Why I Care About What Other Dog Trainers Do… and Why You Should Too

David Cugno - Why I care about what other dog trainers do...

Recently I vented a bit on my Facebook page and got some great comments. One in particular made me realize I should explain myself more. Janie asked why I let myself get upset over other dog trainers. She said “If they don’t get it … They don’t get it!” It would be great if I could not care about what other dog trainers are doing, but I can’t. Why?

Let me explain…

As many people know there’s no shortage of dog trainers around. Becoming a dog trainer is pretty simple – all you have do is say you’re a dog trainer and POOF you’re a dog trainer. There are schools and courses that certify trainers (after paying a tuition fee and completing a basic curriculum), but it’s not a requirement to become a dog trainer. In fact, I didn’t get certified or attend a course to learn about dogs. I learned most of what I know on my own by being immersed in it all day, every day for almost 20 years. Being around groups of dogs every day gave me what I like to call “feel.” Feel is what gives me the ability to help the dogs that no one else could. It’s the reason people drive for hours just to come to my canine center. Having this feel gives me job security and keeps my phone ringing with more business then I can handle. But not every dog trainer has this feel.

And that is the problem…

There’s no law stating a dog trainer has to be qualified or have a certain amount of experience before giving behavioral advice to someone with a problem dog. And no one is regulating what’s being said or done by dog trainers. I’d say 4 out of every 5 dogs I see have been told their dog is beyond help and should be euthanized by at least one (if not numerous) other dog trainers. 4 out of 5 – that is 80% of my business. Even if only 10% of those people were told to euthanized their dog that’s too many.

Why do I care so much?

So, why do I care so much about what other dog trainers do? Because I care so much about dogs! As I said before, dog trainers are not regulated and this includes when it comes to life or death situations. Too many dogs are put down because a trainer told their owners that nothing could be done. It’s unforgivable to recommend putting a dog down unless you’re 100% sure their issues can’t be fixed – even if it’s by another dog trainer!

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Video Number Two with Cash – An Insecure Dog

Here is an update on the continuing story of Cash an insecure dog. This video shows me working with Cash during his stay at the canine center.

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Video: Day One with Cash – An Insecure Dog

As I mentioned in the last post, I had an insecure dog named Cash staying here at the Center. Below is his day one video. This video is meant to give you an idea of how Cash was behaving before his training. I will have more videos showing his progress soon.

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Working with an Insecure Dog Named Cash

Working with an insecure dog named cashWhat I do here at the canine center is unique and extremely special. I’ve worked very hard for a very long time to get to the point where I actually understand my job. I work with all types of dog behavior but it’s with the really insecure dogs that the coolest stuff happens.

This week I have an insecure dog named Cash here at the center. Cash isn’t just insecure; his type of insecurity will never go away – it will be with him forever. It will decrease and seemingly disappear through trust and understanding, but in some deep place it’s still there. However, dogs like Cash can live a happy and virtually worry-free life if they’re better understood.

I want to show what happens when dogs like Cash come here. I’m going to show his progression from day 1 until the day he goes home (around 10 days). Then I’ll show the first month of lessons with Cash’s owners after he goes home. Through these videos, you will get to see his progress. Although I see dogs with levels of insecurity far past what you’ll see in Cash, in the end it’s all pretty much the same process.

Hopefully this will help educate people about what to do with an insecure dog. I’m pretty sure most people will either think it’s too cool to be real, or they’ll cry ;) . I’m fine with doing both.

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Dave Cugno Interview on TV Show A New Dawn

Recently, I sat down with TV host and broadcast journalist, Dawn Stensland Mendte, for an interview on her show A New Dawn. In case you missed it, here is the interview in three parts.

Interview Part 1:

We discuss my background, my dogs and how I am different from other dog trainers.

Interview Part 2:

We discuss two different dogs I have worked with, Rocky and Ringo. Video is shown of the dogs before, during and after working with them.

 Interview Part 3:

Dawn brings in her dog Buddy and asks me questions about his behavior and relationship with her husband, Larry Mendt.

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Q & A: How do you stop playful chewing and biting?

The following question was posted on my post about Pit Bulls:

My dog play bites - what can I do?

Question: I have a boxer pit bull mix and she is wonderful and very loveable but I am having trouble getting her to listen and house train. She will be 6 months in December. She loves to chew and bite only in playing but when you just want to pet and love her she wants to bite and chew, any suggestions!!!!! We love her!!!
LeAnn B.

Answer: Try to view your dog this way…

Bully breeds like Boxers and Pit Bulls are very sensitive. The same part of them that makes them sensitive also makes them VERY affectionate. Affection is a good thing but if that’s what the entire relationship is based on it can lead to problems like chewing or going to the bathroom in the house. Dogs don’t think in terms of good and bad—in a dog’s mind 100% affection with few rules or boundaries makes them feel entitled. With entitlement comes the right to do whatever they want.

