Jenny West Schneider, CPDT-KA, PMCT, CNWI
Dog Training & Behavior Counseling

Tracey Schowalter, CPDT-KA

Friday, August 18, 2017

What Did She Say?

While browsing through the Natural Awakenings August issue, I came across an article about communicating with animals through meditation and "Animal Communication" ("Animal Talk: They Have Lots to Say if We'd Only Listen" by Sandra Murphy) It was a hopeful article. I would love to be able to have verbal conversations with the animals who share my home. I don't think I want anyone else to be able to, though, as they would likely share every embarrassing moment I have, with every person who enters our home: "Hey, air conditioning guy! My mom just ran into a door when you rang the doorbell!"

While I can't factually address whether Animal Communication works, I can happily report that it is possible to interpret what your dog is "saying" most of the time through another method. You only need to take a little time to learn about dog body language.

To be able to do it well, you will need to learn to objectively observe your dog. You may have to let go of some assumptions you have previously made about her behavior. Try not to anthropomorphize (to ascribe human form or attributes to [an animal, plant, material, object, etc.] - when you look at her. In other words, don't assume she's acting guilty because she chewed your favorite shoe. (She's probably just nervous about your reaction.)

So let's get started. Turn around and look at your dog. Look at her:

  • ears 
  • eyes 
  • mouth 
  • tail 
  • muscle tension 
  • body posture 
  • body orientation
It's important to learn how to read your dog's body language.Simply note what you see; are the eyes wide open or soft with half closed lids? Are the ears forward, up, back? Is the tail wagging slowly or stiffly upright? Are any teeth showing, are the lips relaxed or pulled back? Is she gripping the floor with her paws? Is she leaning forward or backward? Is she facing you or lying prone on the floor? 

Now get up and take a couple of steps toward the door. Look at your dog again. Look at all of the same body parts and positioning. There's a good chance that something has changed. What changed and how? You're on your way to learning to objectively read your dog's body language.

There are reams of information about dog body language available on the internet and in books. For instance, go to this link for a fantastic downloadable poster on dog body language by artist Lili Chin: I won't go into detail here about what every change means, therefore. If you have a club or group who would enjoy a presentation on this subject, Affinity Dog Behavior & Training, LLC offers this service.

With practice, you won't even have to think. You'll see your dog or another dog, maybe with stiff body posture, a closed mouth, ears forward and staring, and you'll think, "that dog is worried about something." You may look around and see another dog approaching and you can then make an intelligent decision (maybe based on the other dog's body language!) about whether you should remove your dog from the situation.

You will feel so empowered once you take the time to learn to interpret your dog's language. Notably, you will be able to improve the relationship you have with your own dog. And, by now, hopefully, you know how important that is.

© Tracey Schowalter
Originally posted on, 8/25/2015

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

LEASH UP! Your Dog's Safety Matters

          This is a cautionary tale. It’s a little longer than usual, so Sit. Stay. Please.
Of all the personal pictures I have of me with dogs, one of my all-time favorites is this one.
It's a shot my husband captured six years ago when my friend Petey came from a shelter to live with us.
Petey and I had a special connection, and still do to this day. He was adopted just a couple of weeks after moving in with us by a wonderful, loving couple, Barbara and Joe, who, in turn, have become treasured friends.

Fast forward to last month and a heart-wrenching phone call I got from Barbara. She, Petey and her other dog Blossom were taking their daily walk (on leash) in a park near their Stone Mountain, Georgia home.  Suddenly, two loose dogs – a 100 pound Boxer mix and a 70-pound English Bulldog – came seemingly out of nowhere and attacked Petey.  Blossom, I am told, stepped in to help fight them off and became a victim, too.  Barbara courageously threw her body on top of her two dogs to protect them and to fight off their attackers.  Mind you, Barbara is tiny and in her early 70’s.  She is one of the bravest people I know.

After what seemed an eternity of screams, snarls and battling bodies, the dogs’ owner finally arrived to call them off.  Their leashes were in his pocket.

There were police and an ambulance. Barbara’s hands were bitten and required stitches. Blossom was badly wounded on her back.

And Petey --- Petey got the worst of it. He suffered wounds to his back and legs so severe that they required many stitches and seven drains. He may have permanent nerve damage to one of his back legs. Thankfully, he was not killed.
Petey in recovery

The dogs who attacked them were impounded and placed in quarantine. Their owner was charged and fined. The medical costs for Barbara, Blossom and Petey are in the thousands of dollars. The legal repercussions have yet to be fully reconciled.  I do know that the two offending dogs are still alive, because Barbara did not want them put to death. They now have a record, though.  If anything like this happens again, they won't get another chance. 

All of this could have been avoided if these dogs’ owner had simply followed the law and kept them on leash. What was he thinking?  “My dogs are different; they’re harmless”?  Maybe even… “It's okay. They’re friendly!”

Perhaps they were, but not that day.  All it takes is one event, one mistake.  Now, my beloved pal Petey may never walk the same again. He and Blossom may now be afraid of other dogs for life.  After many years of feeling safe there, my dear friend Barbara will never take them back to that park again for fear of what could happen.  She can’t count on her neighbors.

