Blog of the Dog

Your Dog’s Predatory Nature

One aspect of dog training I love is the opportunity to work with many different types of dogs.  Every dog has a unique story, but they all have something in common…the remnants of their ancestor’s predatory instinct. 

Wolves and other canids have what is called a Predatory Motor Pattern, which goes as follows: 

  • ORIENT (sniff out the prey)
  • EYE  (get prey to freeze in place)
  • STALK (slowly approach to get closer and gain advantage)
  • CHASE (exhaust prey to collapse)
  • GRAB-BITE (catch prey)
  • KILL-BITE (kill prey)
  • DISSECT (underbelly
  • CONSUME (organs are consumed first because they are most nutritious)

This pattern has been essential to survival for hundreds of thousands of years. Like dominoes, ‘Orient’ naturally triggers the next step in the sequence until prey is caught and ‘Consumed’. If they fail to catch any prey then the process starts again. The success rate for wolves, by the way, is about 15%

Then modern humans came along

Over the past 14 thousand years, humans have been MANipulating this Predatory Motor Pattern to create various types of dogs for multiple types of jobs.  In typical human fashion, we favored some aspects over others. For instance:

  • Hunters wanted a dog to ORIENT > EYE > STALK > CHASE > GRAB-BITE. But stop at KILL-BITE
  • Shepherds wanted a dog to ORIENT > EYE > STALK. But stop at CHASE.
  • People with a rat problem wanted a dog that loved to GRAB-BITE and KILL-BITE all day long.

However, in today’s world

Most folks simply want a companion, a goodwill ambassador to walk beside them calmly through life, and by all means…forgo the KILL BITE!

That said, being a companion and goodwill ambassador in today’s world could be the most challenging job yet because all dogs still have this powerful sequence firmly in their DNA. Just ask any squirrel… they know your dog!

Photo by Marcin Wojna

Drive, Persistence, and Doggedness

Every part of this Predatory Motor Pattern needs energy to fuel the sequence and in dog training, we call that force Drive.

Drive describes a dog’s persistence. Depending on where that drive is focused begets a certain type of dog.  

  • Hounds are more driven to ORIENT(sniffing) and CHASE. 
  • Herding dogs are more driven to EYE and STALK. 
  • Retrievers are more driven to CHASE and GRAB-BITE (softly) 
  • Terriers are all about that KILL BITE, just watch a Yorkie shake a toy to death and dissect for the coveted squeaker.
  • Supermutts could have the entire sequence or any combination thereof.

Humans did not train any particular instinct into or out of the dog. Certain parts of the Predatory Motor Pattern were altered by selectively breeding dogs with heightened drive energy in desired parts of the sequence. The best sniffer/chasers were bred with other good sniffer/chasers and Hounds came into being. The best Eye/Stalkers were bred with other good Eye/Stalkers and Herding Dogs came into being. I really oversimplified this process, but that’s a general concept and for the most part, it was successful!  Right?

Well, we now have a bit of a problem

We now have various types of specialized dogs with massive drive energy flowing through incomplete Predatory Motor Patterns and very few jobs available for which they were specifically designed. If you think that sounds frustrating, you’re right! A dog is happiest when it is living out its purpose and we must provide our dogs with the opportunity to exercise their specific purpose. In short…it’s their mental health.

Now I’m not proposing owners of terriers buy rats for disembowelment fun, but we should consider their needs in regard to how and why we play/train with our dogs. Below are some common games and toys we already use that can satiate each aspect of the Predatory Motor Pattern. Which ones does your dog naturally gravitate toward?

ORIENT: Sniffing new territories. Hide and Seek. Find It games hiding treats or toys.

EYE:  Eye contact exercises with treats and toys as well as incorporating eye contact into your training and playing. Socializating with other dogs and people.

STALK:  Dogs will sometimes play this with other dogs, but we can also incorporate a favorite toy that a dog has to ‘wait’ to pounce on. Flirt Pole. 

CHASE:  Fetch and retrieve, lure sport, frisbee, and Flirt Pole. Dogs will also play chase with other dogs.

