August 31, 2010


Have you recently changed jobs or even moved?  Maybe you introduced a new pet or family member to your home.  Did you know that dogs deal with stress in many different ways?

At Denver Dog Works we get many inquiries regarding dogs who are displaying destructive behaviors who wouldn’t normally be behaving in these ways.  We get complaints from urinating and defecating indoors, excessive barking, jumping, getting into things they normally wouldn’t, and the list goes on and on.  The dogs are reported as being aggressive.  With a few investigative questions we determine that the dog has not become aggressive at all.  On the contrary, the dog is dealing with too much stress, lack of exercise to deal with the stress and therefore becomes destructive.

If you are planning a change in your life we recommend taking part in some obedience classes or Canine Good Citizen classes.  It will keep the relationship you have with your dog solid and will give him a great way to deal with the stresses about to occur.

Dogs don’t deal with change well.  If at all possible take your dog for short visits to your new home prior to moving.  Get your dog used to a new job routine by changing his routine slowly.

Consult with a behaviorist who can recommend some exercises to help your dog deal with changes better.


Michele Forto is the Denver Dog Training Examiner, the owner of Denver Dog Works and the co-host of the popular, Dog Doctor Radio Show.

The Principles of Learning and Behavior-Part 1

August 25, 2010

The Principles of Learning and Behavior-Part 1

Learning Theory

Learning theory is a psychological field that is of tremendous importance to anyone who is involved regularly with canines.  Learning theory is comprised of a vast array of behavioral concepts and principles that have been derived from experimental studies of behavior.  The men and women that were discussed in the previous sections of this chapter conducted some of the most important studies that led to the principles and assumptions accepted by most learning theorists today.

Learning theory refers to information that has been gathered about the way living organisms adjust to their environments.  Various laws also govern it, and/or assumptions that dictate the way an organism, in this case canines, changes its behavior as a result of experiences.

When researching learning in canines, there are four questions the researcher is trying to answer.

  1. What do canines learn?
  2. How does the learning take place?
  3. What conditions are necessary for learning to occur?
  4. How is learning related to behavior?

If a dog’s behavior is to be changed, one must understand how a dog learns, and more importantly, how the learning relates to the canine’s behavior.

There is not a clear-cut definition of learning; in general, learning is something that cannot be seen directly.  The results of learning can be seen however, through changes in behavior.  For the purpose of this dissertation learning will be defined as a “relatively permanent change in behavior that results from training or interaction with the environment.”


In a laboratory setting learning is studied by conducting tightly controlled experiments.  Variables in experiments are defined as “…any factor that changes, or can be changed.” There are three primary types of variables:

  1. Dependent
  2. Independent
  3. Intervening

Dependent Variables are the variables that researchers are likely to be most interested in; often these variables represent a behavior that the researcher is trying to explain.  Dependent variables, as the name suggests, are dependent upon some other variable, usually the independent variable.

The independent variable is a factor or stimuli that the researcher introduces into the experiment to see what affect it does or does not have on the dependent variable.   Usually the primary goal of an experiment is to see if the independent variable indeed affects the dependent variable.  In other words, the independent variable is the cause and the dependent variable is the effect.

Intervening variables are not as clear-cut as the other types of variables.  They are not something that can be seen or heard but one can assume they are there because of the effects they have on the dependent variable.  Intervening variables are used primarily to help explain and/or predict a relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable.

Culture of Denver Dog Works: Professionalism

August 24, 2010

Culture of Denver Dog Works: Professionalism

By Robert Forto, PhD

A couple weeks ago I introduced a series of articles that I am going to post each week about the culture of Denver Dog Works. I am only only doing this to give our readers an idea of what we are about at Denver Dog Works but also as an exercise for us here at the training center to make sure we are all on the same page and delivering exceptional customer service and training a client’s dog to be one of the best trained dogs in the world.

