurances worked.  I received an e-mail saying that I had let him down.  I was painted as cold and unfeeling.  I know he was hurt and felt rejected, so I continued to e-mail him asking him if he had contacted my referral yet.  He recently e-mailed back that he found a new trainer.

I ended up having so many conflicting feelings.  Kicking myself for agreeing to anything more than a consult, feeling pissed at being painted as the bad guy when I went above and beyond in time and effort (as all trainers do).  In actuality my client was probably beating himself up for letting his dog’s aggression go on for so many years – not wanting to think about the dog being put down (since as he told me, the dog was a member of the family) and wondering how he could find another home for a dog that bites.

I’ve learned my lesson, the next time someone calls me and tells me their dog bites, I’m going to say, “Oh, that’s terrible, I completely understand.  Let me give you a referral of a colleague who can really help you out with this.”  After all, that’s the best that I can do for them as well as for myself.

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A Conversation with Steve Diller – Aggression – Part 3


Making Things Happen for Clients



Bonnie:  Have you had a case that you can think of where the dog was aggressive, you got your client to successfully manage it by following your advice and the dog’s behavior changed?

Steve:  I’ll tell you about one of my recent cases, a spayed 3 year old female German Shepherd who is a second dog in a home with a black Lab.  She’s really tough on the leash with other dogs, doesn’t discern if it’s a male or female, her hackles go up.  The owner’s family just moved to Manhattan where she’ll be spending a lot more time.  I picked her up and drove the woman and her brother to Riverside Park where a dog park is.

When she came into my car with the dog, the dog was wearing a remote collar, a pinch collar and a plain buckle collar.  On the way to the park I asked her if the dog was trained with the remote and she said yes.  I asked if she used the remote when her dog sparks up at other dogs and she said yes.  Then I said what about the pinch collar?  She said that if the shock collar isn’t on she uses the pinch.  We get to the park I take the remote off, I take the pinch off, I put a Gentle Leader on and a fur saver so that I can connect my leash to both – this way if she pulls the head halter off I still have her by the fur saver.  I take her in the park and sure enough she sees a dog about 75 feet away, she looks like a porcupine hairs all up, very over stimulated so I start talking to her, “knock it off” and “uh-uh” and I take her near the dog and I don’t put up with it, I said, “let’s go it’s not happening” and I get her past it and praise her.  We stayed in the park for about 2 ½ hours and it got to a point where we sat on a bench and she laid down and while clearly she had increased respiration when dogs walked by, there were no hackles, no display, no barking, no charging, nothing.

I got a text message the next day from the brother who took her out in midtown Manhattan, 48th Street & Eighth Avenue he said that the dog never walked so well, she walked past dogs and she didn’t even look.  All I really did was to take away pain.  They applied pain to a dog that was already uncomfortable with the presence of other dogs.  That doesn’t make any sense to me.  No punishment.  I just had to talk to this dog a little bit.  Did I have to get a little stiff with the leash a couple of times, I did.  But you can’t get too stiff with a leash when it’s attached to a Gentle Leader because you have to be careful of the neck and I’m very sensitive to that.  But I touched her if you understand and she got it – she was like “Okay, okay” and I said “that-a-girl, let’s go.”  It was really so easy.  And these people are going to do it.  The brother’s walking the streets with the dog on the Gentle Leader.  The remote is off, the prong is off.  It’s a beautiful thing, that’s a rewarding job; it went the way it’s supposed to go.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean I wouldn’t tell somebody to put a shock collar on a dog because I could go that way under certain circumstances.  It’s a question of what’s going on and what do we need.  You take it case by case I would hope.

Bonnie:  Speaking of the shock collar, where does one go to learn how to use it thoughtfully?  I know a lot of people are against them, but you’ve always said there are uses for it if you know what you’re doing.

Steve:  I think that people who use it well have taken numerous training courses on appropriate use.  Because let’s face it, the whole principle of how to use it changed over the years from punishment to really much more of a negative reinforcement.  A person who uses it well is typically not using a whole lot of stimulation but the stimulation disappears when the dog is appropriate, that’s negative reinforcement.  They learn pretty quickly if they’re sensitive with the tool and you have the right dog.  But with the wrong dog even a little stimulation…and the dog is done!  We all do the best we can and sometimes we make mistakes ourselves in character judgments.  I’ve made mistakes this way – where I look at a dog and say well this seems to be more fear related than let’s call it stubbornness or non-compliance, and I’ve been wrong.

