Archive | January, 2015

Reading Dog Body Language

At the Good Dog Spot, all of our staff are trained in dog behavior and are able to read dog body language in order to maintain a safe and fun play environment for all dogs entrusted in our care. Here are just a few mistakes dogs sometimes make greeting other dogs when they either have no experience, or are too excited to pay attention:

1. RUSHING up to the other dog. Polite approaches should be casual and careful, with curves and pauses to make sure the other dog welcomes the advance. Direct charges will be seen as aggression by the other dog.

2. Making PHYSICAL CONTACT with a dog they don’t know. Like grabbing, hugging, or shaking a stranger, most dogs do not want to be touched by a dog they don’t know. That is reserved for friends and family.

3. Launching into PLAY without introducing themselves first. Playing “at” another dog that hasn’t accepted or offered an invitation to play is not friendly behavior, it’s rather rude and self-indulgent.

4. CONFRONTATIONAL body language. Some “playful” dogs have learned to be addicted to ‘fight play’ and they approach another dog with the express goal of getting a reaction out of them. This includes behaviors like standing taller than the other dog, flagging their tail way up high, heavy panting and direct staring at the other dog…

Your dog needs your help to avoid these preventable mistakes and learn good greeting skills to keep them from getting themselves into trouble with other dogs. Keep them out of situations where they rehearse those behaviors. Prevent your dog from spending too much time with bad “role models” who are also exhibiting those behaviors. Don’t put other dogs in the position of trying to fend off these behaviors and include self-control activities in your training programs.

healthy play

Severe Weather Warning: CLOSED Tues. Jan. 27th

Chicopee schools will be closed tomorrow, in following our Snow Policy,
The Good Dog Spot will be CLOSED tomorrow.

The lobby will be closed all day unless prior arrangements have been made.

You must call today if you will need boarding for tomorrow.

Please stay safe and warm everyone!



Grooming: Husbandry Training

By Carly O’Malley
Senior Pet Care Specialist and Social Media Coordinator – The Good Dog Spot
Ph.D. Student – Animal Behavior and Welfare Group – Michigan State University

Did you know that there are animal caretakers out there that can make the most dangerous animals in the world cooperate for procedures such as blood draws and x-rays? These people are zookeepers and they use positive training. With a click and a treat, they train animals such as lions, rhinos, bears and elephants to willingly participate in veterinary procedures that are vital to their health. Keep in mind that the trainers do not even go in the enclosures with these animals, all the training is done through a fence. That is the power of positive training.

You can use this to your advantage with your own pets. Utilizing positive training techniques, you can train your dog or cat to cooperate at vet visits or at the groomer. Not only will it reduce your pet’s anxiety during these visits, your vet and groomer will LOVE you and your pet. You can easily train your pet to stand still, offer a paw for nail trims or open their mouth for teeth checks. Here are a few tips from Petfinder:

Two or three times a day, play “air” nail clipping.
Have your puppy or dog sit and stay. Lift one paw and pretend to clip all the nails but just clip air! Do the same with all four feet. Once a day, clip ONE nail (only if they need it). Intersperse treats throughout. If you do this religiously, your dog will be well mannered and calm during nail clipping. Now, I don’t continue to do this throughout my dog’s life. Once you’ve established a solid foundation, your dog will only need occasional practice.
If your dog is already averse to nail clipping, you’ll have to break the procedure down to miniscule steps. You may have to start by just holding your dog’s paw and touching each nail, with the nail clippers sitting on a nearby table. Treat frequently. Once the dog is comfortable with this, hold the nail clippers in one hand, while holding the dog’s paw with the other. Next, “air clip” only one nail, give an amazing treat, and quit. Resist progressing until the dog is completely comfortable with the step you’re working on. Again, it’s advisable to do this when the dog is sleepy so you’ll meet with less resistance. Be patient – it can take months to reform an intractable nail “clippee”. If all else fails, trot your dog on pavement every day and your nail clipping activities will be restricted to his dewclaws!

For more information about teaching your dog to cooperate during grooming and veterinary procedures, check out the following links from Petfinder and the ASPCA:

Getting Your Dog Used to Being Groomed
Grooming Your Dog

Dog Training & Behavior: Science Behind Positive Training

By Carly O’Malley

Senior Pet Care Specialist and Social Media Coordinator – The Good Dog Spot

Ph.D. Student – Animal Behavior and Welfare Group – Michigan State University

Lanies Dance Recital 6-07


There are a lot of theories out there about dog training and it can be difficult to sort through them all to find the best method of training for your pets. Here at TGDS, we strongly believe in positive-reinforcement-based training methods.

