VIDEO: What You Can Learn in Dog Tricks Class

Lisa’s Dog Tricks class just finished up their 3rd class, so we thought we’d show off a bit of what they’ve learned.

Check out these super duper pups: Bodhi the collie, Beryl the lab, Syrio the cocker spaniel, and Xander the beagle mix.

Other tricks (beyond the video!) the class has worked on so far:

  • Rest head on human’s hand
  • Nod for “Yes”
  • Shake head for “No”
  • Back up
  • Paw target, used for things like:
    • Pressing an Easy Button (they sell fun ones that say Yes/No/Maybe/Sorry)
    • Playing the piano
    • (and about a million other tricks!)

If you’re interested in signing up for Dog Tricks the next time it’s offered, you can learn more about the class and put your email on the wait list by going to the class page. (Waitlist is at the very bottom.) Have a young human (ages 9-13) that wants to learn how to teach tricks? Our kids’ instructor, Hedda, offers a Kids & Dogs: Tricks class.

We look forward to seeing you in class!

Congratulations to YDF Agility Student, Kerfuffle!

Congrats, Kerfuffle!

Congrats, Kerfuffle!

Congratulations to YDF student, Kerfuffle the Cockapoo, on his recent agility titles! In July, Kerfuffle earned his CL1-F (Fun Games, Level 1) title at the CPE (Canine Performance Events) agility trial in Frederick, Maryland. This past weekend, Kerfuffle earned his CL1-S (Standard, Level 1) title at the CPE agility trial in Knoxville, Maryland.

His mom reports that he is getting better and better at each trial (and she aspires to be the best handler she can be for him!). Kerfuffle has attended several classes at Your Dog’s Friend, most recently Canine Good Citizen Prep and Agility.

Upper photo by Key4prints.

Bottom photo by Herefordogs.

Foster Dog Alliance: Rex the Fearful Dog’s Journey, part 1


Written by E. Foley

Meet Rex.

He is a 7-year-old Cocker Spaniel mix and a foster dog with Oldies But Goodies Cocker Spaniel Rescue. Rex and 15 of his dog friends were living on a farm in West Virginia and after a family tragedy, the rescue was called to help rehome the dogs.

Many of these dogs are people-fearful. If I had to guess, I’d say they were raised by the other dogs on the property and didn’t have the socialization with people that puppies need to be well-adjusted adult dogs.

My OBG Cocker Rescue alum, Titania, also has issues with fear around new people, so I volunteered to foster Rex and help him in his rehabilitation in the hopes that we can place him in a forever home.

Rex’s initial behaviors:

  • 100% avoiding people
  • Will freeze if anyone touches him
  • Tries to make himself as small as possible
  • Loses control of his bowels when touched or picked up

The only real “bonus” to Rex’s initial behaviors was that he was not a fear-biter. However, I knew to always treat him as if he *could* bite, because any dog can bite when pushed beyond their tolerance level.

Rex’s progress is thanks to several people beyond our immediate family.

Here’s a timeline of Rex’s progress:

3/13 - We bring home Rex and set him up a habitat with a covered crate.

3/13 – We bring home Rex and set him up a habitat with a covered crate. We open up the door behind him so he can potty on pee pads in our bathroom since he’s too afraid to go outside. Eventually we opened up the bathroom so he could go into our bedroom, which resulted in Rex’s next choice…

3/15 - Rex hides in the bedroom closet and will not come out. Or eat.

3/15 – Rex hides in the bedroom closet and will not come out. Or eat.

I had to move Rex from the closet because he wasn’t going to make any progress at all if he hid 24/7. For the next few days, he lives in his habitat. He breaks out of the habitat at night and paces around the house. We let him do it, even though it involves him relieving himself on the floors, because it’s giving him the opportunity to explore without the fear of running into any people.

3/20 - Rex pops his head into the living room when we're in it, and thinks about staying there, but then will go back around the corner into the kitchen.

3/20 – Rex pops his head into the living room when we’re in it, and thinks about staying there, but then will go back around the corner into the kitchen.

At this point for Rex, the “reward” for his behavior is that we do not look at him or engage with him in any way. Since he’s only eating when nobody is watching, it wouldn’t work for us to toss treats to him at this point. We want him to realize that he can come into the living room and nothing bad will happen. In fact, NOTHING will happen!

