Therapy team dreams

December 20, 2010

Michele Forto

Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to your local community.  There are many ways to volunteer but one in particular that seems to be very popular today is volunteering as a Therapy Team with your dog.

At Dog Works Training Centers, we get countless calls and inquiries monthly regarding individuals interested in certifying their dog as a therapy dog.  Many times, the individual is taken aback once they learn what it takes. You see not every dog can or wants to work.  Not every dog has the temperament or drive to make itself available emotionally and physically to strangers in new unfamiliar environments.

[ Info on Therapy Dog Training at Denver Dog Works ]

That being said Dog Works Training Centers offers many different levels of Therapy Team training.  Including temperament testing and recertification training, we are familiar with the practices and testing requirements of Delta Society (, Therapy Dogs International, Children’s Hospital, and S.A.R.A. therapy team certification.

If you are thinking about volunteering with your dog and becoming a therapy team take some time and research your endeavor.  Ask at the local assisted living homes, hospitals, schools, and libraries if they utilize this service and what certification they are looking for.  There are also several private therapists, in home care businesses and enrichment programs that utilize therapy teams.  Your local dog trainer is a great resource and I would recommend starting with a trainer who is certified or experienced in therapy training.

Training recommendations for therapy dogs; basic obedience, Canine Good Citizen, a form of public access training, and proper socialization with people and outside environments.


Michele Forto is the Denver Dog Training Examiner, the lead trainer at Denver Dog Works and the co-host of the Dog Works Radio Show.


Is your puppy bored?

December 19, 2010

Michele Forto

Believe it or not your puppy can get bored!  How can that be?  My puppy has baskets full of toys in the house and outside.  I take my puppy on two walks a day and spend time with him in the evening.

When I’m asked to come to a client’s home to help them when their puppy has been chewing the furniture or is urinating from excitement or isn’t able to quiet down the first thing I observe is that there are too many choices.

Too many choices = boredom

I recommend just five toys and activities.  I have found that this keeps the puppy interested and keeps the family interested.  With all of the choices out there in the big box stores its no wonder we buy too much for our puppy.  We are sucked into the marketing skeem and the guilt ridden commercials with the cute and cuddlies with big brown eyes.  Truth be known, puppies will seek out items that feel good, taste good and make their teeth feel better.  They like chewing on the table legs and door jams because wood, although hard is also chewy and soft in a dog’s mouth offering just enough give when they sink their teeth in.  Puppies seek out shoes, socks, and other unmentionables because truth be known, they smell like us.

[ Rewind: Puppy Wish List ]

The following are the toys I recommend for medium to large breed dogs – remember a puppy will only entertain himself for so long.

  1. Tennis ball or rubber ball of like size
  2. Soccer ball – size 3 slightly deflated (outside)
  3. Stuffable treat toys like KONG
  4. Frisbee made from material, hard plastic can hurt their mouths
  5. Dog safe stuffed toy with rope

I also recommend that you incorporate obedience training into your games with your puppy.  This challenges them and makes the playtime more interactive.


Michele Forto is the Denver Dog Training Examiner, the lead trainer at Denver Dog Works and the co-host of the Dog Works Radio Show.


Holiday Pet Safety

December 19, 2010

My name is Dr. Robert Forto and I am the training director of Denver Dog Works and Alaska Dog Works. I am asked all the time about holiday do’s and don’ts from pet owners. While I always offer an article right around Christmas about training Christmas puppies I thought it would be wise to offer some tips to pet owners on holiday safety before the season’s festivities reaches a crescendo. While most of this is common sense, it is the little things that we overlook during this busy time of the year that can turn a joyous season into a nightmare for your pet if you do not take some steps to ensure their safety.

The holiday season can get pretty hectic, and with the decorations and extra goodies around the house, there is a lot your pet can find to get into. Here are a few safety tips to help keep your pets safe and happy during the festivities:

Christmas trees

Firmly secure the tree in its stand, and consider wire or twine ties attached to the wall to help secure the tree. You’ll want to make sure the tree doesn’t topple over if, or more likely when, kitty tries to climb the tree.

