Nov 1, 2009

I don't really advertise this a lot but......

I will, on occasion, board dogs at my house. It tends to be client's dogs but I will take dogs that are good with children and no dog aggressive dogs (to be fair to my Olive). I find that a lot of people are uncomfortable with leaving their dog at a kennel or boarding facility where they'll spend the majority of the time confused and stressed in a crate, and where they don't know who will be handling their dog. Plus, some day care facilities and boarding places are little germ farms so there's always a chance that a dog will come back with something. It doesn't always happen, but it can. When a dog stays with me they'll live with us as a member of the family. That means park walks (or jogs) and cuddling in the evenings and lots of interaction and no stress. It's also handy if the client has an issue they'd like to work with their dog on and we can schedule training sessions while the dog is with me. Olive, my Great Dane, is what I call a Slowly Moving Couch. She is super mellow and gets along with everyone. Nothing can rattle her. Pesky puppies chewing on her ears; No Problem. Crazy adolescent Lab bouncing on top of her; Whatever, Dude. It makes it very easy to have an extra dog staying here and she makes an excellent buddy for fearful dogs. I love having dogs here so it works out for everyone. Give me a shout or send me a mail if you're interested in having your dog stay at my house; or call 917-821-6752 for availability and details.

Oct 27, 2009

Little Eddie

How cute is this little bulldog? We've been working on basic manners and he's just so much fun and picks everything up so quickly so we threw a couple of tricks in there. This is Eddie doing "BANG"!! At the sight of the hand signal (hand with fingers pointed like a gun) and the verbal cue BANG, he has to "drop dead". He's done it perfectly for me a few times and this is the owner's first time trying. Almost perfect; now she just needs to practice and perfect it a little more.


Sep 13, 2009

A word on Owner Compliance...

Yes I am a dog trainer, and I both teach dogs new behaviors and sometimes I teach them to feel differently about something or someone. BUT, while I can probably get dogs to jump through hoops in a relatively short amount of time I cannot promise your dog will do it forever or continue to do so without YOU, the owner. The success of the work we do together is very much up to you as well, and about how consistent you are when the training sessions are done. Unless you put an effort into the work, and unless you're willing to practice and work with your dog even when I'm not there it's not going to be as effective as if you do. My goal in working with you and your dog is to teach YOU to interact and succeed in communicating with your dog. I often get calls from dog owners who ask me to take their dog for a week or two or however long it will take me to train their dog, but unless the owner is willing to also work with the dog it doesn't make a lot of sense. If they need to get training jump started and the owner needs to feel encouraged and see progress I'm happy to do it but I ask for a commitment from the owner as well so we can do a few sessions together and so I can teach the owner what's going on with their dog.
Having said that, I understand that it can seem overwhelming when your dog is not complying or doesn't seem to listen to you so I'm always careful to tailor the training and home work to the client's schedule so it's realistic for everyone. This is supposed to be FUN!!!

Check out this book review.

For those who are truly interested in understanding how dog's view the world, and how they collect information, this book may be for you.
Check out the review in The NY Times today.

Aug 22, 2009

One of my favorite, interactive, dog toys

Anyone who's ever worked with me knows I'm big on getting people to engage their dog and to teach them how to play with interactive dog toys so the dog has something to do and has a way of engaging him or her self when you're not ready to throw a tennis ball for two hours. Here's Hudson, a less than one year old Golden Retriever (a sexy, sexy, dog) figuring out that if he knocks the Twist n' Treat around kibble will fall out.

Aug 1, 2009

I love my dog...

OMG I"m so in love with my dog. I want to marry her.......and it's not like I have any better offers, so.......
Olive is the easiest and the most mellow dog I've ever had. She is a big on cuddling and lounging. We should all have an Olive in our lives; there's be no more wars or stress....