People like Barbara shouldn't have to look over their shoulders during a walk in the park.  Petey and Blossom are on the mend, but they should not have endured such a brutal attack because of one person's carelessness.
There are leash laws for a reason.  Not all dogs are friendly to all other dogs or to people.  Sadly, those who do observe leash laws must always be vigilant for those who are foolish enough to think they’re different, who think these laws don’t apply to them. 

           If you are among the vigilant, develop a plan in advance for coping with loose dogs.   There are no guarantees, but that plan could buy you precious time.  Here’s something I and many other trainers teach:
  • Teach your dog to “Hold” on cue and step behind you … or you step in front of her.
  • Stand your ground. Thrust your hand forward in the universal sign to Stop, and speak directly and sharply to the approaching dog … “STOP!” or “NO!” or even, “SIT!”  It may be enough to startle him to stop, run away or Sit for you.
  • If you have treats with you, throw a handful at him as a distraction.  It could give you enough time to beat a hasty retreat.
  • Practice this routine until it becomes second nature.  It may seem silly or awkward when the “loose dog” is imaginary, but it will serve you well when you need it.
It also doesn’t hurt to carry a stick, umbrella or deterrent spray with you on walks, just in case.  That’s Barbara’s plan from now on.

If you are among the foolish, the message is simple: Don’t be. Learn your community's laws and follow them!  Leash your dog.  Don’t give your dog the slightest opportunity to be a problem or, worse, a danger.  It could cost you legal worries, lots of money, and it could potentially cost your dog his life.

Posted by Jenny West Schneider, CPDT-KA, PMCT, ANWI     Camp Canine USA, LLC

Thursday, February 9, 2012

WHAT A GOOD DOG! : Build Your Puppy's Social Skills Now

I attended a 3-day workshop last weekend with about 30 other trainers.  Two of them brought their new 9-week-old puppies with them.   Those pups got tons of attention from all sorts of humans.  They also got the chance to be still and quiet in a room full of people talking, laughing and running demos with other adult dogs.  Basically, they learned that that kind of noise and activity was no big deal.  It was a golden opportunity for socialization, and their very wise “moms” took advantage of it.  The puppies had fun and socked away 3 days of exposures to people, healthy adult dogs and lots of different environmental elements and surfaces – dirt, grass, concrete, carpet, linoleum and tile.  What lucky pups!  They’re getting off to a really good start.

If you don’t train your dog to perform a crisp, sharp Heel or to leap through a flaming hoop, no big deal.  But ... of all the things we do for our dogs, the one BIG thing is socializing them – demystifying the world around them.  We want them to live at ease in our human world.  It’s the rare dog indeed who can do it without our help.  Good, solid socialization is an important foundation for all good behavior that follows.

As soon as possible after your pup comes home, begin exposing him to as many types of people, other dogs and other animals as you can.  The sooner, the better.  Puppies’ critical socialization period is roughly the first four months of life.  It is during those important weeks and months that their view of the world is shaped.  Consult with your vet, of course, but start taking your puppy with you wherever you go, whenever you can.  He’ll learn that going is a good thing and going in a car isn’t scary at all.
Here are a few other ideas:

  • Go shopping!  Some retail outlets – pet supply stores or home-improvement warehouses, for instance – allow well-behaved dogs in their stores.  (Tip: don’t put him on the floor just yet; he needs all his vaccinations for that)
  • Go out to eat!  Some restaurants with patio seating will allow well-behaved dogs to sit with their people. 
  • Get together with family and friends!  Invite willing friends and acquaintances to your home and allow your pup to play with them. 
  • Have puppy play time!  Arrange play dates with the dogs of trusted neighbors and friends – making sure that they (the dogs, not your neighbors) are the appropriate size and play style. 

  • Clean the house!  Let your puppy hear the dishwasher or the vacuum while he’s hanging out in his crate, working on a yummy, stuffed Kong.

  • Go to school!  Take your little tyke to a puppy class with a good positive trainer.  Puppy kindergarten is all about puppies learning proper play, meeting new people and learning a few good manners along the way.  It may be the most important class you and your dog ever take.      
In short, expose your pup to as many different people, places, sights and sounds as you possibly can.  The list could go on and on.  Be creative.  And here’s the big secret to successful socialization: 
Make every effort to ensure that each new experience is fun and pleasant for your dog.  During the first 100 days of his life with you, make it your job to give him at least one new, different and pleasant encounter each day.  It’s like money in the bank.  If you teach him that the world is full of different and interesting people, animals and places, he won’t fear them.  In fact, he’ll be so “vaccinated” against the world that when a strange, new experience does come along, it won’t throw him for a loop. 