Dogs and cats will often try to drink water from the reservoir in the stand. The sap from the tree itself may irritate your pet’s stomach, and preservatives added to the water may be toxic. Devise a cover to fit around the base of the tree—even a towel wrapped around the trunk covering the stand will do.

[ Rewind: Christmas Puppies? Maybe Not. ]

Research also shows that the chemicals used in producing artificial trees contain chemicals that can be harmful or even fatal if ingested by your pet. While there are many pro’s and con’s to having a natural versus an artificial Christmas tree, this fact alone should make the decision a little easier.

Ornamentation is very attractive, especially to kittens, cats and puppies, but may be deadly. The tinsel, ribbon and glitter can cause intestinal blockages. Protect your pet by placing these items high enough to be out of reach. Packages under the tree may offer the same threat—the ribbons are just too hard to resist, and your pet may end up chewing on them while playing.

Those wonderful goodies

Holidays are the time for lots of baking, and receiving of baked gifts. These items smell just wonderful to your pet. Your dog may help himself to the candy, cookies, or part of the holiday meal if you are not looking. Eating people food may lead to indigestion, diarrhea, or worse. Remember, items containing chocolate can poison a dog, even if it is a small amount.

Remains of the holiday meal left on countertops, tables, and even in the garbage will entice your pets. If there is a way to get to it, be assured your dog will certainly try. Bones from turkey, a roast, or ham may splinter if eaten. Older garbage may even contain enough bacteria to poison a pet. Be careful where the trash is held while waiting to be disposed of.

And of course I don’t need to remind you that begging at that table can cause major behavior problems in the future…

Other Decorations

Plants, especially poinsettias, are often used for decoration in November and December.  Some of these plants contain toxins that can irritate your pet’s gastrointestinal tract if chewed on or eaten. Eating enough of some plants may poison your dog or cat. In some cases it may be the leaves, in others the stem, berries, or roots. Your veterinarian or behaviorist can help guide you, or you can do a bit of research at the library or online to see if any of your holiday plants may be harmful to your pets.


On Christmas morning when all of those toys are being played with (and soon forgotten, I might add) they contain many hazards for pets. Small toys, balls, marbles, board game pieces, BB’s from the Red Rider BB gun with the compass in the stock that your son just had to have!, and electric cords are all dangerous to your cat or dog.

Taking a few minutes to set some family guidelines and spot potential safety hazards could keep this holiday season from having serious consequences for your four-footed family member.

In the coming weeks Dr. Forto will be publishing and article on training Christmas puppies. His position is that you should never give a puppy for a Christmas present but thousands are given as gifts each year. In this article Dr. Forto will discuss when to train your dog, how to properly care for him and who should be in charge. Just remember that shelters are full of dogs that were once bundles of Christmas morning joy that grew up too fast and were not trained. Dr. Forto and his certified trainers at Denver Dog Works are here to help.

This article is provided as a general overview of the topic. Always consult your veterinarian or behaviorist for specific information related to diseases or medical care for pets.


Dr. Robert Forto is a canine behaviorist and the training director of Denver Dog Works in Colorado. He can be reached through his website at


Dog Works Radio: Pit Bulls as Service Dogs? Not in Denver

December 13, 2010

Pit Bulls as Service Dogs?

On the latest edition of the Dog Works Radio we spoke to an expert in ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) policy in Denver, Candice Adler about the recent ruling to not allow Pit Bulls as service dogs in Denver.

Pit Bulls as service dogs will be not allowed in the City and County of Denver, CO in a landmark ruling last week. The City Council turned down down an amendment to the decade long breed ban that includes Pit Bulls. A suit was brought forth by a US Solider to be allowed to keep his pit bull as a service dog. The Department of Justice announced this summer that new rules will be in place this coming March. The City of Denver said it doesn’t care and they are not making exceptions. A suit is in the works…

The Dog Works Radio Show is hosted by well respected canine behaviorist, Dr. Robert Forto and is brought to you by Twine Group Media and Dog Works Training Centers. The Dig Doctor Radio Show demonstrates through guests, call-ins, chats and social media how dog owners can have a balanced relationship with their dogs.