The 10 Elements of Culture as defined by Denver Dog Works are:




Service Availability and Belief


Self Development

A Event Culture

Structured Activity



Professionalism at Denver Dog Works and our Culture

We’re Professional. At Denver Dog Works we take pride in training you and your dog.  It is important to us that every client and every dog receive the best training.  Our motto is “We have the best and train the rest” this means that we expect each of our instructors to present themselves in the best way possible and to provide the best training possible.  We listen to your goals and to your concerns and then we design a training package specifically for you and your dog.  There is no cookie-cutter dog training going on at Denver Dog Works. Group class is not for everyone therefore we do not offer a signup sheet for our group class.  Private lessons done in-home also may not work for you that is why we have our state of the art training center with over 700 square feet of training space on a ¾” rubber mat.

With over 200 dog trainers to choose from in the Denver area we believe our professionalism separates us from the pack.  Our instructors are attentive to your needs as they change throughout your training.  The most important aspect regarding dog training is not in training the dog but training you what your dog’s potential may be and then harnessing that potential and creating a harmonious relationship between you and your dog.

We have knowledgeable, skilled and friendly instructors. Our large training center provides you with a large area to work with your dog no matter what class you are taking. At Denver Dog Works we offer a variety of classes to help you and your dog reach your greatest potential.  We specialize in sport training but do not let this stop you if you have a puppy.  Building you a proper training regimen when your dog is a puppy is vital to his training and ability to perform at the level you expect once he is old enough to perform.  Whether your goal is in competition obedience or working as a service dog developing a proper training foundation helps you obtain your goals faster and easier. Let our professional certified canine instructors design a training package for you and your puppy and let’s build a relationship together.  Training is not just about getting your dog to learn how to do a few basic commands in a few short weeks.

We’re Convenient- Our training classes are available Monday through Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Private lessons can be scheduled to fit your timetable. During your evaluation our evaluator will design your training package and work with your schedule to provide you the best opportunity to train your dog and to reach your goals.  Adjustments can be made in the schedule but we strive to meet with you on a weekly basis.

We know our stuff- Our instructors are all extremely knowledgeable in the science of behavior and learning theory. In fact, we are the only training center in the area that has a PhD on staff and require all of our instructors to be certified. Our instructors are not just certified as obedience instructors.  Our instructors have been certified in canine behavior and sciences.  Each of our instructors are certified in various specialties such as Canine Good Citizen, Service Dog Instructor, Conformation, Competition Obedience, Rally, and even Canine CPR and First Aid.

Our training classes give you great results using the easiest, most up to date methods. We have developed training programs in a variety of disciplines to allow your dog to reach his fullest potential. One of our most popular training packages is called Peak Performance.  This package offers you two different training goals.  For example, basic obedience and foundation agility, or obedience and level one protection.  Each class is designed to prepare for your end goal giving you the best results you could ask for.

We are professional – I encourage you to review our website. See what we offer, see what sets us aside from the other trainers out there and then give us a call.  You will be greeted by a person ready to listen to your needs.  If you receive our voice message your call will be returned to you within two hours.  If you email you will receive a response no later than 24 hours later and if you provide your phone number you will receive a call within 24 hours with an email follow up.

I encourage any feedback you may have and of course share the culture of your business as well. I can be reached anytime by email at


Dr. Robert Forto is the training director of Dog Works Training Centers and the host of a weekly radio program, The Dog Doctor Radio Show which can be heard every Saturday at 9:30 am in the Rocky Mountain West or download it anytime. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at

We Have the Best and Train the Rest

August 14, 2010

We have the Best and Train the Rest

By Robert Forto, PhD

A lot is said about a training philosophy of a dog training school. Many times it is the first question that is asked when someone calls inquiring about bringing their dog to training. Philosophy means different things to different trainers but I assure you that if you don’t have a clear understanding of what yours is, you will lose customers.

Many people searching for dog training fall into four categories and we will discuss those with regards to your training philosophy and see if you and your training school are positioned correctly to meet the needs of your clients and their dog.

Three Types of Clients

The first type of client is the most common. It is the client whose dog has just destroyed the three thousand dollar leather couch and this is the last straw. They have put up with their dog’s “bad behavior” for too long and need help.

The second type is what I call the “big-box-store-rejects”. These are the clients that have attended a training class at a big box corporate training center and they just didn’t get their needs met. Think about it. Would you go to a doctor at a Wal-Mart? No. These training classes are great for socialization and basic manners but they are not equipped to fix behavioral problems.

