What is separation anxiety in dogs (and how can I fix it)?

 

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By Jamie Migdal, CPDT-KA and CEO of FetchFind

I hear this all the time: “My dog has separation anxiety, and I don’t know what to do.” A lot of the time these cases are mild. The dog is new to the home, or something has changed in its world (e.g, the kids have started school, someone has started a job with longer hours, or a construction crew has taken up permanent residence on your block). They might not do well in a crate, or with too much freedom. Genetics can also play a role in the appearance and degree of anxiety. Every dog is different, and while this behavior can take a long time to fix, it can have a happy ending if the owner is willing and able to put in the work.

What is separation anxiety?

What the average person thinks of when they hear “separation anxiety” usually means that a dog presents with certain anxious behaviors when left alone. Anxious behaviors can include things like:

  • Panting and drooling
  • Incessant barking, whining, or howling
  • Extreme self-soothing behaviors (licking or chewing themselves nonstop)
  • Chewing baseboards
  • Hurting themselves trying to get out of the crate

If your dog is unable to take a nap and be calm when you leave for the day, separation anxiety might be the issue.

For extremely severe cases, such as if your dog is hurting himself or destroying the house, you will need to call a skilled trainer for help, or even a veterinary behaviorist (who will do a detailed medical/behavioral assessment and possibly prescribe medication).

For less severe cases of separation anxiety, I recommend two things:

Change your routine when leaving the house. If you always put on your shoes and then grab your keys, try putting your shoes on last or grabbing your keys when you’re watching TV.  Also, start giving your dog something to do while you are gone, like a peanut butter Kong. Your dog focuses on that while you’re leaving and has a positive association instead of a negative one. It can also help to block your dog’s view of the door, so they can’t actually see you leave. 

Ignore your dog when you get home. I know a lot of us have dogs because we want someone to be excited when we come home, so this doesn’t have to be a forever change. When you come in, put your bag down, take off your coat, go to the bathroom, etc., before engaging with your dog. Try not to speak or touch him for about 10 minutes. If your dog needs to go outside as soon as you come in, try to do as little interacting as possible. What you’re doing is making the dog realize that you coming home isn’t such a big deal, so being alone isn’t all that bad.

This can be a pretty slow process, so be patient with the dog and yourself.

Winter activities, part 2: Barn Hunt

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

In part one of my Winter Activities series, I talked about agility and the great exercise it is for your dog. In part two, I am going to talk about the sport of Barn Hunt.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was not a big fan of being out in the cold for long periods of time, trying to give my dog some exercise. So I was always trying to come up with new ways to exercise my dog without freezing to death. Barn hunt is another great way to stay indoors and out of the cold.

Barn hunt, to put it simply, is a maze made out of straw bales. Within that maze are plastic tubes containing live rats and mice and the goal is for the dog to tunnel through the maze to find the live rats all in a specific amount of time.

I know what you are thinking. “Poor rats! I can’t believe they allow dogs to run after rats.” Let me specify, no rats or mice are hurt during this course. They are safely protected within the plastic containers. Barn hunt allows dogs, specifically terriers, to practice what they were bred to do, which is to find rats.

“Terrier” means “earth” in Latin. Terriers were bred to hunt vermin and even though many don’t have a need to hunt vermin these days, they still have that instinct, so a sport such as barn hunt is great for them. But terriers aren’t the only dogs that can participate. Any dog over six months in age and able to crawl through an 18-inch bale-height tall tunnel made of straw, can participate.

The reason I love barn hunt is because it gives dogs plenty of exercise. They have to run through a maze. They are using their nose, which is great for burning energy, and they are doing something that they were bred for.

There are plenty of associations around the country to join, so you can participate in classes with your dog. If you decide to compete, there are competitions all around the country as well as “fun trials.” If you are interested in competing take a look at the Barn Hunt Rule Book and website.

No matter what you decide to do, barn hunt is a great way to bond with your dog and get some exercise.