Another new behavior - he is opening his mouth! Up until now, he's been tight-lipped. Now he's relaxing his jaw a bit and opening his mouth to pant a little.

Another new behavior – he is opening his mouth! Up until now, he’s been tight-lipped. Now he’s relaxing his jaw a bit and opening his mouth to pant a little.

3/21 – Rex is curious. He will come out and peek at people and then run back to his safe place. We just ignore him and let him test the waters. I was making dog meatballs in the evening and he was curious about all the delicious smells in the kitchen. I tossed a piece 10 ft away from me and he crept up and ate it!

3/27 – This past week, there are days when he’s very curious and will follow my dog and me around the house or pop his head into the living room to watch us watching TV. But there are also days when he just wants to curl up in his crate and not engage with us. So we’ve been letting him set the pace as much as possible.

This morning, I made a trail of rotisserie chicken pieces from his crate to the kitchen and then half-hid myself around a corner. Watched him come out and eat one piece, then the next, then the next. He peeked up and saw me and was a little spooked, but then came back for the biggest piece that was a few feet away.

4/4 – Rex eats his entire breakfast with me in the room!

(Before, he would wait until everyone left, no matter how hungry he was.)

(Before, he would wait until everyone left, no matter how hungry he was.)

4/4 – Rex licks my hand! There was kielbasa in it. He wasn’t quite brave enough to eat the kielbasa from my hand, tho.

4/5 – Rex eats treats in the living room. (Video below!)

4/6 – Rex ate two pieces of kielbasa from my hand. Rex eats his dinner in the living room.

4/8 – Rex eats treats from right next to my leg! (Video below!)

4/11 – Rex won’t eat from my hand unless it’s a super high-value item, but allows me to touch him while he eats. We worked up to this. At first I left the kibble in front of him and pet and then took my hand out. Then I slowly worked toward leaving my hand closer. And closer. And then left my fingertips touching him. Finally he was able to eat with me touching! (Video below.)

Progress starts to roll around quicker now that Rex is reliably seeing people as a source of food, not fear.

4/12 - Rex checks out the people from the edge of the living room.

4/12 – Rex checks out the people from the edge of the living room.

4/13 – I rearranged some furniture in the back room and set Rex back a little bit. He’s more skittish, but still trying to follow me around the house.

4/15 - 90% of the food Rex ate today came directly from my hand. Rex is also choosing to sit closer to me. (Picture is without zoom! Photobomb by my dog, Titania.)

4/15 – 90% of the food Rex ate today came directly from my hand. Rex is also choosing to sit closer to me. (Picture is without zoom! Photobomb by my dog, Titania.)

4/15 – I was in bed, about to fall asleep, when I heard a chewing sound. My first thought was that my dog had stolen the bully stick from Rex’s crate, which I have had in there since Day 1. But I checked and my dog was sound asleep at my feet. So I flipped on the lights and snapped a picture.

Dogs will not engage in chewing behavior unless they're feeling comfortable enough in their surroundings. HUGE STEP for Rex!

Dogs will not engage in chewing behavior unless they’re feeling comfortable enough in their surroundings. HUGE STEP for Rex!

4/16 – Rex starts a little clicker training. He’s not brave enough to target my hand yet, so I clicked and treated for eye contact. I used my quiet clicker and after a few times, I could see his ears perk up every time he heard the click. Click means treat!

4/18 – Rex did something this morning that approximated begging! The pups were in the kitchen, so I thought I’d see if I could get Rex to eat somewhere new. So I took a chicken cookie out of the fridge and broke it into pieces and gave one to Rex and one to Titania. Rex ate it! And then he stood there and made eye contact for a long moment. So I gave him more. More eye contact. And despite my opening the fridge to get more cookies and closing it again, he stayed in the kitchen and totally kept eating.

4/20 – Rex chose to sit at the edge of the living room to watch us watching TV.

4/23 – Rex chose to sit in the living room with my boyfriend when I was not around.

4/24 – Rex is choosing to be in the living room with the people more often than not.

4/27 - Rex takes his bully stick from the crate in the bedroom and brings it into the living room so he can chew it on the floor by the couch (where I am watching TV).