The third type is “As Seen on TV” clients. These clients watch a dog training show on cable and realize that their dog has the “exact” same problem as the dog on the show. They may try a couple of the techniques (and with little success), and then call a dog training school and enter into training. The only problem with this is you will often hear them say: “It’s going to cost how much? And take how long? I just saw John (T.V. trainer’s name changed to protect the innocent) do it in 15 minutes on T.V.!”

The fourth type is the client that enjoys working with their dog. They have lived through the puppy stage, the adolescence stage, and the problem stage and now they are ready to have fun! These clients are ready to take sports classes like flyball, agility or Rally, working classes like therapy dog training or Canine Good Citizen testing, and the like.

There is nothing wrong with any of these four types of clients. These are the clients that keep you in business. These are the clients that are calling you because they need help. These are the clients that can bring you endless repeat business and referrals. But you have to meet their expectations and their training goals and this is where your training philosophy is so important.

Training Philosophy of Denver Dog Works in Bullet Points:

• Know Yourself, Know Your Dog.

• A balanced dog is in a state of harmony with Mother Nature—as a calm submissive pack follower who is fulfilled physically with exercise, psychologically with rules and boundaries and limitations and emotionally with affection from his owner.

• Teach my clients the highest level of connection between two species.

• In terms of philosophy, teach my clients to choose a dog that is appropriate for them and their family.

• Teach my clients to acknowledge some deeper reasons for getting a dog: are you imposing your own emotional needs on the dog—and missing what your dog actually needs as a result?

• Teach my client the difference between discipline and punishment and how to set rules and boundaries and limitations on their dog.

• Teach my client what goes on in the canine mind and develop a stronger, more fulfilling relationship with their best friend and give back to their dog just a fraction of the many gifts he has given to you.

We Have the Best and Train the Rest

Our training philosophy at Denver Dog Works is not only a procedure but a lifestyle.

I have learned in the nineteen years of literally living with a pack of dogs and on the sled dog trail that it has offered me a unique perspective. There I was forced to examine my attitude about everything including my dogs. I was constantly challenged to become more open to the language dogs use to communicate with us. This experience confirms our deepest intuitions about the relationship of human beings not only with their dog but every aspect of their lives.

I hope to foster my clients with a diverse and varied understanding of the environment for which they live. I hope to foster a more realistic understanding of their dogs and an increased awareness of the benefits of their companionship.

Drawing on my experience as a kennel owner of 50 Siberian Huskies I will teach my clients how dog training goes far beyond the elementary instruction of basic obedience; as it must encompass a whole new attitude and lifestyle with their dog. It must touch on the levels of a dog’s own life that are often ignored.

In conclusion, I will bring my client into the world of a dog musher, canine behaviorist, and father of three by using my experience as a lens through which they may broaden their understanding of their dog. The stage will then be set for a balanced, lasting relationship between them and their best friend.

If you have any questions or if you would like to have your dog be one of the best trained dogs in the world please give us a call at 303-578-9881 or contact us through our website at


Dr. Robert Forto is the training director of Denver Dog Works and The Ineka Project in Colorado. Dr. Forto hosts a weekly radio program, The Dog Doctor Radio Show, every Saturday. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at

Every Dog Has Its Day-Part 6

August 4, 2010

Every Dog Has Its Day-Part 6

“Every dog has its day dog, when the big dog throws him a bone. One moment in the sunshine, when your ducks line up in a row.” – Toby Keith –

Today, Toby went home.  He has completed his 12 week Camp Works 3 Board and Train.  Toby is doing a fantastic job.  He is learning to alert to dangers and remaining close by.  Shauna will be taking on his training responsibilities by continuing her private lessons, Canine Good Citizen classes and in the near future we will begin Toby’s public access training.

Toby is also learning how to listen to Shauna’s mom so he can be more helpful to her when she needs assistance walking.  Toby is on his way to becoming a working dog with several tasks to do daily.

We are extremely proud of Toby and Shauna and the progress the team is making.  Each day will strengthen their bond making them a great service team.  I will continue to keep all of you up to date on their continued progress.

Shauna would like to thank everyone who has sent in donations – and letters of encouragement.