Jun 20, 2009

Mingus is serious about his bagel w cream cheese

Poor Mingus, he looks like he has been whipped. I swear he hasn't, he's just really serious about bagel with cream

May 17, 2009

More Jake training - after less than a week of training

Here's some more footage of my training with Jake, the supposedly "untrainable" (the exhausted owner's description) Potcake. This is day four of working with Jake and this video shows how well Jake learned Sit, Down (he had a very hard time with Down as the video shows,) Stay, Leave It (Chicken thrown right in front of him), and Drop It. The first few days I had him, he would grab onto any toy or item presented to him and then run off with it and hide. He wasn't guarding the objects -in other words - he wasn't aggressive when I tried to get it from him - he just had no motivation to give it up and wouldn't share. I worked for a few days on teaching him polite exchanges and Jake eventually understood that giving up an object was no big deal; in fact he might even get both a treat and then get to play with his toy again. You can see in this footage how well and how willingly he gave up the very same toy I couldn't get from him on day one. I'm really proud of Jake and of how much he learned in just one week. I think most dog owners would be surprised to see just how quickly their dog's behavior could change. 

Training Jake...........

So...I had this adorable one year old Potcake staying with me for training for a week. He had absolutely no impulse control or manners and he was pretty much airborne or munching on some piece of furniture or forbidden object if left unsupervised. His owner, a very sweet but overwhelmed guy named Peter, informed me that Jake had eaten his way through thousands of $ worth of furniture and clothing and he was at his wits end when he called me and asked me to please take Jake for training at my house. I warned him that me taking him would not make him a different dog or change his personality but I could kick-start his manners training and get him enough exercise and supervision so he would learn new rules and structure. I stressed that once Jake returned home he would return to his bad, old ways unless he was properly exercised, trained and was given appropriate chew items to work on. Jake was a love. I loved having him with us and he learned SO much and never got in trouble while he was here. He's Jake learning to be polite and wait at doorways until he's being released with the cue: OK".

I want a Leonberger.....or maybe two!!

How cute are these puppies? This picture was taken a while back when I wrote some training advice articles for, an online dog/pet website owned by the actress Glenn Close and her husband. Julia Szabo, the pet reporter fro the NY Post brought me in and she produced little training video clips where we used these adorable 12 week old puppies as demo dogs. 

May 11, 2009

Training How-to for my PUPS people

I just wrote my advice column for the Fort Greene PUPS newsletter but in the interest of not making the answers mile long, we've agreed to post some more detailed, how-to directions on this blog. Hopefully this will be helpful for anyone who tunes into this blog.
Directions for how to teach QUIET:
Start by Calling your dogs name (not when he’s barking at the top of his lungs but when he’s only mildly distracted) and when he turns to you at the sound of his name, say YES and give him a great treat. Practice this several times a day until he understands that giving you his full attention at the sound of his name will earn him a yummy treat. Now you can begin using it when he barks. Set up a situation you know will trigger his barking (door bell is an obvious one) but don’t wait to try it when you’re waiting for ten dinner guests and the food is on the stove and there’s lots of stress. Much better to set up a training situation so you’re fully focused at the task at hand and so both you and Fido have a much better chance at being successful. Have a friend ring the doorbell and when Fido starts barking, call his name. As soon as he stops barking and turns to look at you, tell him YES, give a treat, then “Quiet, Good Boy” and give him another great treat for the quiet.

Have your friend ring the bell again (or repeat whatever the trigger situation you have chosen to work with) and go through the routine again. The more you repeat, the more he’ll understand that being quiet will be rewarded and you’ll see him being less and less excited by the sound of the bell and more focused on paying attention to you.

Of course, next time someone comes to the door, your dog will bark his little head off again. It will take many times and numerous repetitions of this exercise to put an end to his much practiced and very ingrained behavior. Remember, you’re not yet using the word Quiet as a cue to make him stop barking; he first has to fully understand that the behavior of NOT barking is called quiet. After a while when your dog has learned to associate the word with being quiet, you’ll be able to use the word as a cue to make him stop barking. If you use the word in the beginning, however, while he is in the middle of barking, you’ll be teaching him that the word Quiet actually means “bark”.