This simple gift – the gift of self-assurance – will help him become a happy, well-adjusted adult dog for the rest of his life.
Posted by Jenny Schneider, CPDT-KA, PMCT, ANWI Camp Canine USA, LLC

Monday, December 5, 2011


Think of all the times you’ve received a gift you didn’t want or like.  Now, imagine that the unwelcome gift is a pet -- a living, breathing creature who needs care, feeding and constant attention.  Now what!?  The choices are few:  either the recipient returns the pet or reluctantly keeps her.

Because dogs are my specialty, I’ll discuss them specifically.  Here are some reasons this is more of a problem than a simple inconvenience.

If the dog is returned: 
  • The dog now has a history of being returned and is harder to re-home.
  • The dog was away from the adopting agency or breeder when potential adopters were looking and may have missed an opportunity for a good home.
  • If this puppy was between the ages of 7 and 16 weeks, part of her critical socialization period was missed or worse, damaged because the recipient probably didn’t want to spend any extra time with her.
  • Finally, and most importantly, this emotionally complex animal has just experienced rejection, and the stress of changing “homes” several times.

If the (unwanted) dog stays:
  •   If the dog is a gift for a child, think about how long it takes a child to tire of her toys.  (A dog is not a toy!)
  • Who will take care of the dog when the child loses interest?
  • Chances are pretty good that the recipient won’t bond well with this dog, because he wasn’t part of the selection.
  •  The dog may not be the right match for the person; too active, too sedentary, too big, too much grooming required, etc.
  • The recipient may not have enough time to spend with the dog which would likely lead to problem behaviors.
  • Puppies require a LOT of work to raise them properly.  You must:
    •  Socialize extensively between 7 and 16 weeks of age
    •  Housetrain
    •  Crate-train
    •  Train them for manners
    •  Exercise them sufficiently
    •  Teach them what they can and cannot chew on
    •  Teach them to enjoy grooming
    •  Give them adequate veterinary care 
Adding a pet to one’s family is like adopting a child.  This is a personal, time- and research-intensive choice made by an individual or family (everyone should be involved in choosing just the right dog or puppy for the family). 

If you want to get something special for that pet-loving person in your life, here are some suggestions for giving:  
  • Gift Certificates.  Most shelters and probably breeders have gift certificates for their animals
    • Your loved one can pick out his own pet.
    • Felted Wool Husky from AmberRose Creations
    • The pets available during holidays may not be the right ones for your recipient.
  • Pet portrait.  If the recipient recently lost a pet, check out the many excellent artists on-line (e.g. PerlillaPets) who produce beautiful reproductions from photographs in many price ranges
  • Felted wool pets. Amazingly realistic, just about any animal or breed you can think of can be reproduced in felted wool.  (e.g. (AmberRoseCreations)
  • Life-like toys for children
  •  Breed-specific.  Support their love for a particular breed with any of hundreds of breed-specific items from t-shirts to Lladro figurines.
Your intentions are the best.  Make the most responsible choice possible for your loved one and for the animals involved.

Posted by Tracey Schowalter, Puppy Adept, Inc.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A lot of dog trainers are lured into the profession by a desire to solve a problem.  Perhaps a much-loved dog doesn’t play well with others, or maybe he has severe, debilitating anxiety every time he’s left home alone.  Instead of giving up, these dog owners become so full of knowledge in their quests to find a solution, the next natural step is to share that knowledge with others.

Not me.  No, sir.  I got into training, because it was fun and (I thought) pretty easy. 

My husband Bill and I adopted a little Shih Tzu/Terrier mix named Boz.  
He was practically perfect.  He walked nicely on a leash, barked only occasionally, got along well with our 2 cats and was easily housetrained.  Eventually, Boz and I took a couple of classes in clicker training for fun, and I was hooked.  I was fascinated by the deep bond I had forged with this funny, feisty, gentle little guy.  I also was blown away by his ability to learn and adapt.  I simply wanted more.

I sought out a teacher and found über-trainer Pat Miller of Peaceable Paws fame.  Back then, she was just up the road in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  To be honest, I had no clue on that first day that I was on my way to meet one of the best positive trainers on the planet.   
Fate was kind.  Pat became my mentor.  Today, I count her as a treasured friend.

It wasn’t until I began my apprenticeship with Pat that I learned the depth of understanding I would need to be a good enough trainer to guide other, more-challenged dogs through our crazy, demanding human world.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn.  Pat unquestionably gave me the best foundation possible to set out on my own and create Camp Canine USA

Now, years later, I have worked with countless dogs on every challenge you can name – from housetraining to serious aggression.  I train, because I want to help others enjoy their dogs the way I enjoy mine, to have a better understanding of why dogs do what they do and to teach them (the dogs) some manners along the way. 

Tracey Schowalter of Affinity Dog Behavior and Training has been a special friend and colleague since we met through Pat Miller more than a decade ago.  I am honored and just plain tickled pink to join her in this venture.  We’re proud to share our combined 30 years of experience and our passion for dogs and fun, effective, force-free methods of training them. 

Let’s plant a few seeds and see how many happy, well-adjusted dogs will grow!

Posted by Jenny Schneider, CPDT-KA, PMCT, CAMP CANINE USA, LLC