Listen to the latest show here:

Dog Works Radio: Pit Bulls as Service Dogs? Not in Denver

We welcome your comments suggestions and concerns. Please comment below or send them to

[ Rewind: Mush You Huskies: Ballad of the Northland ]

[ Rewind: Dog Works Radio: Atticus the Wolfdog of a US Solider ]


Dr. Robert Forto is a canine behaviorist and the training director for Dog Works Training Centers. Dr. Forto is a musher currently in Alaska training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular programs, Dog Works Radio and Mush! You Huskies.


A Christmas Puppy for a Gift? Maybe Not

December 4, 2010

Events of this Christmas will have a profound impact on the dog training industry in April.

All those cute puppy-in-a-stocking photos prompt unsuspecting people to give dogs as gifts, inevitably resulting in a high rate of premium business for me and my colleagues.

A Christmas Puppy? Maybe Not

“Christmas puppies” often are impulse purchases, in a spirit of love and giving and generosity that goes with the season, but without the hard self-assessment that goes into asking oneself if one has the time and the energy and the inclination to give the necessary commitment to raising and socializing and educating that puppy. Better to get that new puppy at a less emotionally charged time of the year, when the decision to add a dog to the family is a less impulsive and more carefully considered one, uninfluenced by seasonal generosity of spirit, which might just fade a bit after the tree comes down and the lights are put away.

Realistically and sadly, Christmas puppies tend to be older puppies at the pound a few months later, or that nearly year old dog getting euthanized because someone bought a dog as a “toy” for a child that has no legitimate responsibility for that animal and loses interest. Also, some people have no idea that dogs grow and get bigger, or at least bigger than they expected.  Nor do they consider that the dog will require training and they bring them to me at arm’s length saying, “Fix my dog!”

Every April I see frenzied clients at my training center at wits end with their now-adult sized dogs that are totally out of control. They have no leash manners, refuse to come when called, hyperactive from a lack of exercise, obese from too many treats, and unwilling to even acknowledge their name.

Most people think that cute little puppy that was under the tree on Christmas morning will stay that way. On the contrary, they grow up and they grow up quick. Think of it this way. Could you go from the crib to high-school? No way! Puppies need exercise, discipline and affection—in that order. The best gift you can ever give that Christmas puppy is obedience training. This will not only build a lifelong bond but give you the control, leadership and routine that your dog so much desires.

If you are absolutely set upon getting your family a puppy for Christmas, consider this alternative instead: Purchase a leash, a collar, a good book on raising a puppy, a gift certificate for a veterinary checkup, a gift certificate for puppy socialization classes from one of the local obedience instructors, a book or video tape on the topic of how to select the right dog for your family (there are several, including even a computer program that purports to help you do this), or a gift subscription to one of the dog-oriented magazines.

Wrap these up and put them under the tree. As family members unwrap the various pieces of the “puzzle”, their delight and anticipation will grow. They will gradually understand what this present is! Then, after the Christmas tree is taken down and the frenzy of the holiday season is behind, the family can once again enjoy together the anticipation and excitement of discussing and selecting a breed, selecting a breeder, selecting an individual pup, and so on. This will increase the family’s mutual commitment to, and investment in, the well-being of the newest family member. It will be a project the family has done together, which is a wonderful way for any adoption to commence. This will not decrease the enjoyment of your new puppy; I guarantee it. It will increase it by many fold. And it will be a better start both for the puppy, and for the long-term relationship between dog and owner(s). A dog with a good introduction to its adoptive family is much more likely to become a long term companion rather than just another tragic statistic.


Dr. Robert Forto, PhD is the training director for Dog Works Training Centers and hosts a weekly radio program, The Dog Doctor Radio Show, every Saturday. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at


Behind the Breed: Parson (Jack) Russell Terrier

November 28, 2010

In this series we will profile breeds registered with the American Kennel Club to give dog owners some ideas of what to expect of their dog. At Denver Dog Works we work with a network of breeders and with 20 years experience and training thousands of dogs we can help the new dog owner choose a breed that is right for you, your family and lifestyle.