Have you tried barn hunt? What was your experience?

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

Is your dog a good fit for doggy daycare?

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

The dog daycare industry is big. and it can be overwhelming when trying to find the right place for your dog. There is a lot to look for when choosing a daycare. If you need help, check out Jamie Migdal’s blog on how to choose the best doggy daycare. In this post, I am going to concentrate on whether or not your dog is a good candidate for daycare.

Dog daycare can be great for humans. We feel better knowing that our dog is getting exercise and attention while we work long days. It’s also nice coming home to a tired dog so we can enjoy our evenings in peace. But what is great for us isn’t always great for our dogs.

So here are some ways to tell if your dog is a good candidate for daycare.

Your dog loves other dogs: I know you are probably saying, “Duh Erin! All dogs love other dogs.” But that isn’t true. A lot of dogs don’t very much like the company of other dogs, at least not to the extent that they want to be around them all day. Most dogs are perfectly content being around only their humans. Some dogs only enjoy familiar dogs. Just like humans have different personalities, so do our dogs. If your dog is an introvert, don’t fret. Also, if your dog has any reactivity towards other dogs, they aren’t a good fit for daycare.

You can’t give your dog adequate exercise: There is no judgment here. Sometimes you just can’t give your dog the exercise they need, whether that’s because you work long hours, you can’t physically give them exercise they need or your dog just needs a lot. Sometimes your best option is to send your dog to daycare a few days a week.

Your dog suffers from separation anxiety: Daycare isn’t the best option to help your dog get over separation anxiety, but sometimes you don’t have the time to fix the problem. For example, I know many people who live in apartments and have been issued a notice that they either need to quiet their barking dog or find a new place to live. Sometimes time isn’t on your side and you need something to help while you get the training your dog needs. If your dog does suffer from separation anxiety, make sure you are seeking the help of a positive reinforcement dog trainer.

If your dog doesn’t like daycare or isn’t a good candidate for it, don’t worry! There are plenty of options to tire your dog out.

Dog walker: Dog walkers are a great alternative to daycare. They come to your house, take your dog out for a nice walk and give them some personal attention. Your dog never has to leave the comfort of their neighborhood. Dog walkers are usually happy to work around whatever schedule you desire and will walk multiple dogs if you have more than one.

Individual play groups: Some daycares offer up an individual or family daycare option. This means that they give your dog individual playtime without other dogs around. Or if you have multiple dogs, they will let them play together without other dogs around. This option, if offered, is usually going to cost more, but might be worth it if your dog needs some special attention or doesn’t play well with others.

Sports: If you have an evening or two free each week, a great way to tire your dog out is to get involved in dog sports. Agility and K9 Nose Work are great options. They not only tire your dog out, but they allow you time to bond with your dog.

Remember, doggy daycare isn’t for everybody – and that is OK. There is nothing wrong with your dog if they prefer the comfort of their own home compared to a busy environment. If you do take your dog to daycare, try to limit it to 2-3 days a week so they have plenty of downtime.

Does doggy daycare work for you? If not, what else have you tried?

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

Costumes and candy and doorbells—oh my! A dog’s-eye view of Halloween

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by Betsy Lane, MA

Ghosts and goblins, capes and masks, and bowls of chocolate—it’s not a holiday for the dogs!

If you have one of those super-easy-going dogs that trainers sometimes call “bombproof,” feel free to stop reading now and go get a Pumpkin Spice Anything at a quaint sidewalk café, your beautifully calm dog relaxing by your feet.

For the rest of us, it takes some care and forethought to keep our pups safe, happy, and healthy on Halloween. Let’s start by looking at things from Fictional Fido’s perspective on Halloween—perhaps the most confusing holiday in a dog’s year:

I know you humans love your holidays, but this one is a little scary.

First, my human family puts on odd costumes. It’s fun, sure—but I sometimes wonder where my normal humans went!

In all the extra excitement leading up to a holiday, I don’t always get my regular walks and napping done. Both of these are Very Important Activities to us dogs!