GRAB-BITE:  Fetch, tug-o-war, stuffed toys, tennis ball.  Chew toys that offer resistance. Flirt Pole.  (I prefer this to be played in a specific context with the OUT command)

KILLBITE:  Plush toys with squeakers.  Toys that can be shaken and thrashed. (I prefer this to be played in a specific context with the OUT command)

DISSECT:  Toys that can be torn apart to remove the squeaker. Sticks, uncooked bones, antlers, animal part treats, and Kongs. (Monitor your dog if they tend to consume sticks and plastic. Dogs should also be positively conditioned to not be possessive)

CONSUME:  Find it games with treats and Kongs with food.  

Your dog may like to play specific games over others and that is OK!  Most likely they have a partial Predatory Motor Pattern.  My dog Belle for instance loves to ORIENT (sniff), CHASE (frisbee and balls), and DISSECT (remove squeakers from plush toys).  She is a hound mix and chasing squirrels and rabbits is her nature. 

People who enjoy dog sports, agility, and protection dog competitions, are more likely to prefer a higher drive dog for better performance.  I am the opposite, I typically want to use up drive energy as soon as I see it build, which I feel makes for a calmer, everyday dog.

A dog’s Predatory Motor Pattern cannot be trained out of a dog, nor should we try. It is literally what makes a dog a dog. I seek to reduce the energy that fuels the Predatory Motor Pattern by providing mentally stimulating situations to exhaust drive energy as efficiently as possible.

A tired dog is a happy dog and that makes for a happy human.

The Velociraptor Phase

For those of you with a puppy, considering a puppy, or had a puppy no doubt you have come across a meme that looks something like this. 

It may even be breed specific like this one for the Weimaraner…

Or this one for the Poodle…


And if you think it only applies to large breeds here is one for the Gentleman’s dog …the Boston Terrier…

Turns out this meme is used with just about every breed.  The months when the velociraptor comes out and the duration of its wrath may vary with the breed or type of dog.  A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, for instance, may be very mild while a Belgian Malinois is just plain terrifying if you are not expecting it.

The velociraptor is a fun way to describe the not-so-fun parts of puppyhood which are the teeth and chewing. It’s almost a cruel joke of nature to create something that is absolutely adorable yet armed with the sharpest teeth on the planet.

So, what is this Velociraptor Phase and why do puppies and adolescent dogs go through it?  In short… they are learning. The curious mind of a puppy aggressively seeks to learn as much as they can while developing mentally at light speed. Evolution dictates that a puppy’s survival depends on it.

When we consider a young canid in the wild, anything and everything is available to chew on. Sticks, feathers, stones, dirt, animal skins, other puppies, and of course mom and dad’s ears and tails, are all up for grabs.  A dog’s main source of learning is through smell and when something is crunched in the mouth it releases even more flavor and scent. All of this intense learning occurs outside and the availability of these experiences is virtually endless.  New scents, tastes, and textures are everywhere to tease out the curious nature of a young pup’s mind.

Photo by Daniel Lincoln

This story has been replayed for hundreds of thousands of years in the wild, however, the concept of dogs living within four walls, a roof, and most importantly locked doors, might as well have happened just yesterday on the evolutionary scale of things.  While many dogs are quite happy to live indoors with us, they have to become conditioned to the concept, while at the same time being sure they are given ample opportunity to feed their voracious appetite to learn and explore.

Since we do not have the vast abundance of nature in our homes, all of our possessions inside are susceptible to a velocipuppy’s energy.  The problem is, unlike nature which heals over chew marks and embraces destruction and decay as part of a harmonic balance, our homes and the possessions therein are hoped to be preserved for as long as possible.  And while WE may know that, a puppy’s DNA does not understand and frankly, doesn’t care. Puppy energy is going to be expressed whether they are inside or outside. Nothing can stop it and nor should you try because the energy will simply redirect to something else like your arms, legs, and hands. The answer is found in the exploration of new and novel places.

When a puppy is outside and gets bored with a stick, it will go to the leaf, then the insect, then the blade of grass, then another puppy, then eat some dirt, then another stick, then a bone. Each interaction with these objects are not very long, because they are quickly distracted by the next new thing. Comparatively, the inside of our home can only offer a few things to explore in this way. Given that this energy must be expressed completely, it starts to become what we see as destructive.  Outside, chewing on a stick is not destructive, but that same energy applied to our couch is. 