Behind the Breed: Parson Russell Terrier

Parson Russell Terrier

Trainers Note: Known for years as the Jack Russell Terrier (and still called that by many) is a breed that was made famous in the TV show Fraiser. Eddie was such a lovable little dog in that show and unfortunately it did not showcase the breed as they are in “real” like. The Parson Russell Terrier is just that, a terrier, meaning high energy and high and some will say high maintenance. These little dogs will require a lot of exercise and a lot of training.

The Parson Russell Terrier is a true working fox hunter, possessing a ready attitude, alertness, confidence, and great strength and endurance. Today, many Parsons are also found working in stables and exhibiting at agility and obedience trials. The breed’s weatherproof coat can be broken (wire-haired) or smooth and is white, white with black or tan markings or tri-color.

A Look Back
Named for the respected huntsman Rev. John Russell, the Parson Russell Terrier was first bred in the south of England in the mid-1800s to hunt red fox. Traditionally, the Parson followed the fox underground to flush him out for the hunter. Authorities claim that after Rev. Russell’s death some of his bloodlines were crossed with the Welsh Corgi and other terrier breeds, creating a different type dog, the “Jack Russell Terrier.” The parent club for the breed requested a name change from Jack Russell to Parson Russell Terrier.

Right Breed for You?
Outgoing and friendly, the Parson is tenacious in the field and affectionate in the home. No matter the venue, the breed is filled with energy, so he requires regular exercise and attention. Although good with children, he does not tolerate rough handling from toddlers. The Parson is a clean breed and does not need frequent bathing, but the broken coat may need to be hand stripped.

If you are considering purchasing a Parson Russell Terrier puppy, learn more here.

  • Terrier Group; AKC recognized in 1997.
  • Ideal size 13 to 14 inches tall at the shoulder and 13-17 pounds.
  • Fox hunter.

© The American Kennel Club, Inc.

Robert Forto | Team Ineka | Alaska Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Dog Works Radio | Denver Dog Works


Dr. Robert Forto the owner of Denver Dog Works and Alaska Dog Works, is a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio shows, Mush! You Huskies and Dog Works Radio Shows

Behind the Breed: Bloodhound

November 27, 2010

In this series we will profile breeds registered with the American Kennel Club to give dog owners some ideas of what to expect of their dog. At Denver Dog Works we work with a network of breeders and with 20 years experience and training thousands of dogs we can help the new dog owner choose a breed that is right for you, your family and lifestyle.

Behind the Breed: Bloodhound


Trainers Note: The bloodhound is a great breed of dog. Many of you have seen these dogs in action on the movies doing search and rescue and scent work to track down missing people. The bloodhound is highly intelligent and requires a great deal of training to work in a search and rescue capacity.

Described as a “unique looking dog in a baggy suit,” the Bloodhound is one of the oldest breeds of dogs that hunt by scent. Although affectionate, they can posses shy natures, sensitive to kindness or correction by their master. Colors of the Bloodhound include black and tan, liver and tan, and red, sometimes flecked with white. The actual term “Bloodhound” refers not to what the Bloodhound trails but instead refers to its status as the “blooded hound,” meaning aristocratic, since such great lengths were taken early on to keep the strain clean.

A Look Back

The Bloodhound made its appearance in Europe long before the Crusades, when the first specimens were brought from Constantinople in two strains, black and white. Established in America for over a century, it proved early on to be a tireless worker for law enforcement, being so accurate that evidence trailed by a Bloodhound has been accepted in a court of law.

Right Breed for You?
While Bloodhounds are extremely affectionate, they are take-charge dogs, so it is important to be kind, but be the undisputed boss in your household. Bloodhounds should be groomed weekly to eliminate dead hair and facilitate a routine that will help them look, feel, and smell better.

Learn more about purchasing a Bloodhound puppy.

  • Hound Group; AKC recognized in 1885.
  • Ranging in size from 23 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder.
  • Scent tracker.

© The American Kennel Club, Inc.

Robert Forto | Team Ineka | Alaska Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Dog Works Radio | Denver Dog Works


Dr. Robert Forto the owner of Denver Dog Works and Alaska Dog Works, is a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio shows, Mush! You Huskies and Dog Works Radio Shows