Never Ending Story and the Flight Instinct Period

June 24, 2010

My Never Ending Story, a true story

By Leah Morse

Never Ending Story and the Flight Instinct Period of 4-8 months

Bringing Story up while going to school to become a dog trainer was so great.  I would take her to school with me.  This gave me time to train her away from home and to socialize her with a variety of other dogs.

At 16 weeks, Story started to help me learn about the flight instinct period that happens between 16 weeks and 8 months.  This is the age when dogs start to realize their independence and act on it.  It has also been called the age of cutting as this is when they start to “cut” their adult teeth but also realize that there is a great big world out there and they are capable of exploring it with the confidence to leave their owner and in effect “cut the apron strings”.    This is a time of testing to see what they can get away with.  Story was no exception.  We live on almost 40 acres and do not have fencing.  I have always taught our dogs boundaries.  Story wanted to push her boundaries as far as possible.  This is where both Ron, my husband and soul mate, and I had to learn to control our emotions as it was frustrating trying to retrieve a puppy that was half way across our property.  No dog wants to return to an angry owner and this is further exacerbated when a frustrated owner starts to chase the less than cooperative dog.   Fortunately, for us and for Story we got through this phase.

I started a game with all of our dogs called “come-here, go play”.   We have a road that goes around our house and 5 times around is a mile.  We walk every morning, before the dogs have eaten, and we play this game.  I am well stocked with string cheese as we walk.  We start out and I tell the dogs to “go play” they do gladly.  When they have run a bit and are settling done I call them back “Come Here”.  When they get to me we grab collars and give cheese as a reward along with lavish praise.  Then we send them back off to play “go- play”.  In the beginning we treat a lot, then we slowly wean them on to mostly praise but the quickest and most prompt returns get cheese.  If they ever come back to us on their own, they also get cheese.  This teaches that coming when called does not always mean the fun is going to end.  I also try to call them back when they get to about 20 feet to help them learn to stay closer.   If there is a hesitation I either start running and calling in the opposite direction that they are going or I kneel down and start acting silly, this usually peaks their interest.  I really reward them if they leave their area of interest.  I have also really enforced “Leave It!!”  as there are many distractions, especially right now with baby birds on the ground.   I recommend the use of a 20 foot leash to my clients.  After our mile walk of 5 times around I end with their breakfast.  I tell them “let’s go eat!”  They know they are going to get to eat so I never have trouble getting them back into the house.  It works well and I have now done it with Legend and will do it with the puppy that we keep from our current litter.  It works extremely well.

People who only call their dog in at the end of a play session have trouble as the dog quickly figures out this is the end of the play.  Calling your dog to you several times during a play session helps as he/she will never know when it ends and if you are away from home and you have a special treat for when you return to the house or car, it will really help the reliability with your recall work.


Leah Morse is a certified canine trainer and the owner of Rocky Mountain Classic Canine. Leah writes a blog each week for Denver Dog Works

Press Release: Denver Dog Works Hires Leah Morse as a Contract Trainer

June 14, 2010

June 14, 2010


For Information, contact:

Robert Forto, PhD

Denver, CO

303-578-9881 ,

Denver Dog Works hires Leah Morse as a Contract Trainer.

Leah Morse has been hired as a contract trainer for Denver Dog Works of Colorado beginning immediately. Denver Dog Works has been serving canine owners throughout the Denver Metro area for more than three years. Morse best known for her work as a certified canine trainer for her own business Rocky Mountain Classic Canine, will work along with Dr. Robert Forto and Michele Forto in the areas on behavior modification, private lessons and it’s Camp Works Board and Train Program. (Read more…)

Morse is a graduate of Dog Works Training Center’s Canine Career Course and is a certified canine trainer and behavior therapist. Morse is also an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, a member of Mountain States Dog Training Club and a member of the Association for Pet Dog Trainers.

Morse has dedicated most of her life to working with canines. She has over thirty years of experience in the pet industry; from working a a pet store, to a veterinary assistant, and more recently as a breeder of World Class Boxers. Morse continues to broaden her knowledge base in many disciplines of canine training by attending several seminars/lectures each year.