The theory behind positive training is that you reward your dog for the good behaviors they are doing and ignore the bad ones. Positive training is part of the learning method of operant conditioning, which associates rewards or punishments with certain behaviors. Operant conditioning was proposed and studied by a psychologist named B.F. Skinner as an alternative to classical conditioning, which also teaches through association, but ignores individuality. Both theories are used in modern dog training, but operant conditioning, especially positive reinforcement, tends to provide the animal a choice rather than forcing the animal. Now this does not mean the animal runs rampant while trainers chase after them with treats waiting for them to behave. Typically, trainers start with classical conditioning, laying down a foundation that associates a marker (like a clicker) with behaviors such as sit, down and stay. The more the dog learns that it gets rewarded for those behaviors, the more they offer them. They stop offering behaviors they don’t get rewarded for, like barking for attention and jumping.

The language behind positive-reinforcement training can be confusing. There are four important parts of operant conditioning to define: positive means to add something to the environment; negative means to take something away; reinforcement means to increase the frequency of a behavior; punishment means to decrease the frequency of a behavior.

Now that you understand the meaning behind the language, we will break down how these things play into training.

Positive reinforcement is adding something to the environment to increase the frequency of a behavior. For example, giving a yummy treat every time your dog sits.
Negative reinforcement is removing something to increase the frequency of a behavior. For example, some trainers train recall by turning on a shock collar and continuing to shock the dog until it returns to the trainer. The dog is rewarded by the shock being turned off.
Positive punishment is adding something to the environment to decrease the frequency of a behavior. This is a common method for some dog trainers. For example, yanking on a prong or choke collar when your dog is pulling on the leash.
Negative punishment is removing something to decrease the frequency of a behavior. For example, sending your child to bed without dinner for talking back to you.

That was complicated, we know. The language can be hard to get a grasp on, but the most important thing you need to know about positive training that it is great for strengthening the bond with your pet, increasing confidence and getting a well-behaved pet.

Keep an eye out for this month’s blog article and training contest to learn more about positive training!

Cat Training

By Carly O’Malley

Senior Pet Care Specialist and Social Media Coordinator – The Good Dog Spot

Ph.D. Student – Animal Behavior and Welfare Group – Michigan State University


Cat Training


Who says cats can’t be trained? Cat owners often let their cats exhibit bad behaviors because they believe it is in the cat’s nature. For example, peeing outside the litterbox. Oftentimes owners think this is a normal cat behavior. Not true. Another example, scratching furniture. Cat owners opt to declaw their cat (which is an inhumane procedure) because they believe cats cannot be trained. Also, antisocial cats who hide when people come over. People think this is normal cat behavior. Wrong. Cats are capable of much more and they absolutely CAN be trained. Cats SHOULD be trained. They are trapped in the house all day with little stimulation. If your cat is exhibiting any of the above behaviors training will help (consult a trainer to further address those issues). Using the same techniques you use with your dog, you can help pull your cat out of his shell and give him more confidence. The mental and physical stimulation will make for a very happy and healthy cat.

Step One: Stop free feeding. Cats do not need constant access to food. Free feeding can lead to cats who overeat. Ever eat just because you are bored? Cats will do that all day long if you let them. Cats who have free access to food are much less motivated. Why should they do anything for you? Everything they need is already provided. Start feeding your cat meals at least twice a day. Your cat will become food motivated. He will begin paying more attention to you and be more willing to work.

Step Two: Start small. First, provide your cat a placemat to sit on at meal times. The first thing you will train is called stationing, which will be asking your cat to sit on a mat (his “station”) before meals. Put the mats down. This part can be pretty easy since cats love sitting on things. Typically you will be standing there with a food bowl as well, so as your cat looks up to you, his bum should land on the mat. When your cat is sitting on the mat, give him his food! Cats will learn this pretty quickly. If you have a vocal cat, we recommend waiting for your cat to be quiet or you’ll create a meowing monster. Once your cat is reliably sitting on the mat for meal times, you can start adding more behaviors to your cat’s repertoire.

Step Three: Get creative! Cats are most easily trained with luring and capturing. Luring is using a food item and getting your cat to follow the food item so you can get them to perform the behavior you want. For example, luring them to spin in place, or to lay down. If you have a dog, you probably lured them into a down when you first trained them. It is the same procedure. Capturing is waiting for your cat to perform a behavior and rewarding them for it. Cats can be clicker trained. Some cats are afraid of the sound of the clicker though, so using a marker word, like ‘YES!,’ or something like a whistle could be another option. If you are training something new or using a clicker, get some yummy treats. Some cats can be really picky, but we find soft, stinky treats are the most appealing to cats. Cheese or different types of meat can also work in small amounts.

You can teach your cat all kinds of things, just like with your dog. As we all know, there are tons of cat videos on the internet, and plenty about cat training (only use positive-training with your cat). Some other ways to mentally and physically stimulate your cat are to buy puzzle feeders to feed their kibble in. Trixie Pet Products has some great puzzle feeders for cats (and can be found on Amazon). Once your cat is sitting on a mat you can roll kibble across the floor. Many cats love the opportunity to ‘hunt’ their food and will jump and chase the kibble. It helps them work on those excellent reflexes. A great resource for cat behavior is the cat behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy (

Watch Now: Teach Your Cat Basic Commands!