And then my humans want me to walk WITH them and the costumed kids, in the dark, with all those OTHER excited humans in THEIR weird-looking outfits? Yikes! I’d rather stay home, thankyouverymuch. (Besides, that’s where the big bowl of peanut-butter cups is!)

But at home, the doorbell rings every two minutes, and we’re greeted by ghosts, goblins, superheroes, princesses, and giant black cats shouting, “TRICK OR TREAT!!!” And my humans keep giving THEM treats out of the big bowl, but never give ME any of them. I missed my walk, my nap, and my dinner, and now you deprive me of TREATS?

It’s just not fair. I see the grown-ups sneaking piece after piece of chocolate, making those enticing crinkly-wrapper sounds. Human food = yummy food, so….  I’m just going to have to help myself! I’d better scarf down as much as I can before they stop me!

Uh-oh. Now I feel really, really icky and my humans are talking about a trip to the vet. This is not what I signed up for. I think I need to throw up now… sorry about the rug, Mom.

Poor Fictional Fido! Here are a few tips to help ensure your pups have a much better Halloween than he’s having. And they might just keep you away from the emergency vet and the local hardware store to rent a carpet shampooer.

Keep all candy (not just chocolate) safely out of reach of your pets. Chocolate is especially dangerous because dogs are much more sensitive to methylxanthines than humans. For a good idea of how little it takes to make your pup dangerously ill, check out this Chocolate Toxicity Meter

What goes in, must come out. Those high-fat, high-sugar treats can exit the system rather more quickly and unexpectedly than your dog’s normal, nutritionally balanced food. Just sayin’.

Keep pets away from doors (use a baby gate, or put them in another room with a special, dog-appropriate treat). Don’t take dogs trick-or-treating with you—for their safety and comfort, and that of other trick-or-treaters. And stick to their normal routine as closely as possible; routines are reassuring. (Check out Erin Schneider’s wonderful blog with practical safety tips for Halloween here.) 

Finally, you might LOVE that irresistibly cute dog costume, but your dog doesn’t. (They may tolerate it because they’re good dogs and they love you, but they won’t like it.) If you want to do something festive that isn’t going to make your dog miserable, try a fun seasonal bandanna, non-toxic chalk tattoos, or black-and-orange nail polish, available at the PetSmart Grooming Salon.  

This is a difficult holiday for many dogs, for many reasons. Let’s do what we can to ensure everyone has a safe, fun, happy Halloween! Aw-woooooo!

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Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

 

Canine curiosities your groomer knows

 

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by Betsy Lane, MA

Professional dog groomers get to know more dogs well than almost anyone, other than a veterinarian. This week, we spoke with Nicole Morris, Regional Salon Quality and Education Manager for PetSmart’s Great Lakes Region, and asked her what she’s learned that might surprise us. As usual, Nicole didn’t disappoint!  

Every pet professional picks up specialized bits of information on the job. For example, a pro musher will quickly learn that not all “Northern breeds” are created equal (not by a long shot). Vets learn that sometimes the fastest way to get a simple but stressful procedure done is to give the patient brief breaks. And dog walkers learn every client-dog’s preferences, from how they like to get leashed up to which fire hydrants provide the most fascinating scents.

Over the course of a career a groomer’s hands will cover every inch of thousands of dogs, from miniatures to giants, puppies to seniors, and super-relaxed to super-stressed. Because of this, experienced groomers have an inside scoop about dogs that other pet pros don’t usually have. Here are three of Nicole’s favorite fascinating facts:

Terriers pose one of the biggest challenges as far as temperaments for grooming. The terrier personality is “fight or flight” and when they don’t like having their nails trimmed, for example, they will try to get away from the groomer—and if that’s not an option, they may try to fight. Reading the behavior of a terrier and changing your technique/approach are crucial for both the terrier and groomer to keep everyone safe.