A multi-billion dollar industry has sprouted from this dilemma in the form of dog toys and chews. However, no toy can hold a candle to being outside, exploring new scents, and having experiences in new territory.

The best part…these experiences are free, they just require our time.

Photo by Jamie Street

Your Dog can help with that New Year’s Resolution!

As the New Year approaches many will entertain the time-honored tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions. I wondered who started this practice thinking it was a relatively recent phenomenon but it is actually quite old.  Apparently, the first people to make New Year Resolutions were the Babylonians over  4000 years ago… and I would surmise they were the first to break resolutions too.  For kicks, I googled some of the classic resolutions that most people make, and these seem to be the most common.

Photo By Fabien Gieske

Your standard out-of-the-box New Years Resolutions:

  1. Exercise more
  2. Get organized
  3. Get more sleep
  4. Learn a new skill or hobby 
  5. Live life to the fullest
  6. Save more money / spend less money
  7. Spend more time with family and friends
  8. Less time on the phone
  9. Travel more
  10. Read more books

Just looking at this list I know I have fallen off the Resolution Wagon on just about all of these at one time or another, although I like to think I routinely “live life to the fullest” depending on my caffeine intake.  I still need to exercise more, I still have a stack of books that need to be read, my phone gets way more attention than it deserves, and our camping gear collected a little more dust inside the house than out on the trail this year. 

For many of us, we lose sight of our optimistic goals because well…. I’ll let Jeff Goldblum finish the thought…

It may feel so difficult to keep resolutions that you wish you had a personal coach to keep you on track.  Might I suggest you already have someone in your home right now!  Your dog!  

Dogs are lovers of routine and are better at being consistent than we are. Their level of persistence and dogged determination is unrivaled.  So why not incorporate your dog into your New Year’s resolution?

Let’s take a gander at that list again and see how our dogs can help us out

Exercise more:  Dog walks are a great way to start a new health routine and don’t require a gym membership!

Get Organized: Dogs are fascinated by the stuff we drag out from cluttered closets and garages.

Get More Sleep:  Belle has her place at the foot of our bed and is always ready for a snooze.  She is a great foot warmer.

Learn a New Skill or Hobby: Practice a new routine with your dog. There is always something new that can be learned by you both. Feel free to be a goofball, develop your own dance or create a new game.

Live Life to the Fullest:  Your dog has got your back and will happily show you how it is done every day.  Be present in the moment!

Photo by Chewy

Save More Money/Spen….: Ok your dog may not help you that much here, however, you are saving money on that Gym Membership by walking the dog!

Spend More Time with Family and Friends: Dogs are family and they want to be with you 25 hours a day.

Less Time on the Phone:  Your dog will happily absorb that spare time.  Granted you may feel inclined to post pics of your dog on social media.

Travel More: Heck yeah! Some of my most memorable adventures have been on road trips with Belle.

Read More Books:  If it involves sitting on the couch, then your dog is all about it.


Don’t let distractions trip you up!

Our lives are filled with many mini-distractions that come at us from all directions.  Your dogs may even put themselves between you and the distraction, demanding your attention!

Most important of all is to be kind to yourself if you get off track. Many of our best intentions are canceled before we even start because we “think” about it. Don’t overthink it, better yet, don’t think at all and just start.  Perhaps “Being more Spontaneous” can be number 11 on the list and with that, Dogs can support us there too.

Be well everyone. I wish you all the best of health, peace, and prosperity in the New Year!

Why do we train our dogs?

Everyone knows they should train their dog, but for what purpose?  While there are countless sources from books, videos, classes, and personal trainers that will tell you HOW TO train your dog, I feel we should pause and ask the important question, “Why do we train our dogs?”   Once we understand the WHY, we can set proper expectations and reach those goals with greater efficiency. First let’s break down 3 intrinsic traits of dogs, explain what we have done with those traits over the millennia, and see how our relationship with dogs dramatically changed, relatively overnight.

Photo by John Tuesday


Before obedience training became a concept after World War II,  dogs were simply bred and refined for their natural instincts.  Retrievers with strong retrieving instincts were bred to other strong retrievers.  Herding dogs with the strongest herding instinct were bred with other strong herders.  Hounds with strong instincts to track were bred to others with those qualities. You cannot train instinct into a dog, they either have it or they do not. Over the millennia we selected specific, naturally occurring, qualities in dogs that served us best and worked to enhance them. Some commands were used with certain types of dogs like the herding dog, but the commands were applied to the natural instinctive behavior already within them.