Strengthen your authority

It’s not that you’re doing something wrong when your dog chews that makes her continue doing it. It’s that when you tell her to stop chewing she simply doesn’t care enough about your authority to listen. Remember that doesn’t make either you or her bad!!! It just makes you both misguided. The key is basic training—teaching words like ‘sit’ and then finding ways to use it to give your dog some direction. This will strengthen your authority.

The behaviors like chewing, mouthing, etc. will begin to vanish with your strengthened authority and a clearer relationship—where your dog views you as a leader, rather than as another dog.

Give affection only when your dog is calm

Since Boxers and Pits thrive on affection, it can be a very strong motivator. For instance, petting her when she’s all hyped-up and mouthing you may cause her to view acting like that as a way to get the affection she wants. Instead, try to wait until she calms down to show her that affection and she’ll eventually catch on. Good luck!

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Holiday Safety: DOs and DON’Ts for Your Dog

holiday dog safety tips

The holidays are a wonderful time spent with family and friends of the two and four-legged variety. Unfortunately, the holidays can also be a busy time for veterinarians. Here are some tips to help you keep your dog away from the vet this holiday season!

DON’T let your dog in the kitchen

Chances are the kitchen is going to be very busy! For your sanity, and your dog’s safety, it is best to just keep him out of the kitchen. This will prevent your dog from getting into things he shouldn’t be, and you from tripping over your dog.

DO provide plenty of water and toys

The increase in guests may make cause your dog to be stressed. Sometimes dogs will drink more when stressed so make sure your dog has a full bowl available. Also give your dog plenty of things to keep him busy: treat-stuffed toys

DO keep your routine

If you have a set schedule that you keep with your dog, try not to deviate from this schedule. Feed and walk your dog at the same time as usual. Dogs like routines and can get upset when they are not followed. In fact, it may be beneficial to increase the time of your dog’s walk so that they may feel more calm.

DO provide a safe location for your dog

Since your dog won’t be allowed in the kitchen, you need to decide where he will be allowed. If your dog is happy in a crate, or if he has a room that he loves to be in (and it is available), it may be best to setup this as his home-base for the day.

If you want your dog to be with the family during the festivities, make sure you follow the DOs and DON’Ts below:

DON’T stray from your dog’s diet

Thanksgiving is full of wonderful foods and your dog is definitely going to want to join in! However, not all food is appropriate for dogs. Make sure you read our list of common foods to avoid. Some additional holiday ones to add are turkey skin (too fatty and difficult to digest) and turkey bones (bird bones are hallow and break easily). Another thing to keep in mind: if you think that a food is bad for you, then it is bad for your dog…don’t give it to him.

DO keep your trash can secure

Holiday trash is filled with things a dog should not have: aluminum foil, plastic wrap, turkey bones, and strings that were used to tie the turkey. These will all smell good, and may all cause harm to your dog. So, make sure that your dog is unable to get into the trash!

DON’T allow your dog near decorations

Many holiday decorations may be dangerous for your dog. Poinsettias, mistletoe, holly berries and Cedar Christmas trees are toxic to dogs. Glass ornaments and decorations may easily break and cause your dog to be injured. If your dog is unable to stay away from these items, make sure that they are out of your dog’s reach.

DO inform your guests

Make sure that all of your guests know what the dog is and isn’t allowed to do. Some holiday treats may be okay for your dog, but let your guests know that you will be the one to provide them. Nobody should feed the dog under the table and nobody should get the dog overly excited.

If you all work together to enforce the DOs and DON’Ts above, you and your pet will have a wonderful holiday together!

Do you have any tips to add? Please share them below.

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Protect Your Dog This Halloween

Halloween safety tips for dogs

Halloween is my favorite holiday after Christmas but as a dog owner it requires a little extra preparation to keep them safe and me happy. Did you know that besides the 4th of July, Halloween is the time of year that more dogs are lost? Here are some tips we want to share to help keep you and your dog safe.

Chocolate, raisins and artificial sweeteners are toxic to dogs

Make sure your stash of treats is out of reach of your dogs. This includes the ones you buy to give away and those you get on your rounds. As Dave says, dogs are opportunists so they’ll be on the prowl to get some treats too. Be smarter than they are to keep them safe.

Secure your dog before opening the door for trick- or-treaters

There is a lot going on to excite a dog on Halloween. Just the number of times the doorbell rings can cause emotions from fear, over-protectiveness and aggressiveness to wanting to be part of the fun by following some kids. (I have German Shepherds so they want to herd everyone!) Don’t risk the heartache of losing your dog or having them scare or injure a child or adult. If you can crate them or isolate them in another room, great, do it. If not, keep them on a leash and under your watch and control at all times.

Costumes can scare your dog

Even if your dog knows a person in normal clothing, a costume can be an entirely different story. If you sense any fear or apprehension in your dog do not let the person approach. This is made easier because you have your dog on a leash, right? Now if your dog is wearing a costume and is uncomfortable with it, he may act out with others, so again, keep him under control. If you are going door to door in your neighborhood, be careful of their dogs as well.