Many people bring their pups in for a groom because the dogs “smell.” One common culprit of a smelly pet is dirty ears! Pets ears should be cleaned regularly, especially if they have dropped ears, like spaniels and hounds. Look inside your pet’s ears regularly for redness, dirt, or discharge.

Did you know poodles shed? Instead of dropping the hairs onto your floor, they often fall back into the dog’s coat and, if not brushed out, can cause tangles and mats to form.

Because of their extensive contact with so many dogs, good groomers—those who pay close attention to the dogs in their care, understand canine body language, and know the unique characteristics of each breed or type of dog—have insights like these that are as fascinating as they are useful.

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Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

Clear the Shelters – how to adopt your just-right dog

 

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Saturday, August 19 is the nationwide Clear the Shelters event, when participating organizations will be lowering or even eliminating adoption fees for many of their available pets.

If you’re planning to look for a new buddy this weekend, it’s important that you don’t get caught up in the mindset of “if I don’t adopt this dog right now someone else will take him!” Adopting a dog is a big step, and you owe it to yourself, your family, and the dog to make sure that you do it in a mindful and informed way.

Are you thinking about adding a cat to your all-dog household? Read this first. 

Everybody has their own tastes in dogs – some people like laid-back couch potatoes, some like dogs who can go on daily runs, and some like smarter-than-you border collies. Individual preferences aside, the primary thing you should be looking for when evaluating a potential dog is sociability with humans. The quality of the adopter-dog interaction is a significant predictor of whether the dog will get (and stay) adopted or not, and there is a simple reason for that – dogs who are sociable with humans make better pets and family members.

A shelter environment is very stressful and can make an accurate behavioral assessment very difficult (even for trained professionals), but there are certain behaviors that should send up red flags immediately. Keep this list in mind when you’re looking:

  • Is the dog approaching you voluntarily, and, if so, how is he approaching?
  • Is the dog staying in the back of the kennel and not approaching anyone?
  • Does the dog body slam the kennel door when approaching?
  • Is the dog spinning or engaging in other repetitive behaviors?
  • Is the dog staring with a hard eye, and/or barking, and/or showing teeth?
  • Does the dog have a known history of separation anxiety?
  • Has the dog been returned more than twice by other adopters?

Need help decoding those dog barks? Check out this handy chart from canine behavior experts Stanley Coren and Sarah Hodgson!

If you see any of these things, either on the kennel card or with your own eyes, you should think long and hard before signing those adoption papers. All of the above are indicative of larger behavioral issues than the average dog owner is prepared to deal with. Talk to the in-house behavior and training experts about what the information on the kennel cards really means; quite often the volunteers who work in the dog adoption area will have valuable insights about the dog’s real temperament as well. Even better – take an experienced third party or dog trainer with you to help you make the right choice. That unbiased, informed opinion can help you from succumbing to sentimentality. Be honest with yourself and with the adoption counselor – an unrealistic view of what you are capable of handling does everyone a huge disservice (perhaps the dog most of all).

And a last bit of advice – don’t rush headlong into adoption just because of a reduced fee. Sadly, there will always be an overabundance of dogs available for adoption; the shelters won’t be clear for very long. Even a full adoption fee is a good deal, any way you look at it. If you don’t find the right dog this weekend, you can look again next week, or the week after, or the week after that. You deserve a just-right dog, and the dog deserves a just-right home – take the time to make the just-right decision.

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The annual Clear the Shelters event, sponsored by NBC Owned Television Stations and the Telemundo Station Group, is on Saturday, August 19, 2017. You can find a list of participating shelters here.

 

How much water should your dog be drinking?

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By Emily Bruer

It’s important for us to know what is and what isn’t normal for our pets. Things like water intake, appetite and energy levels can be indicative of your pet’s health and well-being. If your dog’s habits suddenly change it could be due to a medical condition or a change in his environment.

The answer to “how much water your dog should drink?” is far from a straightforward one. Each dog is unique in size and metabolism and each dog’s water intake will be different. The best way to know how much your dog should drink is simply by observing him.