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

Training in the Midst of Chaos

August 2, 2010

Training Your Dog in the Midst of Chaos

By Robert Forto, PhD

Are you tired of the endless stream of negativity, stress and confusion created by the chaos? I don’t care if you are talking about the economy, job, boss, colleague, your dog, or anything else. Thriving in chaos is a decision not to get sucked into a negative spiral. The choice is personal responsibility. There are ten considerations that are vital to thriving in chaos and training your dog in the midst of it. Denver Dog Works is known to have the best trainers in the world and we can train the rest. This is why:

1. Communication. I wrote an entire doctorate dissertation on communicating with dogs and I like to think I am an expert on the subject. I have spent a great deal of my life in the company of dogs and I am a better communicator for it. Are you?

In your personal life do you paraphrase to clarify what you hear? Do you read between the lines or guess a person’s intent? Do you ask questions and continue to promote dialogue into a topic? Do you make conversations more about you and less about them?

A dog is such a simple soul. He needs a few rules; some exercise, an education, a balanced diet, a place to rest his weary head, and the companionship of a loving master to make him feel secure and happy. These are important ingredients for preventing dog problems. In communicating with him your tone of voice, your posture, your attitude, your understanding will speak eloquently to him. Above all, remember his mother; be fair, be firm, correct him when necessary, forgive him rapidly and love him well. Don’t you wish it was that easy to communicate with people?

2. Flexibility. In these ever changing times where everyone is asking for a bailout or a handout you have to be ready at a moment’s notice to shift your thinking and stay open to change.

In training your dog, continue to grow your skills, ask your trainer for additional tasks to work on until your next lesson, and be prepared to work through the challenges.

When Obama was campaigning he preached change, change, change. I haven’t seen it yet. Have you? But I have had to become more flexible because of this proposed change in my business and personal life. I have become a flexible thinker. Have you?

3. Empowerment. Dump the entitlement attitude and empower yourself to make a change. Nobody owes you anything, either at work, at home or in dog training. You do owe to yourself to be accountable for your every choice and every outcome.

While I am sure I will get in trouble for saying this from a fellow trainer or dog owner, people come to my school all the time and say that they went to a big-box-pet store and the trainer there was awful, or they didn’t teach them anything and their dog is worse now than it was before they started. Is that really true? No. The big-box-pet stores offer a method of training that may or may not fit into every pet owners lifestyle or training goals. But they are good at what they do, and what they do best is socialization. If you want more from your dog training classes sign up for private lessons and let the trainer work with you in developing a program to suit your needs. Don’t blame anyone for your transgressions or your lack of practice with your dog. Your dog does not have ESP and neither does your trainer. It takes practice to make perfect and practice takes effort.

4. Responsiveness. To be proactive in today’s society you must learn to respond quickly to changes in your daily activities. Reacting is simply knee-jerking, while responding involves learned skills, helping you make decisions more quickly. Never waste time and energy complaining.

When I am teaching people how to become certified canine instructors we discuss what I call the passive method: “Maybe it will go away.” Maybe it would not. “Maybe he’ll outgrow it.” “Maybe he would not.” Even if he will, it is a rather poor way to handle a dog problem. How many couches can you afford to lose waiting for him to outgrow the chewing stage? Some dogs left uncorrected, chew their way from birth to senility, but any dog can learn to be happy chewing a bone once he learns the no-no’s from the yes-yeses. This method does not work in our daily lives and most certainly does not work in training your dog. Be proactive and tackle that next challenge, no matter what it is, and respond!

5. Learning. You should always support and promote lifelong learning. Train yourself (and your dog) to be a learner by using books, tapes, training classes and other programs to enrich your lives. There is no greater satisfaction that learning something new and applying that knowledge in our daily lives. What was the last thing that you learned and how to you apply it today?

6. Innovate. Find different and better ways to solve problems. Learn how to become more creative by visiting your library or searching the Internet. In your quest in training your dog there are so many different and innovative techniques you can use to work through problems and training dilemmas. We at Denver Dog Works are all experts in learning theory and curriculum innovation. We take the most up to date methods and test them daily to see if what you saw on that National Geographic show really works and if we find that they do, or more importantly, don’t, we pass that along to our clients.

