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How to Help Your Dog with Grooming

Training Your Dog To Be A Good Grooming Clientdog groomed

People often wonder why they pay more to get their dog groomed than they might for their own haircut. One of the many reasons is that grooming dogs is hard! Groomers spend their days wrestling dogs into bathtubs, trying to get dogs to stay still while trimming their coat, all while trying not to get bitten, scratched, peed or pooped on.  If you want to become your groomer’s favorite client, work on teaching your dog some of these husbandry behaviors. Husbandry behaviors are behaviors you can teach your dog that allow them to voluntarily participate in their own health care in a less stressful way.

Here are some behaviors you can train to make them a better grooming client:

  • Stand: We often teach our dogs sit and down, while heavily rewarding our dogs for offering these behaviors, but teaching them to stand on command can be just as important, especially at the groomers. Watch this video to see how to train your dog to stand on command.
  • Stand Still: Great, you got your dog to stand, but that does the groomer no good if your dog stands for a second then sits back down or becomes all wiggly and excited. To teach your dog to stand still, start extending the amount of time between when your dog stands and when they get the treat, and then keep treating while they stand to encourage them to stay in the position and not move. While treating to keep your dog to stand still, introduce the command for the behavior, such as “still” or “stay.” When you are done, use a release word to let them know it is OK to move.
  • Nail Trims: Train your dog to be a pro at nail trims using the tips in this video! The trick is to take it slow and make the experience positive and relaxed. If you are experienced with a clicker, it’s highly recommended to use a clicker to train your dog to be comfortable with nail trims.
  • Handling: Groomers usually have to touch your pet all over in order to properly bathe and clip them, so it is important to desensitize your dog to being touched in different parts of the body. Many dogs are sensitive to their ears, faces, and paws, and some dogs don’t like their stomachs or parts of their back to be touched if they were not properly socialized as a puppy or if they had a painful experience in the past. Identify your dog’s sensitive areas and then use clicker training or other positive reinforcement methods to get them used to being touched in that area, similar to the methods seen in the nail trimming video. Again, take it slow and keep it positive! Be sure to let your groomer know if your dog has sensitive areas so that they can approach them cautiously.

Finally, one of the most important things you can do at home to ensure your dog is a good grooming client is to stay on top of your dog’s grooming! Many dogs learn to dislike the groomers because they may go in matted, tangled, or with overgrown nails. This can make the grooming process painful for the dog and create a negative association with being groomed. Regular brushing at home, keeping nails trimmed and filed down, and keeping your dog on a grooming schedule appropriate for their breed and coat type will help make grooming a more positive and relaxing experience for everyone.

Clicker Training for Your Dog

Clicker TrainingDog clicker training

We talk a lot about clicker training at TGDS so you might be wondering what it is and why you should use it when training your dog. Clicker training is a form of classical conditioning, where a neutral stimulus (click) is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (food). It is a positive reinforcement training technique where you use the click from the clicker to “mark” the behavior you want from your dog. For example, if you want to teach your dog to sit, you would wait for your dog to place their butt on the ground then click the moment they do to let your dog know that is the behavior you want. In order for the clicker to work, it has to be “charged.” In other words, the sound of the click has to be paired with a positive reward, such as a treat, to build the association that a click means the dog did something good. To charge the clicker, you click and treat multiple times in a row. Your dog will quickly learn that the click means a treat is coming, and then the clicker will become your most powerful training tool. To maintain the power of the tool you must always pair the click with a treat, even if you make a mistake in clicking. In more advanced training, there can be a longer time between click and treat, or during a sequence of behaviors, but for novice trainers you must always pair a click with an immediate treat.

Many animals, including dogs, learn by the consequences of their behavior and they will only do behaviors that work for them, meaning behaviors that give them some sort of reward or gain. Whenever your dog is doing a behavior, think about what he is gaining by doing it. If your dog is doing a behavior you don’t like, ask yourself what is rewarding about that behavior. For example, if your dog jumps on you, do you pay attention to him? That is rewarding whether you pet the dog or yell at him. Why does your dog pull on leash? Dogs pull to get to a spot them want to sniff. If they get to that spot, then you just rewarded the pulling. Clicker training helps you accurately target the behaviors you want your dog to do more of and provide a reward with the behavior. The more your dog gets rewarded for those good behaviors, the more he will offer them and the less he will offer behaviors he does not get rewarded for.