Directions for teaching COME:

Start with your puppy on the leash no more than a few feet away from you. Say the puppy's name and the word COME in a bright, happy voice, then quickly move a few steps back and invite the puppy to follow you. You can encourage him by slapping your knees or making kissy sounds. When he reaches you (make sure he comes all the way up to you), mark it with a YES and give the puppy a yummy treat.
See if you can lure the puppy into sitting in front of you when he reaches you. You can easily do that by pulling your hand a little upwards once he reaches you. After a few repetitions, your puppy might offer the sit by himself. Remember, you'll want your dog to come close enough for you to grab his collar.

Tips: Begin working on this - and on every other cue -in a non-distracting environment. Once your -pup understands the fun Come Game, you can increase the distance and the level of distractions. You can also do a Round Robin version of this game by adding family members and having the puppy run from person to person. Begin with everyone in the same room but as puppy gets good at this, you can hide in different rooms and have your puppy find you. Remember to reward the puppy generously when he reaches each person.
If you make this a fun game for your puppy and practice this often, you will have a much better shot at having your puppy turn around at the sound at the cue Come even if he's in the middle of playing with another dog.

Mar 28, 2009

Veterinarians concerned about Cesar Milan advice

My mentor Pat Miller sent this. THANKYOU!!! Please take a minute to read this; I think I"m going to print it out and hand it to all my clients who have watched Cesar MIlan........on top of blocking it out with the Parental Control option on their TV!!

Veterinarians Concerned About Outdated and Confrontational Advice Given by
Cesar Millan The Dog Whisperer

In an article written by Timothy Kim for the VIN News Services (5FEB09), an
on-line resource for veterinarians, representatives of the American
Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) have expressed concern about
dog training advice given by Cesar Millan, on his reality TV show, The Dog
Whisperer. The AVSAB is so concerned that they have issued an official
statement (Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior
Modification of Animals - _ ( ) to
counter the unfortunate
pervasive influence of Millan's show.

In their position statement the AVSAB demonstrates that the dominance theory
which is the core of Millan's approach, has been rejected by animal behavior
experts and can actually cause serious fear aggression in dogs. In the
article, Dr. Laurie Bergman, of Norristown, Pa., a member of AVSAB's
executive board was quoted as saying "We had been moving away from dominance
theory and punitive training techniques for a while, but, unfortunately,
Cesar Millan has brought it back."

Dominance theory has typically been presented as the reason for a dog's
misbehavior. Its basic premise is that the dog is a pack animal like a wolf
and all packs are ruled by the dominant alpha male. Millan essentially
believes that in order to counter a dog's misbehavior, or as he sees it a
"grab for power," a person must be the dominant alpha male and must use
force and coercion to get the dog to behave and submit.

The article describes Millan as using a number of assertive techniques
".negative-reinforcement, or correction. alpha rolls (the dog is rolled onto
its back, a submissive position) and flooding (the dog is exposed to
something that causes it anxiety and is not allowed to escape, to
desensitize it). He also has been shown choking a dog on the end of a leash
until it fell onto its side, gasping for air." These techniques are of great
concern to the AVSAB which has also adopted a position statement on the use
of punishment for training animals (_
( ).

The theory of dominance hierarchy was set into motion in 1922 by Thorleif
Schjelderup-Ebbe and his research on chickens. It was popularized by the
Monks of New Skete with their publication of How to Be Your Dog's Best
Friend. This now very dated book, takes the premise that if we want the best
relationship with our dog then we should treat them like an adult wolf would
treat a wolf puppy, at least according to the Monk's understanding of that
scenario. Many of their key recommendations focus on fear and physical

Thanks to the work of Dr. L. David Mech, a senior scientist with the U.S.
Geological Survey, we now know that dominance theory does not apply to
wolves in a natural, wild (non-captive) environment (Alpha Status,
Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs) (_
( ).
Research by Dr. Ray and Lorna Coppinger (DOGS: A New Understanding of Canine
Origin, Behavior, and Evolution (Scribner, NY, 2001; Univ. Chicago Press,
2002) has helped us understand that while closely related to the wolf a dog
is not a hunter or a pack animal. Dogs are primarily scavengers and when
living feral often live alone or in very loose groups.