Black dogs are more at risk

People fear black dogs under normal circumstances. They are often the last ones to be adopted and face euthanasia more often just because of their color. My friend Leigh Scammell in Doylestown, PA runs Burt’s Black Dog Rescue and works tirelessly to help these poor animals. Thank you Leigh!

Unfortunately, the reality is that there are people (OK, let me say MONSTERS may they burn in hell!) who kill and abuse dogs out there and on Halloween black dogs and cats are prime targets. I don’t want to be an alarmist but this is the reality.

So remember these tips and use them. With a little bit of preparation, awareness and caution, you can keep your dogs, your family and neighbors safe and enjoy all the fun of Halloween!

Do you have any tips to add? Share them below!

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Is Your Dog a Treat Junkie?

Is your dog a treat junkie?

Caution! Some dog training methods may be hazardous to your dog’s health.

Recent reports have shown that rewarding your dog with treats for good behavior may lead to them becoming “treat junkies” just like their humans! We all know that lifestyles are becoming less active and more sedentary as we sit in front of our computers, TVs, video games and other technological devices. In a lot of cases, this behavior trickles down to affect your dog’s lifestyle because they are not being walked and actively played with as much. Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of this too – personally and with my pups!

All of the treats shoveled into dogs for sitting, coming, heeling, down etc. can cause them to gain weight, often with empty, non-nutritious calories. I’ve seen some trainer’s online videos that show a dog given enough treats for obeying a command to replace a meal! It’s like eating potato chips – they can’t stop at 1… or 20.

In addition, you can’t go online or watch TV and not see stories of dogs being killed or made deathly ill from tainted, unsafe dog treats. Do not EVER feed your dog anything made in China! It is heartbreaking to see and I know it is even more devastating to have it happen to your beloved pet. I can’t even imagine how brokenhearted I’d be if that happened to one of my dogs!

The Potential Health Problems with Treat Addicted Dogs

According to current statistics*, over 50% of dogs are overweight or obese. This can lead to serious health issues which include:

  • Heart Disease
  • Shorter Lifespan
  • Ruptured Ligaments
  • Osteoarthritis and Poor Joint Health
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Labored or Difficulty Breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Exercise Intolerance
  • Greater Risk for Heat Stroke/Heat Exhaustion

That’s quite an alarming list! With David Cugno’s training philosophy, it isn’t necessary to bribe a dog with treats to get it to do what you want it to! Affection and praise will get the job done. Once you learn to understand your dog and learn to communicate with them, your dog will WANT to do what you ask. This makes your dog happy because they know it makes you happy. Dogs are pack animals and they want to do their job for their pack. This is their primary job. Pack leaders in the wild don’t bribe or reward members when they do what is expected. It’s just expected!

I know that we all love to feed our dogs and see them happy but the cost of overdoing it is becoming too high. Like humans, the best way to avoid these health problems is to avoid your dog being overweight or obese in the first place. I’m doing some research for my next blog which will be on how to help your dog lose weight.

I hope you found this information helpful. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback!

Until next time, love, train and spay or neuter your dogs!

* Statistics from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention
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My Thoughts on Pit Bulls

pit bulls

Pit Bull Myths

Myth: Pit Bulls jaws lock when they bite.
This is completely false. Yes they have strong jaw muscles but they do not lock! Have you ever noticed the shape of a Pit Bull’s head? The head has enormous muscles that give them the ability to bite down and hold pretty much anything including a freight train (note: I do not think has been proven in testing). Yes, they are strong but there is no locking mechanism that prevents them from letting go.

Myth: Pit Bulls are more likely to bite than other breeds.
Nope, once again false – here’s the deal banana peel: Pit Bulls are terriers (American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier). All terriers were originally bred to kill something – mice, rats, and other vermin. By the way, Jack Russells are also terriers – just saying. Pits also have bully breeds in them and you know what bully breeds do? They give kisses that’s what they do. In other words Pit Bulls are nothing but sweet affectionate terriers.

This myth has been made popular because of the Pit Bull’s strong jaw muscles – when a Pit Bull bites someone you hear about it. However, way more Jack Russells bite people then Pit Bulls.

Related: See our “Pit Bull Party” photos

More About Pit Bulls

Many people are not aware that Pit Bulls are very sensitive. It is always a huge surprise to people the first time they own a Pit and realize how sensitive they can be.

The biggest problem for Pit Bulls are the myths listed above. These stereotypes kill more Pits then anything else. The Pit Bull stereotype causes people to fear them as soon as they see one. The result of that fear is nervousness when around one. The dog feels that fear and may get on edge due to the confusion.

What really makes me sad is that even people in the dog field (like some trainers, for example) buy in to the stereotype. This just reaffirms the public anti Pit Bull campaign and does more damage.

Images by stephskardal

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