The Adventures of Alaric Part 6

June 30, 2010

The Adventures of Adventures of Alaric Part 6

Alaric, worked out in the green space in front of his handler’s home.  He worked around other dogs, children and other distractions.  Alaric’s handler is getting better and better at giving him directions and him following them.

Alaric is learning to respect other dogs no matter what they are doing around him.  He likes to play with them, but has barked loudly in a way that makes his handler nervous. Alaric is adjusting to his new jobs and lifestyle and doing quite well.

Next week he will be spending the a few days going downtown, to malls, grocery stores, and visiting schools.


Michele Forto is Denvers Dog Training Examiner, a certified canine trainer at Denver Dog Works and the co-host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show

Behind the Breed: The French Bulldog

June 28, 2010

Behind the Breed: French Bulldog

Behind the breed is an ongoing series to assist in you choosing the right breed for yourself and family.

One of my first clients when I began training dogs and earning a living doing it was a French Bulldog.  He was a great little puppy, full of energy, spunk, and yes stubborn!  His owners we’re over six feet tall and had knee problems….it was difficult teaching the little guy down.  So we came up with a plan…..they took him to the top of their stairs and then they sat on the steps and worked on his puppy push-ups; sit – down.  He learned down and passed basic obedience.  The last I heard he was going to local meet up groups for other French Bulldogs in the Denver area to meet a girlfriend and was being professionally shown in the show circuit.

While working with a dog today in the park, I saw a “frenchie”, a little brown and white.  He was very cute.  So this weeks Behind the Breed feature is the French Bulldog.

There has been a difference of opinion as to the origin of the French Bulldog, but it seems pretty well established that one ancestor must have been the English Bulldog – probably one of the toy variety, of which there were a great number in England around 1860.  These toy Bulldogs, not finding favor with the English, were sent in large numbers into France. There they were crossed with various other breeds, and finally became popular in fashionable circles, particularly with women.  It was then that they were given the name Boule-Dog Françoise, although later on  England scoffed at the idea of applying the word Francais to a breed so clearly showing a strong strain of English Bulldog.  At that time there was little uniformity of type, and one found dogs with rose ears, while others had bat ears, which have since come to be recognized as an outstanding feature of the French Bulldog.

There are two distinctive features in French Bulldogs: one, the bat ear, as above mentioned; the other, the skull.  The correctly formed skull should be level, or flat, between the ears, while directly above the eyes, extending almost across the forehead, it should be slightly curved, giving a domed appearance.  Both of these features add much to the unusual appearance of the French Bulldog.

The preservation of the bat ear as a distinct feature has been due to the persistent efforts of American fanciers, since in the early days of breeding these dogs in Europe the tendency was toward the rose ear.  Had this movement not been posed by America, the breed would eventually have lost the feature that so strongly accentuates its individuality, and the result would have been practically a miniature English Bulldog.

This controversy over type was directly responsible for the formation of the French Bulldog Club of America, the first organization in the world devoted to the breed. Fanciers gave a specialty show in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, in 1898, this being the first of its kind to be held in such deluxe quarters.  The affair proved a sensation, and it was due, no doubt, to the resulting publicity that the quaint little chaps became the rage in society.  Show entries increased until the peak was reached about 1913, when there were exactly 100 French Bulldogs benched at Westminster, while the following specialty shows had even more.

Unquestionably the dog that did the most toward the establishment of the breed in America was Ch. Nellcote Gamin, imported in 1904 by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Goldenberg.  With the addition of Gamin to the splendid stock already in this country, we were made independent of further importation in order to produce the finest Frenchies in the world.

While bred principally as pets and companions, Frenchies are remarkably intelligent and serve as good watchdogs.  They are affectionate, sweet-tempered, and dependable.  Alert and playful, they are not noisy and, as a rule, bark very little.  Their size is another advantage in considering them as indoor pets, and the smooth, short coat is easily kept clean. (Source: The Complete Dog Book, American Kennel Club)

For a small dog, Frenchies make great companions for families as well as single individuals living in apartments or town homes. They are highly trainable and enjoy learning new things.

As with any breed giving your new puppy/dog a great start in life is key.  Socialization in many different environments along with training will give your new best friend the opportunity to learn how to truly be your best friend.


Michele Forto is Denvers Dog Training Examiner, a certified canine trainer at Denver Dog Works and the co-host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show.

Influential Dog Trainers and their Contributions Part 2

June 28, 2010

Influential Dog Trainers and their Contributions Part 2

This is continuing series on the most influential people in dog training and how they effect how we train dogs today.