For More Information contact:

Dr. Robert Forto

Denver Dog Works



My Never Ending Story, a true story

June 10, 2010

My Never Ending Story, a true story

By Leah Morse

When I first made the choice to become a professional dog trainer and attend Denver Dog Works Canine Career Courses, it became quickly clear that I really should have a young dog to learn with.  I had two Senior Citizen dogs that did have the stamina to go through school with me.   I found a breeder and, for the first time ever, put down a deposit on a boxer puppy fetus, still several weeks from being born.  I started to learn about canine development from birth through adulthood.  I learned about health and potential issues.  I learned about ranking and owner leadership.  The following spring I picked out my girl puppy from a litter of 11 (sign of things to come) and home we went.  We love to come up with different names and Story seemed to fit.  We would joke about how she was a silly Story, a naughty Story, and a sad forlorn Story and can’t leave out the occasional drama queen!   AKC and UKC registered as Never Ending Story.

I soon found that this was the best decision as watching little Story grow and develop as we learned about the phases that puppies go through really captured my understanding.  We started training from day one.  No on the couch and No jumping were the first rules in place.  Crate training was typical as she had never seen a crate and she was raised in a kennel so dogs were more appealing then people in the beginning.  Fortunately for me, Story did not like to eat alone so we started training position changes right away.  Sit, Down, Stand and come here of course but for fun we worked on roll over and right paw, left paw.  It amazed me how quickly she picked it up, just for kibble (yes I fed her kibble in the beginning- wish I knew more about raw diet back then!).   My family also was on board with having her sit for attention.   Her brain was like an open sponge picking up what we taught her.    By nine weeks she was amazing our family and friends with her little routine of “tricks”.

We socialized her to everything.  We registered her as a therapy dog in training and I took her to Denver Dog Works every day that I went for further training and socialization with other dogs while I was learning to be a dog trainer.  7-12 weeks which is the best time for Human socialization as well as the fear period of 8-11 weeks, were when we took her everywhere, big box stores that allowed us in, parks, friends and family homes and we had lots of company come to the house.  We were so careful to give Story safe encounters with new people, animals or situations.  I do believe we were successful.     Story very quickly warmed up to people and enjoyed our company more than other dogs.  My first lesson in kennel raised puppy versus a home raised puppy.  Story discovered retrieving in this period and created her own game of solitary fetch (you can see my You Tube video by copying and clicking on this link, ).   No one would play with her so she found that by pushing her dumb bell down the stairs it was a great game to go retrieve it and do it again.  She was about 13 weeks old in the video.    Story learned to ring the bell for the door to go potty and was mostly successful at this age.  We were careful to not have her unsupervised.  Accidents are going to happen and now, looking back, each accident was in a different area.  Each accident gave us the opportunity to show where not to go.

I have to say learning the development stages and watching it happen in my own home with my own puppy was very valuable.

Next week- Never Ending Story and the Flight Instinct Period of 4-8 months


Leah Morse is a certified canine trainer and the owner of Rocky Mountain Classic Canine. Leah writes a weekly blog for us at Denver Dog Works.

Things we Should Never Allow our Dogs to Eat

May 28, 2010

Things We Should Never Allow Our Dogs to Eat

By Leah Morse

This week I felt it important to talk about things you should never feed your dog.  Some things might surprise you.  I feed Prey Model Raw Diet to my own dogs and I try to give them the best variety that I can possibly get my hands on.  It is important to know those things that we should never feed our dogs or allow them to get into.  I have chosen a few very common ways that dogs are poisoned.  Just like we should child proof our house the same is true for your dog.  Knowing the dangers of Chocolate, Grapes and raisins, alcohol and antifreeze can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in vet bills.  Especially as busy as we are in today’s society it is easy to overlook simple actions that could save your pets life.  If for any reason you ever suspect that your dog has ingested something dangerous, don’t wait, CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN!

CHOCOLATE:  We have all heard that Chocolate is a bad thing.  You should also know why.  Chocolate has methylxanthines (caffeine and alkaloid theobromine).  This chemical is not toxic to people in amounts found in chocolate and baked goods.  However, it can be lethal to dogs.  A dog that weighs 5-10 pounds could die after eating as little as 4 ounces of baking chocolate.  According to the Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook( by Debra M. Eldredge, DVM, Liisa D.Carlson DVM, Delbert G. Calson, DVM and James M. Giffin, MD), signs of chocolate toxicity occur within hours after the dog ingests the chocolate, including but not limited to hyper-excitability, vomiting, frequent urination, diarrhea, rapid breathing, weakness, seizures, and coma.