7. Cutting Back. In our daily lives we are all looking for ways to cut back on expenses and spending such as travel and entertainment. We are holding off buying new cars, appliances, and clothes. But did you know that Americans spend more on their pets that music, movies and video games combined? While I am not suggesting that you don’t pamper your pet. I am sure you do. I do splurge on occasion with mine. Use your money wisely and enroll in a dog training program that will give you a good return on your investment. Basic obedience, while a necessity to most, can save you thousands of dollars if your dog thinks your Italian leather couch is a chew toy, or a sports program such as agility or fly ball will provide you with endless hours of low cost fun for your family and your dog.

8. Energy. Stay enthusiastic and forward thinking. Make work fun and exciting. Allow negative discussion but respond with, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Times are tough. We all know that. Many people have lost their jobs, their retirement, their 401K, and everything else. As a small business owner I am feeling the fear of this economy but I am not letting me get me down. I am taking advantage of this time to start new marketing programs and training classes. Did you know that the businesses that made it through the great depression of the 1930’s did not sit back and have a wait and see attitude? They went for it and challenged the normal way of thinking.

In terms of dog training and energy; make your training fun with your dog. Dog training classes are very affordable and allow you to get out of the drudge of the day-to-day stressors and make a difference in you and your dog’s relationship and bond and it just might bring your family closer together as well.

9. Accountability. You should be a role model for others by taking responsibility for every decision that you make. Know that you always have three choices: take it, leave it, or change it. So challenge yourself by asking, “So, what’s the plan?” If you are a Denver Bronco fan I am sure you know that our quarterback is not only being a cry baby and asking for a trade because he doesn’t like the coach but it also shows that he has no accountability for his actions. In terms of dog training: do you want to be the owner who’s dog is always getting into fights at the dog park or who jumps on your friends and family when they come over for dinner? No? Then make a choice and change that behavior and enroll in a dog training class or two.

10. Goals. In your daily life you must have a clear account of your goals and keep them in mind at all times. You will not be able to thrive in the chaotic time if you do not have clear objectives. The same goes with dog training. Often we hear from a client that they want their dog to perform at a certain level in a brief period of time and often that is not possible. There are T.V. shows on that fuel this obsession. We are an immediate gratification culture. We want it all and we want it now. That is not just not possible in dog training, or anything else in life for that matter.

So I encourage you, go out there and make a difference. Go out there and change somebody’s life for the better. Make your business better if you are an entrepreneur or your company better if you are an employee. Make your dog happier by giving him the greatest gift of all: training. Yes, times are tough but don’t let the chaos change your lives. Go out and empower change because we can’t wait for someone else to do it.


Dr. Robert Forto is the host of The Dog Doctor Radio Show and is the training director of Denver Dog Works and The Ineka Project in Colorado. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at

Culture of Denver Dog Works: Integrity

August 2, 2010

Culture of Denver Dog Works: Integrity

By Robert Forto, PhD

Last week I introduced a series of articles that I am going to post each week about the culture of Denver Dog Works. I am only only doing this to give our readers an idea of what we are about at Denver Dog Works but also as an exercise for us here at the training center to make sure we are all on the same page and delivering exceptional customer service and training a client’s dog to be one of the best trained dogs in the world.

The 10 Elements of Culture as defined by Denver Dog Works are:




Service Availability and Belief


Self Development

A Event Culture

Structured Activity



Integrity of Denver Dog Works and our Culture

If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. — Alan K. Simpson

The Wild West was full of them and they are the actors of legend along the carnival midway and the performers of modern day late night infomercials. His line was superficial and his promises great. he had the cure for diseases and could wow you with his magic cloth that soaked up a can of soda with little effort.

Modern medical licensing has done much to amend quackery in medicine but in the spirit of the snake oil salesmen or the the late night pitch-man they will always find a new outlet, and professional dog training is a prime example.

As I tell my students studying to be professional dog trainers all the time, all it takes to be a dog trainer is a business card, a leash and a smile. Anyone can rent out a storefront, put a sign on their car, take an out an ad in the local newspaper, start a website and call themselves a professional dog trainer. If you work out of your home, a couple hundred bucks can be enough to say you are in business! These same people say they can offer obedience training, solve problems and turn your dog into  service dog just because you want a constant companion with you while you ride the bus to work in the morning.