4/27 – Rex takes his bully stick from the crate in the bedroom and brings it into the living room so he can chew it on the floor by the couch (where I am watching TV).

5/1 – An amazing sight: REX’S TAIL! This morning when I woke up, he was standing at the bedroom door with my dog and his tail was up and even wagging a little bit. AMAZING. I wish I had a picture, but it was too dark to snap one.

5/2 - Rex eats treats out of my boyfriend's hand.

5/2 – Rex eats treats out of my boyfriend’s hand.

Rex is doing extremely well, but he has a long way to go before he is anywhere near being a “normal” dog. Working with a fearful dog is all about celebrating the baby steps and making sure that the dog feels safe at all times. Sure, there will be times when they’ll be at the edge of their comfort zone, but allowing the dog a safe place to retreat and regroup is key to the rehabilitation process.

Right now, Rex is asleep on the living room floor next to me. He is on his side and 100% zonked out, breathing very slowly and deeply. This is a totally huge deal and I can’t help grinning from ear to ear watching him sleep. He feels safe enough to sleep deeply while I am not a foot away. He’s one special boy and he’s getting better and better every day!

Do You Have a Fearful Dog?

We have two classes suitable for the fearful dog. Our Fearful Dog Class is currently full for June, but you can join the waitlist to be notified when we offer the next session. We also have a Confidence Building Class for dogs that are just a little shy. We’ll be announcing new dates for this class soon, so join the waitlist to be emailed as soon as we set a date!

On Sunday, June 29, from 1:00 – 3:30 pm, we will host a free workshop for parents of fearful dogs.

We will discuss strategies for overcoming your dog’s fear of people, inside and outside of the home. Fear of strangers, children, veterinarians, groomers, and family members will all be covered. Learn to identify when your dog is moving into a fearful state; help your dog in that moment; and work toward alleviating your dog’s fears more permanently.

Speaker: Jeni Grant, CPDT-KA ( and

NOTE: This workshop is on a Sunday and 1/2 hour earlier than our usual time.

Please click to register in advance so we have enough handouts for everyone. Thanks!

Agility Students Earn New Titles: Congrats Whisper & Titania

agilityribbonsYour Dog’s Friend offers many agility classes and while the majority of our students play for fun, we have a few students who have challenged themselves to enter local trials and compete.

Congratulations to Whisper the Border Collie and Titania the Cocker Spaniel, who both earned their CL1-S titles in Canine Performance Events agility this past weekend. (Those are the big white ribbons!) To earn the CL1-S Title, Titania and Whisper each had to earn qualifying scores in the strategy games Jackpot and Snooker. Congrats, girls!

But that’s not all!

Did we mention Whisper is deaf? That’s right, she can’t hear a single command her mom says! Whisper has attending classes at Your Dog’s Friend since Basic 1, where her mom used a keychain flashlight instead of a clicker. She’s living proof that deaf dogs are just as trainable as hearing ones!

And Titania is a fearful dog.  YDF trainer Michelle remembers Titania’s first appearance in Basic Manners 1 two years ago: she spent most of it cowering behind her mom’s legs! Positive training has greatly increased her confidence and when you see her zooming around the agility course, you wouldn’t think she was anything other than a normal, happy dog.

Our Agility Classes

  • Agility Games: Body awareness exercises (“I have back paws too?”), learning jumps, tunnels, and dog walk, basic agility handling skills.
  • Agility 1: For graduates of Agility Games, this class continues to build up the bond between dog and handler while working on short courses.
  • Agility 2: More advanced handling skills, teeter, obstacle discrimination, and longer courses.
  • Agility 3: All of the above, plus crosses, distance handling, and more!

Due to the popularity of our agility classes, you may have to sign up for our waiting list. When a new section of the class opens up, you’ll receive an email letting you know to register.

Titania’s Wildcard Run

A Wildcard course is a numbered course that has three forks in the path. The dog and handler must choose two obstacles labeled “A” and one labeled “B” in order to successfully complete the course.

Whisper’s Snooker Run

Snooker is a strategy game in which dog and handler must collect points the following order: red jump, any obstacle, different red jump, any obstacle, a third red jump, any obstacle. Then the course is done from obstacle 2 through 7, ending at the table.