GRAPES AND RAISINS:  There has even been a chain email about this one.  You can give your dog acute renal (kidney) failure by allowing your dog to eat Grapes or Raisins.  This can happen from just a few raisins or a pound of grapes!  Keep them away from your dogs!  For more information visit

ALCOHOL:   It never ceases to amaze me how many times I have heard people tell stories about their poor dog that was given alcohol either by accident or on purpose.  This is neither funny nor amusing as it takes less to intoxicate a dog than a human, they don’t understand what is happening to them and it damages their liver and kidneys.  Along with the lack of coordination, poor breathing also comes the possibility of abnormal acidity, coma or death.  Want some entertainment for your party?  Teach your dog some funny tricks and leave the alcohol for those that chose to consume it.

MARIJUANA: It has been featured on the news quite frequently lately.  With all of the legalized medical marijuana available, more and more dogs are getting into it.  The toxin Tetrahydrocannibinal, when ingested is absorbed quickly and causes symptoms of dilated pupils, glazed eyes, drop in body temperature, increase or decrease in heart rate, bizarre behavior, disorientation, depression, coma, excitation, drooling tremors, repertory depression or death.  Once again, this is not a funny thing to do to your pet.  For more information check our this link

ANTIFREEZE:  We have all seen it spilled in our garages, on the driveway or in the gutters.   Antifreeze is so deadly to animals and the worst part about it is that animals seem to like the taste of it.  Some people put it in the toilets of vacation homes to prevent freezing.  Dogs will drink it like cool aid. Less than three ounces is enough to poison a medium sized dog.  Make sure to cleanup leaks and spills as soon as possible and always dog proof a new place before letting your dog in (especially vacation rentals).

Again if you suspect that your pet has ingested something it shouldn’t have.  Don’t wait to call the vet!  Here is a helpful link for poison control for animals .  Knowing more about the ingredients of what you feed your dog is very beneficial to their health and up keep.  Also knowing what is dangerous will also help you keep your dog healthy and out of trouble.   Make sure to follow the directions of your dogs health care provider if he/she has gotten into something bad.  It is not always appropriate to induce vomiting and/or giving water.  Let the professionals help you decided what the best course of action is in the event of an accidental ingestion of a harmful substance. Train Leave It!  to also help prevent  your dog from getting into items they shouldn’t.

What do you think about this article? Let us know by commenting below or sending

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Leah Morse is a certified canine trainer and the owner of Rocky Mountain Classic Canine. Leah writes a weekly blog for Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website

Pit Bulls

May 20, 2010

Some of Leah’s Favorite Pit Bulls

By Leah Morse

Over the years as vet assistant and professional dog trainer I have had some of my favorite dogs that also just happened to be pit bulls.  I feel compelled to write this blog as pit bulls have a bad wrap.  Yes, there are those dogs, through no fault of their own, that have been conditioned to be ferocious and participate in the gruesome sport of pit fighting.  I thought it would be fitting to share some of my experiences as they have been quite entertaining for me.

#1) Red: Red, a red nose pit bull, was quite the big boy.  He was the biggest pit bull that I have ever worked with up close.  I was working as a vet assistant at the time and Red had just moved to Colorado from the south.  Red was coughing uncontrollably and was in pretty bad shape.  I admit he was still a little bit intimidating by his sheer size.  After checking him in and being the handler for the veterinarian I soon realized that this was no demon but an angel in a red furry coat.  The most damage that Red did, as I held him for palpation and exam, blood work and even nail trimming, was the loss of my makeup to his rather busy tongue.  Red had the sweetest melt your heart eyes.  I hardly had to hold him for his nail trim as he was just glad we were touching him.  To my disappointment the diagnosis was severely infected with heartworm.  Red’s heart was dangerously full of the foot long worms that were causing his heart to not function properly and ultimately making him cough.  Prognosis was guarded.  Red was now going to have to endure the dangerous treatment of delicately killing off the worms gradually.  If you don’t kill enough worms it is bad but too many killed off would be deadly.  For weeks Red would come in for treatment.  Always the same goofy big boy who would patiently wait as he was injected with the agent that would kill the worms but also would make him feel sick.  Never once did he fight us or try to bite.  I just knew to bring more makeup with me to work.  Eventually Red was finally cleared of heartworm and given a clean bill of health.  I am thankful for my time with him, he taught me a lot about what pit bulls can be….. Big Lick Machines.   Red will always be my #1 pit in my heart.