An example was I spent weeks with a guy whose wife was pregnant and they had a Bloodhound.  She was a nice dog, she was very motivated by the food and I worked like the devil to try to get this dog to do a down.  Week after week I was luring and luring and this dog wasn’t doing it.  I tried just waiting for the dog to lie down and giving it food, I sent them home with that exercise – every time the dog lies down by itself give it food and say “down.”  But I had a pregnant owner and what it turns out to be, a real stubborn dog because I pushed her.  After being weeks into this, I said “give me the leash” I got her into a sit, I put my hands on her shoulder blades said “down” and I applied pressure to her back until she lay down.  Then I praised her like crazy and she wouldn’t take food.  I did it a few times said “down” – dog laid down – end of story.  Within a few minutes after I physically helped her down.  So I tried to do the work that we thought of as the right thing, hands off, all of that.  But you get paid for a job and you want to give them something.  And sometimes you have to say “maybe I’m wrong about this dog.”  So I said let me try the other thing, look at it from a different perspective.  This dog is being stubborn, willful, and non-compliant – let me help her, so I fixed it.


(More of our conversation with Steve coming soon!)


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5 Steps to Using Facebook to Grow Your Business – Steps 3-5


Fern & Hayley

Step 3: Post Relevant, Interesting Content on Your Page

You want to give people a reason to “like” your page and want to interact with you. The only way to do this it to provide content that they like, want and need. And you want to be posting regularly. If someone pops over to your page and your last post was a month ago, they won’t see you as very relevant.

The good news is that getting content isn’t as hard as you think. Remember those big dog pages I told you to like? They are great sources of content to share on your page.

Other dog trainers’ blogs are also a great place to find some stuff to post. You should subscribe to a bunch of blogs so you have a regular selection of material coming right to your inbox or e-reader. If you have a Google account you can set up Google alerts for specific key words (I have “puppy training,” “dog training,” and a few others set up) so that you’ll get emails whenever those key words are used anywhere online. Really great way to get content for your Facebook page delivered to you.

You don’t need or want to make all your posts informative (articles or links). Use photos and videos whenever possible – they always get much higher engagement than links alone.

Your goal is to get people to interact with your content: click like, leave a comment or share it. When they do that it improves your “Edgerank,” which is Facebook term for how relevant you are to each individual. The more someone engages with your posts, the higher your posts are placed on their news feed and the longer it stays there.

This is very important because you need people to see your stuff to get noticed. So you want to encourage them by including calls to action in your posts. Something simple like asking a question or telling them to “like” the post can help prompt people to engage.

As far as how often to post, I recommend one to two times a day on average. That’s usually enough to keep yourself out there and on their mind but not too much where you’re seen as spammy. Just don’t post stuff just to post stuff. Make sure your content is valuable.

Step 4: Interact with People

It’s called “social” media for a reason – it’s based on friendly interactions and sharing. So to get the most out of Facebook you need to reach out and interact with others.

The really great thing about using social media as opposed to face to face interactions is that you get lots of time to think and edit exactly what you want to say. I’ve had many situations in the real world where I wish that was possible.

The best way to leverage the social power of Facebook is to leave comments on the posts of other local business pages. When possible your comments should add value or information, however you can sometimes just leave a simple response. All you’re doing is putting your name and page out there for everyone who sees that post.

You should also try to respond to some people who have already commented in the post by name. This kind of personal touch gets people more interested in you and increases the likelihood that they will check out your page. You can even respond to multiple people within one comment. Just try to keep your comments as short as possible. There are lots of distractions in the Facebook world and if you get too longwinded you’ll lose people fast.

Anther cool thing you can do is include a website address in your comment and Facebook will automatically put in an image from the page as well as some copy. This is a great way to get your comment to stand out.

The best way I use this is if I have a blog post that’s relevant to the conversation I leave the link in my comment and get some people to click over and check it out.

Step 5: Automate the Process

The biggest detractor of Facebook (and all social media) for most people is that it can be a huge time suck. This can definitely be true mostly because it’s kind of addicting and it’s very easy to get lost in the mass of information scrolling by.