We also preferred a certain amount of independence in a dog that would do a job regardless of the owner being around.  For instance, the terrier of the past should wake up every morning eager to hunt rats regardless of his owner being on the scene. Hounds were released into the woods to corner or run something up a tree, make a ton of noise in the process and continue to make that noise until the hunter later found them and the quarry they tracked. Flock protectors were bred to live with sheep in the mountains for weeks and months on end without human interaction. They even had to find their own food!  None of these qualities were trained into existence.  The raw characteristic had to be there first. 


 Persistence was another natural trait that humans needed in their dogs. A dog was supposed to work like… well…a dog.  No hunter wanted a dog that gave up and went home.  No farmer wanted a dog that got tired of chasing sheep and decided to take a nap under the front porch.  They wanted a dog that was obsessed with the challenge laid before it. Once again this is not a quality that could be trained, a dog either had a superior drive or they did not.

Photo by Jamie Street

So then what are we training for?

Practically everyone I work with wants a personal relationship with their dog and that is fantastic!  They do not want a furry employee. They want a sidekick to go through life with them, not something to dominate.  When I get a call it is usually for either behavioral issues or a puppy that is proving to be a handful. My approach to teaching is to not only focus on HOW to train but also balance that teaching with WHY we need to train and it is usually not for the reasons most people think.  

For quite some time the purpose of basic obedience training has been to blunt instinct, independence and persistence so the dog is able to fit into our modern lifestyles, which is going 180 degrees from the direction most dogs were originally bred for. Many types of dogs were bred for outdoor work and now we want them to be indoor dogs.  People now want relationships and companionship, not hardcore instincts, independence mixed with an insatiable drive.  And with that abrupt change comes a new set of challenges. Dogs are extremely adaptable, but we must keep in mind that the above intrinsic aspects are still very much in their DNA and one could argue we are trying to train dogs to a more sophisticated level of domestication. 

I train for the connection. Whether it be a simple SIT to a more difficult LONG-DOWN-STAY, reinforcing our connection should be the prime objective in our training.  In other words, the objective of training your dog to sit is not the sit itself, but the reinforcement of your bond.  If your objective for SIT is purely for the sit..then you will have no fun in that and neither will your dog.  If your objective is the excitement and novelty of understanding each other then you will feel much more celebratory and want to continue doing more and your dog will be more engaged as well.

Case in point, being trained for a job is not much fun no matter how you slice it. You perform the task and get an unenthusiastic “Good… you got it. Let’s move on…” But playing the game Charades is much more engaging and exciting.  Why is that?  It’s a team effort and the reward is not in getting the answer right but in the excitement of overcoming obstacles in communication. Once you figure that part out, your team is unstoppable.  Another fun point about Charades, the responsibility for the spectator to figure out the answer falls mostly on the person conveying the clues.  The spectator is already very engaged in figuring it out, but it is up to the person providing the clues to figure out the best approach and encourage the spectator, as they are getting it, with proper timing. The same is true with dog training, the dog is fully engaged and it is up to us to encourage the dog as they reach the desired end result. The simple objective of playing Charades is of course to win, but the real objective from the beginning is bonding as a group and having fun, and that is the objective for training our dogs in today’s world.  It is not training dogs for a job, but rather learning to communicate and strengthen your connection. While the act of sitting, staying, waiting, or leaving something is important for a dog to learn, the act itself is secondary to the main objective which is to reinforce your connection with your dog.  Otherwise, what is the point? 

Like any game played successfully, the accomplishment should inspire us to play again or increase the level of difficulty.  The hard part for many dog owners is staying consistent in their training exercises. However, when we put things in the context of strengthening our connection, we begin to see an array of benefits that inspire us to continue the exploration with our dog.  When we start to see things in those terms it becomes a lot less human-commanding-dog and dog-obeys, to human and dog communicating with each other, period.  Which I think is pretty dang neat. 