Whisper & Titania would like to thank their teacher, Michelle, for all her help and support!

Two Inspirational Stories About YDF Students

Although our sports classes are for fun, we do have some students who want to compete. We have always had a lot of Nose Work students (too many to mention) who take that next step, and many have gone on to receive both titles and awards. This weekend seemed particularly special! We had a number of Reactive Dog Class graduates, along with other students, do extremely well in Nose Work trials. One of our Obedience Skills for Competition student teams received their CD title. And, as you will read below, an Agility dog accomplished quite a lot in the Agility ring.  A trainer can only tell you how to get there, but you have to do the work and find joy and love with the dog you have, even when there are issues you never expected. Congratulations to all of you!

We want to highlight two rescue dogs from this weekend’s Nose Work trials and Agility competition that have come a long, long way. Each story shows just how much a great dog parent can accomplish!

"Why are you so excited, Mom?"

“Why are you so excited, Mom?”

Erin Foley and Titania participated in their first CPE Agility trial this weekend and earned a qualifying score in their Colors course run! Titania came into Erin’s life 18 months ago from OBG Cocker Spaniel rescue. Someone had called the shelter, saying that a Cocker Spaniel had been tied to a gazebo for three days. She was horribly matted and infested with fleas. Erin first attended one of our Adopters Workshops, came with Titania to our Basic Manners class, and then on to Advanced Manners, Agility Games, and Agility. When we first met Titania, she hid behind Erin’s legs. She was terrified of all new sights, sounds, movement, and people. For Titania to be able to attend an event with dozens of strangers and to focus and enjoy herself on the Agility course is a huge accomplishment! Thanks to Erin’s commitment, Titania is not that same anxious dog that she was 18 months ago. Check out the cool picture taken by photographer Rich Knecht at the event – Cockers use their ears to fly!

Here is a video of their Colors course run, which earned them a Qualified Score:

Sara Tyler, Marielena McGuire, and Kathy Hayes with their proud instructor, Rachel Binfield

In this weekend’s Nose Work trial, Marielena McGuire and Shadow received The Harry Award, “given to the most outstanding rescue dog that demonstrates extraordinary ability and spirit in nose work”, as well as a Nose Work 1 title. In the summer of 2010, when Shadow was 7 years old, Marielena had already had a reactive dog for five years. At 2, Shadow had started growling at other dogs; if the other dog responded, Shadow would try to attack. Shadow was also sensitive to loud noises (even to shouting at sports events on TV), and thunder would make her shiver and hide. Marielena brought her middle-aged dog first to the Reactive Dog Class and then to Basic Manners 1 & 2, Agility, and Nose Work. When Marielena and Shadow won The Harry Award this weekend, it celebrated not only the team’s Nose Work performance, but also the special relationship between a rescue dog and her person.

Congrats, Ace! Big Success in Reactive Dog Class

reactiveclassCongratulations to Ace & his family for this big huge success last night in Reactive Dog Class!

For those unfamiliar with the class, here’s a quick lesson. Reactive dogs are ones that bark and lunge at other dogs or at people. They’re frequently mislabeled as “aggressive,” when most reactive behavior is related to fear. The dog has learned that acting tough (barking/lunging) will result in the other dog or person going away. Reactive Dog Class works in baby steps to rehabilitate these dogs so they are less fearful and thus, less reactive.  (Read more on Dog Reactive-Dogs and People-Reactive Dogs.)

Back to the story!

The mottled puppy on the left is Ace, and he’s a reactive dog. The black and white dog is Mozart, who is the furry assistant for the class. Instructor Michelle Mange and her assistants said that last night’s class was amazing for all the dogs but especially for Ace.

He would look at Mozart and then look away. (Huge thing for a reactive dog to be able to do this!)

He was super calm. (Yay, Ace!)

And they got closer and closer. Closer and closer.

To have a reactive dog at this close a distance to another dog is pretty much unheard of! But Ace did it!

Reactive Dog Class

We have two new sections of Reactive Dog class starting this spring. One begins on Wednesday, March 27th and the other begins on Wednesday, May 22. As always, if you have questions, feel free to contact us.