Most and Koehler

Colonel Conrad Most wrote Training Dogs in 1910.  This work is thought by many to be one of, if not the first, dog training “how to” manual.  Colonel Most began training police dogs in 1906 in Germany.  Soon thereafter he began to explain canine learning tendencies from a handler’s perspective.  In his manual Training Dogs the Colonel exhibited an extraordinary understanding of the principles of operant conditioning, this was nearly thirty-years prior to the publication of B. F. Skinner’s The Behavior of Organisms.  In the 1940’s Colonel Most was sharing his knowledge with the trainers at the German Dog Farm, a center that trained dogs for the blind.  Many of his methods would be considered “heavy-handed” by today’s standards; nevertheless, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the Colonel’s contribution to the training procedures used by previous guide dog trainers, many of which are still used today.

William Koehler (1934-1998) began his career by training dogs for the military.  After World War II, Koehler became the lead trainer of the Orange Empire Dog Club, which was well known, and envied for the large number of obedience titles that it’s members earned.

William Koehler, along with his son Dick, purportedly had trained in excess of forty thousand canines at their own training facility.  Just as with Colonel Conrad Most, Koehler’s training method would be considered “heavy-handed” by many and downright inhumane by some.  He based his procedure largely on a combination of negative reinforcement and punishment.   Negative reinforcement is built upon the premise of the canine complying in order to remove or avoid an unpleasant stimulus.  Punishment, on the other hand, is described as a consequence that will make a behavior less likely to reoccur in the future.  Just as with positive reinforcement procedures, the principles are built on the foundation laid by Thorndike’s Law of Effect.

Mary R. Burch, Ph.D., and Jon S. Bailey, Ph.D. met and observed Bill Koehler in the course of their research.  They stated that Koehler “…appeared then to be a kind and gentle man, and he clearly loved dogs.”

Many have described Koehler’s methods as “heavy-handed”, but in all fairness, he was one of the few trainers in the country in the 1980’s that was known for his ability to rehabilitate tough dogs, and was often the canine’s last hope.  Again, whether one agrees with his methods or not, Koehler’s impact on dog training procedures can not be understated. Nor can his contribution to the effectiveness of negative reinforcement be understated.  While dog training has indeed moved toward a friendlier, more positive approach, perhaps several of Most’s and Koehler’s methods are used today in a majority of police, military, and advanced assistance dog training facilities.


Dr. Robert Forto, PhD is the training director for Denver Dog Works and the host of the popular Dog Doctor Radio Show.

Bark World Expo and the Dog Doctor Radio Show

June 26, 2010

Bark World Expo on the Dog Doctor Radio Show

Today on the Dog Doctor Radio Show we had the privilege of speaking to the founder of a very exciting and innovative event taking place in Atlanta, GA on August 20-22. It is called Bark World Expo and will showcase speakers and workshops from people as far away as the United Kingdom including Denver’s very own Dr. Robert Forto, PhD

Here the show now: The Dog Doctor Radio Show Bark World Expo Showcase

Bark World Expo is the brainchild of event planner Denise Quashie and is going to bring together members of the pet community that are involved in blogging, social media, podcasting and more. Did you know that there is a tremendous upswing in people blogging AS their pets? Yes, hundreds, if not thousands of pet’s “speak” each week on blogs and twitter pages all over the world.

Natalie Malaszenko of Petco, one of the keynote speakers at Bark World Expo, has taken notice of this, as with the tremendous upswing the how their customers utilize social media and the company is targeting advertising specials and even conversation starters on this highly popular new age communication tool(s).

How does this relate to dog training you may ask? Denver Dog Works and others are utilizing social media, and in particular, Facebook to update clients on training progress in our Camp Works program, to share pictures and get feedback from our clients. Denver Dog Works has found that by utilizing a Facebook Fan Page it keeps them better connected with our clients and in turn makes training much more accessible to pet owners all over the country.

Readers: How do you use social media in your daily life? Do you include your pets? We would love to hear from you. Please comment below or send an email to


Michele Forto is Denvers Dog Training Examiner, a certified canine trainer at Denver Dog Works and the co-host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show.

The Four Critical Periods of Puppyhood Part 3

June 26, 2010

The Four Critical Periods of Puppyhood

Period Three

I am often called on to offer breed referrals and I am also a breeder of Siberian Huskies and German Shepherds.  I am also a certified obedience instructor, an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, and a certified Service Dog Evaluator and trainer.  Over the years I have trained several dogs.  I have bred my own litters and trained each and every one of them up to the age of 12 weeks; but I have also trained them into adulthood.  I have trained many other puppies and rescues and I have seen many mistakes made by breeders, pet stores, and new owners.  Puppies have four critical periods of life.  The following is the first in my series: The Four Critical Periods.