Photo by Jamie Street

Advanced Training~The Long-Down-Stay

In this video, Belle performs a Long Down Stay in a natural setting. This area offers plenty of distractions with squirrels, scents, birds, etc but we ask for Belle to forget all that and just stay in place until I return. This is a more advanced exercise that comes after we complete the basics of Socialization, Conditioning, and basic obedience commands. It is also important to practice our training in the real world, but in safe environments, outside of our homes and backyards. This is what we call proofing our training. Backyards and training in the house are great for learning a new concept, but the real test comes when we are able to perform in the real world, with all of its distractions.

Have you Heard of Sniffspot?

If you have not heard about Sniffspot then let me introduce you to this great concept! Sniffspot is a website and app that gives dog owners an opportunity to rent participating private backyards and acreages who want space to exercise their dogs OFF LEASH!  Unlike public dog parks which can be very unsanitary and uncertain, your dog will have the whole space to themselves or you can invite other dog friends to join for a play date in a neutral setting.  It’s a great opportunity to practice training exercises, play, or just sit and enjoy a new setting.

Belle and Sufi approved!

This is a great alternative for families with reactive dogs who become overstimulated by other dogs, or dogs who have anxiety and become overwhelmed.  Part of my advice to clients has always been to take their dogs to new places for new scents and experiences.  Sniffspot may be a great addition to your regimen!

This location is a farm setting we explored with 2 acres fully fenced in.

Each Sniffspot is a unique private property.  Some are small fenced-in backyards and others are acreages. Some properties are in town and others are rural. Not every Sniffspot is fenced in and you are advised to read the profile to be sure it is suitable for your needs. You can rent spaces for 1-hour blocks and rates are set by the property owner. I have seen some rates as low as $6.00  and as high as $12.00 per dog per hour, but these can change.  There can also be options for 50% off the second dog and so on.  When you rent a time slot no one else can rent that time so you are assured the space is yours!

Depending on your location you may or may not see Sniffspots near you, but keep checking since new spots become available as property owners join.

Here are a few basic recommendations to make your experience safe and fun when visiting a property:

  • Take time to investigate properties for anything which can be harmful to your dog before releasing your dog on the property.  
  • Check the fencing to be sure it is secure and has no holes for your dog to get out.
  • Check for any plants in the landscape that may be harmful to your dog.
  • Bring your own water.  Water is sometimes provided but sudden changes in water can upset a dog’s digestive system.
  • Check for snakes.
  • Pick up the poop!  (Be a good guest!)
  • Make sure all gates are closed, before releasing your dog.  Unlike dog parks that have double gate entries, private properties do not have this feature.
  • You can also read Sniffspots Trust Page for more guidance.

The benefit of experiencing new places with your dog(s) are immense and Sniffspot is giving people and their dogs new opportunities for enrichment and getting that energy out!

And finally…this is simply my review of Sniffpot, I am not associated with Sniffspot and not receiving any compensation from Sniffspot for writing this post. I am just sharing my thoughts on what appears to be a cool idea.

Have a great day!

Don’t get in a Rut Roh!

20220812_114542Everyone benefits from a routine and our dogs are no exception.  Dogs may even know our daily routine better than we do!  They wake up in the morning, watch us get ready for the day, see us check our phone… and stay on our phone…and stay on our phone…probably saying, “Dang what is up with the phone!”, and then FINALLY we grab the leash and go!   Granted a dog may not have an internal dialog, but the observations made by our dogs have a building effect over time.  My Belle, for instance, will bump her cold nose on my leg as a reminder to keep me moving in the right direction in the morning in case I get sidetracked.  Granted, I am well aware of her need to go out, but I totally understand her feelings.  If I were her I would do the same thing! 

Each step in our daily patterns is a series of links that occur before we even put the leash on. One step begets the next, until we have the moment when the desired experience has been reached. Over time dogs begin to anticipate what will happen on a walk and depending on past experience can become either jubilant, hyper, hesitant, or even defensive… and we haven’t even gone out the door yet. For instance, if our dog’s daily walk involves passing that one neighbor who’s dog barks viciously at everyone who passes by, then over time our dogs can come to expect it and some may seek ways to cope through tension, which if left unresolved can be expressed defensively, aggressively, or wanting to avoid it altogether.  On the other hand, if going out the door results in getting in the car to get some coffee and a puppachino, then that becomes an expectation, which builds excitement and positive anticipation.  


