Freedom-constrained Fido: Off-leash dogs in Durango are OK only at Dog Park

By Sarah Mueller Herald staff writer

(STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald.) Trisha Wytas said the ticket she received for letting her dog run off leash was $48. It would have been $20 more, Wytas said, if she hadn’t had her dog neutered.

Annie Phenix, dog trainer with Phenix Dogs at the Durango Dog College, answers questions about dog etiquette:
What should a good pet owner know about picking up after his or her pet?

“First of all, with the city, it’s illegal not to. Rule No. 1 if your dog goes to the bathroom, you need to pick it up whether it’s on a hiking trail, within the city limits or anywhere in the county.”

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Dog Owners Say the Wackiest Things to Trainers

Please don't bite your dog's ear to show it who is boss. Dog ears are for hearing, not for biting!

Please don’t bite your dog’s ear to show it who is boss. Dog ears are for hearing, not for biting!

A good dog trainer loves humans as much as she loves dogs, because she knows that it was the human who called and scheduled a private consult or signed up for a class for Fido. We train humans to learn to train their dogs.

I love dog people, and many of my clients over the years have become dear friends. Having said that, there are times dog trainers say wha-wha-what? We love you because you are the best of the best of dog owners (since you want to train your dog), but sometimes … well, we just have to scratch our heads at your unique, creative solutions to canine problems. Sometimes we are even shocked (and it is hard to shock us) at what you take as gospel about your four-legged friends.


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Dogster Interviews: We Chat with Dog Trainer Pat Miller

Pat Miller

From her home base on 80 acres she calls Peaceable Paws and Pastures in Hagerstown, Maryland, dog trainer and behavior consultant Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, has reached into every area of the training industry, including punishment-based training (we’ll get to that in a minute).

She’s a respected pro who trains other dog trainers; a highly successful author of six books and star of three DVDs; a blogger; an expert witness regarding canine behavior in courtrooms; a dog, horse, chicken, and pet pig trainer; editor of the popular dog newsletter called The Whole Dog Journal; and she was one of the first to receive certification as a professional dog trainer from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers in 2001.

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8 Ways That I’m an Admittedly “Soft” Dog Trainer

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.
— John Wooden

I won’t ever forget the back porch conversation I had a few years ago with a punishment-based dog trainer. “You’re a soft trainer,” she informed me. “That’s the difference between us.” I smiled wide and agreed with her, even though I knew that from her perspective, being soft was equivalent to being incompetent.

As time rolls by, I feel ever more strongly that yes, I am a soft trainer, and proudly so. Here are ways I manifest this approach.


It’s okay to be gentle with your pup.

This Psychologist’s Border Collie Can Put Away Her Toys by Name — All 1,022 of Them

Blind and deaf Helen Keller needed her teacher, Anne Sullivan, to learn to speak. It happened when Sullivan ran Keller’s hand under running water and then repeatedly spelled out w-a-t-e-r on her palm. Learning to communicate the way all other humans communicate — through language — changed Keller’s life.

Chaser with Darwin, one of her 1,022 named toys.


What if dogs need that kind of wise and patient teacher to take them to new levels of human language? What if a particularly brilliant Border Collie happened to land in a home with an equally brilliant college professor who believed his dog could learn to understand language? It’s already happened. Meet Chaser. She shares her life with retired psychology professor John Pilley of South Carolina.

Pilley says he has scientifically proven that Chaser understands language — way beyond sit, down, and stay — and he chronicles his dog’s journey into language in his just-released book Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). The book is a moving, true-life tribute to a man’s connection with a dog and vice versa. I interviewed Pilley and asked about his and Chaser’s ground-breaking work.

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Today, We’re Turning Your Dog Into a Superhero — Literally

I’ve always thought of dogs as a certain type of hero, put here to help us humans in our stumbling attempts to learn compassion. I think most of you will agree: dogs are not only our steady, loving friends, but heroes in many different ways. But have you ever imagined what your own dog would look like as a superhero? … [Read the complete article on]

Let’s Talk: What’s the Strangest Dog Name You’ve Ever Heard?

My dog Monster really isn’t a monster.

I named my “country-dumped” dog Monster. (“Country dumped” is the term for when people drive their “beloved” pet out to the country and dump him there, assuming he will be fine because someone like me will take him in.) As a puppy, he was a mess of a dog. He bit hands and growled at everyone.

He got his name when I was trying to teach him the concept of “sit” because he was committed to jumping up on people.  At least, he was when he wasn’t growling at them or trying to bite. After I felt he got the concept, I asked for a sit and he continued to bounce up and down in front of me like a pogo stick.  So, I turned my back on him and stood very still, waiting for him to come around to my front. He waited back there for at least a minute and then he jumped up and nipped me on the butt. I turned around and told him he was a “monster,” and that unfortunate name stuck.

Why is it unfortunate? Because with intensive training and a behavior modification program, Monster stopped being a Monster. He learned to be polite and he never bit anyone again. I taught him to lick instead, so I will confess that he licks house guests inappropriately. Anyhow, the Monster-dog who is no longer a Monster got me to thinking about other unfortunate dog names I’ve heard about. Here are some of the highlights, or, well — lowlights — of dog names … [Read the complete article on]

Are Petco’s Dog Training Methods Outdated?

Little Sophia Belle. Image courtesy of the Sophia Belle Memorial Page on Facebook.

Recently there’s been rumbling online regarding the death of a young English Bulldog in a Petco dog training class, and it’s getting hard to ignore the noise — though Petco is doing its corporate best to do just that.

The facts are that Michele Moccia and Michael DiMaggio took their dog, Sophia Belle, to a puppy class at their local Petco and came home without her that evening, because she died during the class. The owners are sure one thing happened to their beloved pet, and Petco wants you to believe another thing. Either way, there is a dead dog, and she died while participating in a class at a large corporation that makes its money from pets. It needs to be looked into, so I decided to see what I could learn about it myself, especially because I am a dog trainer and the event happened during a training class.

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Why Dogs Dig and What You Can Do About It


There are many reasons dogs create unattractive holes in your backyard — unattractive to you, anyway — though one of them is not to irritate you, as many people seem to mistakenly believe. Here are just a few reasons your dog is trying to make it to China before you get home from work (followed by how a little training can change that):


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