Often there is a certificate saying Master Trainer, possibly indicating the completion of a correspondence course without ever having to demonstrated how to properly work a dog in a training routine. It is against the law in all states, I assume to set up shop and offer medical advice, or legal counsel or even plumbing services without a license. Not so in the dog training world. There are no legal requirements or even standards in the way that a dog should be trained.

What truly separates the men from the boys, so to speak, in the dog training world is just one word: Integrity.

If I were to ask what the most important and influential aspect of a business is I would have to say integrity. Without integrity at the forefront of a business’ culture a business is usually doomed to fail. In fact, when integrity is part of the business culture is becomes the heart and soul of the company and can mean the difference between a company that succeeds and one that fails.

In recent times, with the media fueled recession, and business people having a hard time making ends meet often a business’ core values are overlooked in order to salvage a struggling business or to meet the basic needs of a company such as payroll and paying vendors. But, if a business does not take the time to examine it core values and continually live by them, even in the rough times, the business is not operating with an ethical commitment to those that truly have a say in whether they will succeed or fail, and that is it’s customers and clients.

At Denver Dog Works Integrity is so ingrained in our culture that it we strive to continually live by it in our day to day business operation in that we see that we are above and beyond the quacks that give our industry such a bad name. We strive to do this but applying seven basic principles of integrity within our company:

Principle #1 At Denver Dog Works we recognize that our clients want to do business with a company they can trust; when trust is at the core of a company, it is easy to recognize. Trust defined is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of a business. Dog training is a capricious business. You are dealing with a member of a client’s family and you must remember to treat this relationship as such.

Principle #2 At Denver Dog Works we strive for continuous improvement of our company,  and as the leader in an industry we must be willing to open up to ideas for betterment. We ask for opinions and feedback from both clients and team members and  by doing so our company will continue to grow.

Principle #3 At Denver Dog Works, regardless of the circumstances,  we do everything in our power to gain the trust of our past customer’s and clients, particularly if something has gone awry. We strive to do what you can to reclaim any lost business by honoring all commitments and obligations. Yes it is true you can never please everyone. In the dog training world we often dealing with relationship problems, financial constraints and a theory of absolutes (fix my dog or else…). We often deal with unhappy clients because of unrealistic expectations and we must meet them in the middle in order to accomplish a common goal and that is to better the relationship between their dog and the family.

Principle #4 At Denver Dog Works we  continually re-evaluate all print/media materials including our small business advertising, brochures and other business documents making sure they are clear, precise and professional; most important we make sure they do not misrepresent or misinterpret our business. This is what I was talking about above. Anyone can say they have the best and train the rest but can they live up to their own motto?

Principle #5 At Denver Dog Works we remain involved in community-related issues and activities thereby demonstrating that our business is a responsible community contributor. In other words, we stay involved. We are actively involved in two local chamber of commerces and attend and host many events where we give back to the local community. In business it should never be just about making money. At Denver Dog Works we don’t just train dogs, we change lives.

Principle #6 At Denver Dog Works we take a hands-on approach in regard to accounting and record keeping, not only as a means of gaining a better feel for the progress of our company, but as a resource for any “questionable ” activities; gaining control of accounting and record keeping allows you to end any dubious activities promptly. Even in a difficult economy where every small business owner is pinching every penny and saving every dime they can, a business must have integrity in regards to the day to day operation of their business. I will admit, this past year was a struggle for us and we seemed to have pulled through and weathered the storm but that did not mean neglecting our vendors or our businesses associates.

Principle #7 At Denver Dog Works we strive to treat others with the utmost of respect. Regardless of differences, positions, titles, ages, or other types of distinctions, we always strive treat others with professional respect and courtesy. This principle is not just in place in the back-room of our training center but to our clients as well. A client should never be seen as a meal ticket or a a way to pay the light bill, but as a relationship that is forged with mutual respect and understanding.

I encourage any feedback you may have and of course share the culture of your business as well. I can be reached anytime by email at


Dr. Robert Forto is the training director of Dog Works Training Centers and the host of a weekly radio program, The Dog Doctor Radio Show which can be heard every Saturday at 9:30 am in the Rocky Mountain West or download it anytime. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at