  The regular morning outing is a definite routine for many dogs, where the favorite bush is sniffed and re-marked, the same tree is checked for the squirrel, and then it’s back home to eat breakfast and fall asleep again! However, we should check every now and then to make sure we are not getting into a rut of the same ole same ole that becomes boring for us and our dogs. 


So shake things up with new small adventures!  Remember, dogs are hardwired to seek.  They get excited by what is new and adventurous.   A simple drive to a coffee shop and a walk downtown can be an adventure in and of itself.  Walking around the gas station after filling up the gas tank has a mind-blowing amount of smells and experiences.  We don’t have to search far to find interesting new things.   

Instead of the usual walk in the neighborhood, take a different path, go down the cul-de-sac you usually pass by, or better yet get in the car and drive to a new walking location altogether.  Even including them when taking the trash to the curb can be something new in the daily routine that is different and interesting. It is something you are doing together and that builds rapport and connection between you both. Finding ways to include your dog in the small adventures of your life will create new opportunities for interest and confidence, preparing you both for even bigger adventures down the road!IMG_20211210_124155_922


Incorporate Training Into Your Everyday Life

There’s an assumption floating around that we have to be formal and rigid with training and that there needs to be a certain set and setting for it to occur. While that may be the case for the actual learning of a specific command, the real training occurs outside of your home and back yard, in the real world. The real world is random, chaotic, and likes to throw wing dings into your plans. It is where we “proof” our training to help us and our dogs filter all the distractions which are more novel and potent at the moment than our influence. In these videos we see examples of using the “PLACE” command.

Belle and I often hike in the woods, and it is easy for me to become absorbed in the hike while she gets lost in the wild scent of nature. However, it is precisely in these instances that we have a great opportunity to develop our connection, in that setting, through training.

In the first video, Belle and I are practicing “Place” on some cut logs from a fallen tree, which lays across an abandoned road. After making sure the logs were secure and could not roll, we practiced in the location. Belle is pretty athletic and loves to jump on logs all the time without being asked, however, on this occasion we did it with intention and timing. By doing this we are associating fun and excitement with a command. Also notice that no purchase of special equipment is needed to perform this activity.

As with all training, we want our dogs to “WANT” to perform what is asked. Training should be an engaging, bonding, and a character-building exercise for you both as a team!

You don’t have to make special hikes to the woods in order to perform this command, you can use manhole covers, picnic tables in a park,(as seen in the videos below), or an old tree stump. In your home, you can use a cushion or even the living room couch if you allow your dog on the furniture. And, in case you are wondering, YES, I let Belle sit where ever she wants. That’s how we roll in our home!

Belle interacting with 3 deer

Here we have Belle watching 3 young deer, one female, and 2 males. Belle is relaxed with no tension on the leash. All three are curious about us, but also wary, so there is a bit of an internal tug-o-war happening inside them. There is a moment when the female nudges one of the males to hang back at a safer distance and he does so, which I find very interesting. Then after a few moments, Belle lays down and throws her hips to the side, to present herself to the female deer at an angle, in a relaxed and non-threatening pose. This was communication, through body language, between 2 species and I felt privileged to witness.

Being non-reactive to wildlife

Clouds are rolling in the distance and a whispering breeze smells of rain. A young male deer is relaxing downwind from Belle, but I doubt we would stir him if he caught our scent. These deer live in an urban paradise of slow traffic and well-manicured gardens, full of food, tended by gardeners who mumble about them under their breath. Belle definitely smells him though and if she were to chase after him he would most certainly leap away with his tail in the air. I told Belle to down and wait. Allowing a moment of calm to happen then called her towards me so we could walk on. At first, I was speaking a bit too quiet for Belle to hear me clearly, but once she did, she calmly gets up and walks away then gives me a look for confirmation. I give her a pat on the side for a job well done. Hounds were bred for endless chases and it takes work to blunt this drive, but it can be done. I am not a hunter by any means. If I shoot anything, it’s with a camera. But if I were to hunt, I would not aim for this result. Hounds were developed for massive energy to exhaust their quarry, run it up a tree, and tell the hunter where they are with endless loud bays that can be heard for miles.. However, more hounds are finding their way to suburban neighborhoods and cities and will never be on a hunt, So we must help condition them to be less reactive to this innate drive, for their safety and the owner’s sanity.

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