So what does all of this mean? It means that the dominance theory spouted
for years by many in the dog community is a poor model for describing wolf
behavior and is an even worse model for training your dog. Unfortunately,
just like there is still a Flat Earth Society there are still those like
Cesar Millan, who hang on to a dog training model that is erroneous and
based on creating confrontation and fear.

The AVSAB is not the first to question Millan's techniques. On February 23,
2006 the New York Times quoted Dr. Nicholas Dodman [veterinary behaviorist
and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University] as saying
''My college thinks it [The Dog Whisperer - Cesar Millan] is a travesty.
We've written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog
training back 20 years.'' Later that same year the American Humane
Association stated "The training tactics featured on Cesar Millan's "The Dog
Whisperer" program are inhumane, outdated and improper"

Kim's article concludes with a statement by Dr. Sophia Yin, a member of the
AVSAB executive board, warning dog guardians to avoid dog trainers and
others who: continually tell owners that they have to be the "alpha," warn
owners not to use rewards too much, and uses pinch collars or shock collars
on dogs in a training class. "The AVSAB recommends that veterinarians not
refer clients to trainers or behavior consultants who coach and advocate
dominance hierarchy theory and the subsequent confrontational training that
follows from it."

Pat Miller, BS, CPDT, CDBC
Peaceable Paws, LLC
PO Box 3146
Hagerstown, Maryland 21741

Mar 24, 2009

So happy to be more available.....

I'm really excited to be working more in Brooklyn and in my own community, although I'm still taking appointments in Manhattan as well. I'm so Mom-and-Pop oriented and I really enjoy having a little more time to work with each client and to connect with both people and dogs as opposed to be on the clock the way I was when I worked in a more corporate environment.

So a few days ago I did a Meet and Greet in a local pet store an it was great that so many people came down with their dogs and asked great questions. My favorite might have been a guy who asked me to recommend a dog toy that most resembled a pair of eye glasses!! Huh?? He figured that since his dog had eaten two pairs of his glasses that were left out on a table, he should just get dog toys that looked like glasses. No no no, the point of dog toys is to avoid having your beloved possessions eaten by your dog. You don't nee to wait to see what kind of furnishings or objects your dog seems to destroy the most and then buy items that look like the forbidden objects! The idea is to provide your dog enough stimulations and interactive toys that are much more interesting to your dog than a pair of old glasses.......or your couch so it doesn't happen in the first place! I suggested a few appropriate toys and gave the poor guy some ideas and I hope he doesn't have to have any other prized possessions eaten.
That was a good one..........

Mar 17, 2009

Basing dog training on wolf pack behavior is like basing child rearing and education on chimp behavior!!

I'm serious, People. The whole dominance theory is a myth!! I'm going to write a long post on this subject really soon but in the meantime, please stop alpha rolling your dogs, please stop listening to trainers who claim that your dog is trying to establish dominance when he licks your face and PLEASE stop believing humping is either about dominance. It doesn't even make scientific sense!
Anyway, I'm really excited about this new blog that will give me the forum and the chance to rant and rave, give you tips and advice, hopefully educate you, and let you follow some of the cases I'm working on.
All the very best, see you on the blog!

Mar 13, 2009

Welcome to Rikke's Dog Blog!

Rikke's Dog Blog is Live!

If you are looking for someone in the New York area who can help you train your dog using positive methods, help you establish a great relationship with your dog, and have fun doing it, you have come to the right place.

Dog training is about forming a solid, positive relationship with your dog. The goal is to be clear so your dog understands what you're asking for and for your dog to trust and respect you enough to willingly comply.

Just posted are two clips from my reel, which give a bit more background on myself, and some helpful tips with my dogs Olive and Mingus.

Part One

Part Two:

In The News: 08/12/07

Hamptons Magazine, Issue #14

click photo to see detail

In The News: 10/03/05

The Underdog, by Julia Szabo

Read a chapter on raising kids and dogs together written by Rikke in Julia Szabo's new book. Buy it online at

In The News: 04/10/05

The New York Post, April 10, 2005