2) Jasmine: Also while I was a vet assistant, I had the pleasure of working with Princess, a fawn pit bull.  Princess had been scheduled for a routine spay at about 10 months old.  I will never forget my first impression of her.  Her owner’s girlfriend brought her in with a giant black leather collar, 4 sizes too big, spiked collar hanging crooked off her neck as she slapped both sides of her wiggly body with her wildly wagging tail and swinging hips.  Elvis had nothing on her.  Tongue hanging out, big grin on her face and the prettiest brown eyes ever.  She looked ridiculous with that huge collar, with 3 rows of spikes, hanging on her slender neck.  I half jokingly scolded her owner saying “Spiked Collar?  Princess needs a rhinestone collar!”  Talk about slapstick humor.  Owner sheepishly told me “Yes I agree but my boyfriend insisted on this spike collar for his ‘Tough’ dog”.  I told her “Give me a break!”  Princess willingly went with me to the back for her procedure.  Another Licking Machine!  We relieved her of that burdensome collar as soon as we could. She was such a happy puppy; she was a joy to handle for her injection.  After her procedure she recovered right back into the happy, if not a bit slower, puppy as before.  Again we commented on her demeanor and how inappropriate her collar was after we went over her after care instructions.  2 weeks went by and Princess came back in for vaccination boosters.  Much to our delight, Princess was sporting a brand new purple, triple row rhinestone collar.  Oh, much better to see this happy beautiful girl with rhinestones and not spikes!  What a happy end to this story for her.  A rhinestone collar is so much more disarming as opposed to an alarming 3 row, black leather spike collar.  She is a jewel in my pit bull memory collection.

3) Country: Last is certainly not least!  For the last several months I have had the pleasure of working with Miss Country.  She was a somewhat fearful pit bull with a few behavior problems but yet again has those beautiful eyes.  Trust was definitely an issue for sweet Country.  All new stimuli were a scary experience.  We started at home and then at the vet clinic where her owner works, then we eventually worked from my training school.  I have learned volumes from working with Country, particularly patience and perseverance.  Country did not work at a fast pace.  Progress was made but definitely on Country’s terms.  She did want to learn, you could almost see the wheels turning in her pretty little head.  Learning a simple sit was an exercise in patience.   This is a dog that would freeze if you even thought about going too fast.  Marker training has been a huge blessing with her as corrections would end any possibility of learning what so ever.  Desensitization was also a primary tool.  Everything in my shop was potentially scary.  The radio, a dark area of the shop, a large white trash can, just to name a few obstacles.  I have a door stop in the shape of a buffalo, also terrifying, until a cheese trail led up to the jackpot of cheese that resided near it.  We used the Hansel and Gretel trail of cheese to help her with these scary items with a jack pot near the source.  It seemed to be working.  Then finally, by accident, we discovered incorporating a play session in training helped.  Talk about turning on a light bulb. Country’s learning blossomed!  Went from struggling to get her to “sit!”, “down!” and “stand!” all with her tail between her legs, to full on tail wagging and prancing.  What a complete turn around.  Now, training wasn’t scary but a fun place to come and play.  Again those, melt your heart eyes were now sparkling with happiness.  She began to really excel! After months, we moved quickly form sit, down and stand to off leash heeling, swing and finish, figure 8 heeling, formal come to sit in front and her stays are coming along beautifully in just a few weeks.  Country has completed Level I obedience and is soon to complete Level II.  I love working with Country as she has taught me more than I have taught her!  Country takes up a big open space in my heart!

It is my hope that the next time you see that next pit bull walking down the street, remember my experiences before you judge.  Though all strange dogs should be considered with caution, each dog is still an individual and may not be what their reputation states.

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Tags: Leah Morse | Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works | Rocky Mountain Classic Canine


Leah Morse is the owner of Rocky Mountain Classic Canine and a certified canine trainer. Leah writes a weekly article for our blog at Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at