The key to not letting Facebook take up your whole day is to remember that you are here for a reason – to grow your business and should keep your time focused on only marketing your business. Not checking in on the latest gossip, chatting it up with friends or getting lost looking through a hundred cute dog pictures. You can do that stuff, but just don’t complain that you don’t have time for Facebook marketing.

Once you poke around and get the hang of it I would recommend you use some of the free tools to automate your posts. I use two sites that allow me to do this very well so I don’t have to keep logging on at different times of day to make a post.

Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) is a great tool that allows you to schedule your posts in advance. That way you can spend a hour or two on a Sunday night scheduling your posts for the whole week. Very useful to space your content out and lets you post even when you’re out working. Hootsuite is free but also has a paid version. Personally the free one has been fine for me. You can even use it for multiple social media platforms (Twitter, Linkedin, etc.).

The other free (they also have a paid version) online tool I just started using is Buffer (www.bufferapp.com). Buffer allows you to choose when you want your posts to go out (it posts the same times each day) and then put them in a queue. You can install a button on your browser so that whenever you see a cool web page (article, blog post, etc.) you can add it to your queue with one click. Once you put them in your Buffer they will line up and post them in order according to your posting timetable.

Using both of these allows you to maximize and streamline the time you spend posting to your business page.


Social media is living large right now and if you’re not utilizing it’s power to grow your business you’re really missing out on a great, free opportunity to get more clients. Like everything else, it’s a skill that needs to be learned and practiced to work effectively. Don’t expect to get five hundred fans and a flood of phone calls the first week you set up your page. You need to work at it and give it time. If you can stick it out and give it some time and attention it has the potential to really expand what you can do.

So go create your page, start experimenting and give Facebook a try. Learning these (and other) Facebook business skills will allow you to do things that aren’t possible using any other promotional medium. Good luck and happy posting.

For more tips and advice on the business side of dog training check out Fern Camacho’s site: www.businessofdogtraining.com

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5 Steps to Using Facebook to Grow Your Business – Steps 1 & 2


Fern & Hayley

I know you have a lot on your plate trying to run and grow your dog training business, and learning another skill can seem overwhelming. However, there is no denying the power of social media, especially Facebook.

Here are my steps to getting started with Facebook with the goal of leveraging its power to grow your business.

Step 1: Create a Fan/Business Page

You don’t want to use your personal profile for business purposes. Trust me here, I made that mistake in the beginning and I’m still digging out of that hole.

Instead create a business page (note that you must a personal page in order to create a business page). As you’re going through the page creation process you’ll be asked to name your page. Take a moment to really think this one out. I recommend you pick a name that is interesting and long so that it will draw attention when you post comments.

My dog training business page name is “A Better Life with Your Dog with Fernando Camacho.” That big long name really stands out next in all the simple people names when I leave a comment on a post. People can’t help but notice it, get a little intrigued and click on over to see what I’m all about.

Next you’ll need to spend some time uploading an eye catching cover image and thumbnail. Make sure you use pictures that are not too small that they seem grainy or blurry or images that don’t really fit and have to be stretched. It has to be good enough so that people will be impressed enough to “like” your page.

Once your page is set up make sure you always switch over to your business before you interact and leave comments. You can do that by going to the blue bar at the top of your personal profile page and clicking the little triangle in the right hand corner. This will open a drop down menu where you can click on your business page and then all interaction you do will be as that business page.

Step 2: Like Other Local Business Pages

Use the search box at the top of your Facebook page to find local businesses in your area that have pages on Facebook. Start with the dog related ones (daycares, groomers, pet stores) and then add any other local businesses (restaurants, clothing stores, boutiques, etc.). Lastly, like some large national dog related pages like Dog Files, Life with Dogs, Bark Magazine, etc..

Once you like these pages they will show up in your business page news feed so you’ll be able to see what they’re posting, so you can interact. The big national dog pages are where you can get some really cool content to post on your page.

The more local business pages you find and like the more potential clients you can get in front of. Start paying attention when you’re traveling around in your area and if you see a Facebook logo on signage or merchandise, make a note to find and like their page on Facebook.


Stay tuned for Steps 3-5 coming soon!

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