It’s normal for dogs to drink after exercise, eating, and sleeping. They also will drink sporadically throughout the day, so get to know your dog’s habits when he is healthy.

Another great way to know if your dog is drinking enough water is by checking his urine. Stand near your dog when he is urinating; if there is a strong odor to the urine, or it seems to be a dark yellow or orange color, it could mean that your dog is dehydrated. Similarly, if the urine is pink or red it is an indication of blood in the urine and you should get your dog to the vet right away, as they could have an infection or stones in their bladder.

Another great way to test your dog’s hydration levels is by gently lifting the scruff (the skin on the back of your dog’s neck) until it is taut, and then letting it go. If it immediately falls back into place your dog is hydrated, but if it takes longer than a few seconds your dog could be dehydrated.

If you believe your dog is dehydrated, but he isn’t interested in drinking water, a trip to the vet is in order. When an animal is dehydrated for too long it can cause damage to the kidneys as well as other internal organs. Better safe than sorry when it comes to hydration and your dog’s health!

Water temperature – When offering your dog water one thing to keep in mind is the water’s temperature. While it is tempting to give your dog ice cold water, it’s actually much healthier to let your dog have water that is room temperature.

When a warm dog ingests ice cold water their body must then use valuable energy to warm up the water. If it doesn’t, it can cause your dog to have a tummy ache or even throw up.

Not too much –  Another common cause of vomiting in dogs is drinking too much water. If you have just brought your dog in from a hot day or from a bout of vigorous play, his first instinct will be to drink a lot of water.

Unfortunately, if they have access to an unlimited supply they will often drink too much and then proceed to puke it back up. It can also cause a condition called bloat. You can find the symptoms here.

To prevent too much water intake, offer your dog several small bowls of water every 10-15 minutes until they are cooled off and relaxed. Once they have calmed down, you can put their normal water bowl back down and let them have access to the unlimited supply.

Every dog is different when it comes to water intake and bathroom habits. Get to know your dog’s routine while he is young and healthy, so you can recognize potential problems as he ages. If you notice an abnormal change in your dog’s routine don’t put off calling your vet, as what could be a simple infection could quickly get worse without treatment.

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily Bruer has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.

Farewell to Whisper

WhisperBy Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

This weekend we said goodbye to my sweet collie, Whisper. My head is swirling with so many images, memories, and thoughts, yet none of them seem to have a theme, pattern, or direction.  But I want to share them with you, my pet people.

So as a way of working through my grief, I choose to reflect on how much each dog I have ever loved has changed and shaped my life. And how I have found a way to make a career, build a community, and have an impact because of those relationships. Whisper was a deeply significant part of that journey.

Whisper was my daughter’s first memory dog (we had Poodle when she was born, but Poodle died when Sadie was only 18 months old so she barely remembers her).  She was my first purebred dog and she was the first dog that didn’t come to me via being a stray, as every single one of my six previous dogs did. She was my first dog who wouldn’t jump into a car and my first dog who always preferred her space versus needing to being attached to someone. All firsts, all with Whisper.

Whisper and saide

We rescued Whisper five years ago from a very mean breeder who debarked her and let her suffer, untreated, from a variety of autoimmune diseases and abuse from other animals. With the help and support of my long-time friend and mentor, Lynn Brezina, we made the decision to take Whisper home and nurse her back to health and build her a life she deserved.  I can say, with absolute certainty, that we did exactly that.

My husband Drew, our friends, our other pets, and our entire community saw to it that Whisper had five beautiful years on this planet. And she somehow taught all us of about second chances and what it really means to be a force for good in this world despite the all the reasons not to be. In the entire five years we lived with this dog, she never – not for a single second – lifted a lip, growled, or even gave so much as a hard stare. There have been babies, dogs, cats, rats, pet sitters, cars, offices, strangers, and kids everywhere, filling every crevice and every moment of her life with us. And through all that, and in the wake of four years of abuse and neglect before we rescued her, she gave us nothing but kindness. (And the not-so-occasional stealing of food.)