I have used the information I am sharing for years in raising puppies and preparing them for life.  It is my hope that the novice and the expert in raising and training of dogs appreciates the information being shared and utilizes this information to raise well-balanced better trained puppies.

NOTE: The purpose of the puppy program is to condition the puppy to learn, and that learning and doing things are fun.  The program aims at preventing problems rather than correcting problems later. This purpose of “puppy program” must be fully understood.  Therefore, DO NOT attempt to program any puppy until you are familiar with Clarence Pfaffenberger’s “The New Knowledge of Dog Behavior.”

The Third Critical Period, Days 50 – 84

Day 50 – 56: The puppy has the learning ability of an adult dog from 7 weeks onwards. Start house training, crate training, and manners.  Begin teaching the pup boundaries.

Start conditioning the puppy to grooming, and to wearing a collar and leash.

Start puppy obedience, using a flat-collar.  5 minutes per session.

ALL week do the following:

Handling and restraining the puppy. (cradle, touch, pull ears, fingers in mouth, pinch toes gently (service)

Obedience (habitual) training, follow on your left side off leash, sit.

Man-dog socialization

Dog-dog socialization

Location conditioning in different places

Isolation conditioning, start in crate

Play retrieve and bag work or appropriate work for what dog will be utilized for e.g. begin working on picking up objects (take it and give)(service dogs)

Practice gaiting and show-posing everyday (use “stand” during grooming)

Practice obstacle course work (exposure to medical equip. wheelchairs, strollers, bicycles, skateboards, etc.)

INCLUDE NIGHT WORK! (Especially service, search and rescue, sled dogs)

NOTE: Begin collecting your “set of 12 articles”, i.e. those required in the “reversed incentive” system of tracking training. A set of 12 objects, all known to the dog is accumulated and includes one special or favorite article – usually one of the puppy’s toys.  It also includes 4 black leather gloves and 18 utility scent discrimination articles (6 leather, 6 metal, 6 wood).

Day 56: 8 weeks old: Test for sound startle. Swim (5-10 minutes in still water).

Day 57 – 63: This is a fear period when traumatic experiences have a profound effect. Keep the puppy in stable circumstances, and keep the puppy safe from trauma.

  • Continue house training
  • Do handling and grooming; touch therapy and cradling
  • Do puppy obedience, using the flat collar. Do attention training, sit, stand, down.
  • Man-dog and dog-dog socialization.
  • Location conditioning and longer isolation conditioning.
  • Retrieving now includes a wide variety of objects.  Include all the “puppy toys” in the set of retrieved objects.
  • Bag work. Introduce a piece of Hessian (burlap) (protection)
  • Introduce light harness (no pulling) sled dogs and assistance dogs
  • Introduce booties (5 minutes)
  • Show stance and gaiting practice
  • Practice obstacle course
  • Take the puppy into traffic
  • Take the puppy into crowds

Day 63: 9 weeks: Test for sound startle. Swim.

Day 64 – 70:

  • Puppy obedience training increased to 15 minutes. Still use flat collar. Introduce the finish, introduce the go-out. Introduce Line-out (sled dogs) Introduce Get-dressed (Assistance)
  • Take puppy for walks in the neighborhood
  • Continue location conditioning and continue with longer periods of isolation.
  • Practice retrieves, bag exercises, harness, booties; test for sound startle
  • Practice show stance and gaiting
  • Practice obstacle course
  • Do some dominance exercises. Handle the puppy a lot.

Day 70: 10 weeks: Test for sound startle. Swim in still water, or surf.

Day 71 – 77: Take the puppy into crowds and traffic; work at night often.  Continue with man-dog and dog-dog socialization, puppy obedience training, retrieving, bag-work, harness, booties, location training: do elevators, many different places, isolation training, longer periods, posing and gaiting, obstacle course, handling and grooming, walks in the neighborhood.

Day 77: 11 weeks old: Test for sound startle. Swim

Day 78 – 84: the puppy receives the first polyvalent vaccination this week! Continue exactly as in previous week. This week you must decide whether or not your puppy is to undergo “bite-inhibition” conditioning. This is normally done between week 12 and week 16, as follows:

The puppy must have free periods to engage in play fighting with one or more puppies of the same approximate age.  When they “attack” each other, they learn to inhibit or soften their bites. Do NOT omit this unless you are skilled in handling and living with a Schutzhund, Police, or Protection dog.