Whisper was a good dog, and we loved her.

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7 ways to help your dog get through the 4th of July

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The 4th of July (otherwise known as Happy Scare the Crap Out of Your Dog Day) is looming, and it’s time for some basic management techniques to help your pets make it through the festivities.

  • Make sure your pet’s tags and microchips are up-to-date. If the ID tags have been worn smooth or haven’t been updated with current information, get out the sharpie and write your contact information on the inside of the collar.
  • Even if you normally take off your pet’s collar in the home, consider leaving it on during peak noise and activity times. The sharpie trick won’t help if the collar is hanging on a coat hook when your dog bolts out the door
  • Keep the dog inside the house, in a crate or closed off area, away from high-activity zones. If you just plan to put the dog in the back bedroom, make sure the window is secure; pets have been known to bust right through window screens – and even windows – if they panic. Tape a big piece of cardboard over the window if necessary.
  • If you have a very noise-sensitive or -phobic dog, talk to your vet about possible medications to help keep him calm during the worst of the fireworks.

For other management techniques for noise-sensitive dogs, see our post about helping your dog get through construction season.

  • Take your pup out for a long walk well before the festivities start, so that he’s tired and more inclined to sleep than panic. Make sure he has a safe place to retreat, a Thundershirt or a TTouch wrap to provide calming pressure, a stuffed Kong to keep him distracted, and a human to provide comfort and reassurance.
  • If you’re going to a fireworks show, leave the dog at home. Even well-behaved, well-socialized dogs can get easily overwhelmed in big, noisy crowds with bright lights bursting thunderously overhead.
  • After the fireworks are over, and before you let your dog out into the yard, scan the ground – firework detritus can be sharp as well as poisonous, and no one wants to spend the rest of the holiday weekend at the emergency vet.

If you have any techniques that you find particularly helpful during fireworks and thunderstorm season, tell us about them in the comments. Have a happy and safe holiday!

 

 

 

Level up your dog training skills at FetchFind Academy

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

We’re halfway through Essential Training Skills here at FetchFind Academy, and this was the scene in our classroom the other day:

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I mean, honestly – how can you not love a class staffed by Golden Retrievers?

Essentials is where we really start to train dog trainers – everything they learned in Behavior Fundamentals Online is taken apart, examined minutely, expanded upon, and put into hands-on practice. This is where all of that theory starts to make sense in the real world, and where our students start to become professional dog trainers.

After two more months of practice and projects, our Essentials students will move on to Advanced Training Skills. This is where they will do a deep dive into working with people as well as animals, via a wide range of internships and simulated situations. At the end of four months, they’ll be ready to start their careers as highly sought-after professional dog trainers. We have FetchFind Academy graduates in the top dog training companies, social welfare/therapy/humane education organizations, and rescues/shelters in the Chicago area and beyond (including AnimalSense, Paradise 4 Paws, Anything is Pawzible, Canine Therapy Corps, Pet Partners, Soggy Paws, Hawk City K9, Chicago Animal Care and Control, Safe Humane Chicago, The Anti-Cruelty Society, ALIVE Rescue, One Tail at a Time, All Terrain Canine, and Touch Dog Training). It’s almost impossible to overstate how many doors are open for people with top quality professional education and training – you can work for established companies, join a start up, or start your own business.

Advanced Training Skills is also a fantastic stand-alone program for dog trainers who want to level up their skills and pick up CEUs.

No matter where you originally trained, it’s always a sound career investment to keep your skills sharp and up-to-date. (If you’d like to learn more about joining us for Advanced Training Skills in August, please contact Lynda Lobo at lynda@fetchfind.com.)

If you want to become a dog trainer, we recommend starting with Behavior Fundamentals Online – at only $49, it’s a great way to get your paws wet. And if you ever have any questions about how you can get started in any area of the pet industry, just shoot us an email at hello@fetchfind.com – we’re always happy to help!