Puppies which do not undergo bite inhibition grow up to be very hard biters. This is very useful for dogs that are intended for the Schutzhund sport or for service as a Police or Protection dog.  These dogs will have to be played with using an object such as a burlap sack, or other pulling and biting object, because they are too rough for play using one’s hands or unprotected arms for the dog to grasp in play.  NOW is when you must decide on this part of your puppy’s program.

Day 84: week 12: Test for sound startle. Swim.

Note: Prepare early. Get a journal, a digital camera, or video camera.  These items make it easy to archive your notes and recording each puppy in its critical periods.  This can be helpful when you go to place your puppy in his/her new home.  You can share these archives with your new puppy owner and be sure to go over your training program so that it can be followed.


Michele Forto is Denvers Dog Training Examiner, a certified canine trainer at Denver Dog Works and the co-host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show program.

Popular Segments with Dr. Robert Forto

June 26, 2010

Popular Segments by Dr. Robert Forto, The Dog Doctor

  1. Move Over Rover: Babies and the Family Dog
  2. Why breed legislation is stupid
  3. Why Christmas Puppies are a bad idea
  4. Why I don’t like dog parks
  5. What is a therapy dog
  6. What is a service dog
  7. How can we stop dog fighting
  8. Domestic violence protection orders and pets
  9. Peak performance coaching for dog owners
  10. The Mind of a Champion
  11. Should you buy a pet from a pet store?
  12. Dogs with bite histories
  13. Why cookie cutter training does not work for canine aggression
  14. How can we educate the community about dog ownership
  15. Is positive reinforcement the best way to train your dog
  16. As Seen On TV. The hidden pitfalls of learning from a TV dog trainer
  17. So you want to be a dog trainer?
  18. Teaching today’s youth about leadership through empowerment
  19. Runnin’ Down a Dream: Robert’s quest to run the Iditarod
  20. Leader of the Pack: life lessons through sled dogs
  21. Canine Sports and Working Dogs
  22. What does your dog choice say about your personality?
  23. Barking Mad: Dealing with barking dogs and your Home Owners Association
  24. Navigating the Service Dog Maze
  25. Dog Parks: Should We Need More?
  26. Dealing with the loss of a pet
  27. Why do so many dogs have separation anxiety?
  28. Are dog vaccinations bad?
  29. Top Dog: Colorado’s Hiking Colorado’s 14ers with your dog.
  30. Way Up North: Speaking to school children about, chasing your dreams, leadership and conquering your fears.

Dog Sports: FlyBall

June 25, 2010

Dog Sports: Flyball

Flyball is a team sport for dogs that was invented in California in the late 70’s. Legend has it that Herbert Wagner first showed it on the Johnny Carson Show to millions of Americans. Soon afterwards dog trainers and dog clubs were making and using Flyball Boxes. In the early 80’s the sport became so popular that the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) was formed and they are the worldwide authority for Flyball.

Flyball is a relay race with 4 dogs on a team. The course consists of a starting line, 4 hurdles spaced 10 feet apart and a box. The first hurdle is 6 feet from the start line and the box is 15 feet from the last hurdle for a 51 foot overall length. The dogs jump the hurdles and steps on a spring loaded box that shoots out a tennis ball. The dog catches the tennis ball and then runs back over the 4 hurdles. When the dog crosses the starting line the next dog goes. The first team to have all 4 dogs run without errors wins the heat. Tournaments are usually organized in either a double elimination or round robin foramt. Double elimination is usually best of 3 or best of 5. Round robin is usually best 3 out of 5 and the first team to win 3 heats receives 1 point towards their standing in the tournament.

The hurdles’ height are dependent on the height of the dogs in the team — 4″ below the shoulder height of the shortest dog. 8″ is the minimum height and 16″ is the maximum height.

The fastest time is 15.43 seconds by SpringLoaded from Michigan, USA.

So, sounds fun!  Believe me it is.  I’ve seen Flyball competitions and exhibitions here in Denver and I’ve always found them intriguing.  Dogs of all types, ages, and sizes can participate.  The dogs are highly excited and ready to go from the moment they arrive.

Flyball is a fun sport for the whole family not just the dog.  It requires very little physical effort by the owner so it’s a great sport to do with your kids and if you are unable to get around on an agility course or find doing Frisbee challenging with your dog.  Flyball just might be your sport.

To get involved with Flyball here in Denver check out ; ;

Give it a try!  Flyball classes are offered at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds which is just off of Hwy 6 in Golden, Colorado. Be sure to check out the websites as each has training available and tournaments in the spring and fall months.

Michele Forto is Denvers Dog Training Examiner, a certified canine trainer at Denver Dog Works and the co-host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show program.