Learning by consequence is called operant conditioning. There are four quadrants of operant conditioning: positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement, and negative punishment. Positive reinforcement is defined as adding something to the environment to increase the occurrence of a behavior (e.g., treat for sitting). Positive punishment is defined as adding something to the environment to decrease the occurrence of a behavior (e.g., bark collars that adds a shock to decrease barking). Negative reinforcement is taking something away from the environment to increase the occurrence of a behavior (e.g., releasing pressure on a choke or prong collar when your dog stops pulling). Negative punishment is taking something away from the environment to decrease the occurrence of a behavior (e.g., removing your attention when your dog jumps on you or gets mouthy). Scientific evidence shows that positive reinforcement training methods are as effective, if not more effective than aversive training methods (those that rely on positive punishment and negative reinforcement, e.g., shock collars or choke collars), and are better for dog welfare.

One of the main concerns with using clicker training is that you will always have to have treats on you for your dog to listen. This is not true. Clicker training is merely a tool to teach your dog the behaviors in a quick, efficient manner that they understand, and then you can gradually remove the clicker. It still helps to have treats on you for the occasional reward, but once the dogs learn the behaviors they will continue to offer them even without the click and treat. They usually do so enthusiastically as well, because they have a positive association with training and are excited to work with you.

If you are interested in implementing clicker training into your training, there are many great online resources or you can sign up for a local class with Exercise Finished or Dakin Humane Society. The staff at the TGDS is also experiences with clicker training, so feel free to ask us any questions! Happy clicking!

For more information on clicker training visit Karen Pryor’s website.

Other sources:
Ziv, G. 2017. The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs – A review. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. 19:50-60.

Rate Changes To Take Effect In 2018

To our valued TGDS family,

Effective January 1, 2018, there will be changes to our rates, packages, and memberships. These price increases reflect our commitment to providing you with the best possible pet care available, delivered to you by knowledgeable and adept staff. We live in a society that values people. 2017 was the final stage of the $3/hour minimum wage increase which has been great for new employees but also devalued staff who have been with us for a longer period (unless we increased their pay as well). The Earned Sick Time laws provide all staff with necessary time off, however, it comes with a price tag to maintain adequate staffing levels to keep your pet safe. We value your business and love your dogs!

What makes The Good Dog Spot the best spot for your dog?

Let’s look at some of the ways!

  • Our daycare is a behavior-based daycare. We are dedicated to improving your dog’s behavior both here and at home. Throughout the day, your dog is asked to perform commands in and out of the group. If he doesn’t know them, we teach him! This improves compliance to you at home. Think about it; if he will sit, lay down, stay and come while playing with all of his best friends, it is simple for him to respond to these commands at home in a less distracting environment.
  • Our educated staff knows dogs. We are members of the Dog Gurus, an Association for our industry that places an emphasis on dog safety in off-leash play. Our staff is trained in the Dog Gurus’ Knowing Dogs program during their first 6 months of employment to ensure they are educated on subtle cues and body language that allows them to understand your dog’s mental state and make good decisions regarding his playgroup and routine. Staff watch for signs of stress and anxiety so that they can adapt the situation to best fit your dog’s needs. This knowledge allows them to prevent issues and altercations before they arise. Likewise, we use our knowledge of behavior to choose appropriate play groups which are both safe AND fun for your dog and his friends. All staff completes a Pet First Aid and CPR class within 9 months of employment with us.
  • Safety is our number one priority. Your dog is supervised at all times by trained, knowledgeable staff. He is in a playgroup suitable for his age, size, and personality. He plays without a collar or equipment that could lead to injury or entrapment. Our entire facility is designed around a double gate system to ensure there are at least 2 doors or gates between your pet and the outside to prevent escape.
  • We care about your relationship with your dog and value it. If we can help in any way, we will. We know your dog is your best friend and a member of your family. He’s also a member of OUR family and we care about his best interests above all else.
  • We know each and every dog that walks through our door; everything from the sound of their bark to their favorite playmate to their favorite spot to be scratched. He’s not “just a dog.” He’s your dog, and he’s our friend.

All of us at The Good Dog Spot wish you a happy and healthy New Year. We look forward to serving you and your dog this year and for many years to come. Rate cards and info will be available soon in both our locations. If you have any questions or concerns about our rate increases or any of our practices, please don’t hesitate to talk to us. As always, we welcome your input!


Elizabeth Staples,

Cory Staple,
Director of Operations

Get Certified in Pet CPR & First Aid

We all remember learning CPR and basic first aid in health class, but have you thought about taking a course which covers this topic as it relates to your pet? As a pet parent, it is important to know the appropriate steps to take in an emergency.  Jim Helems of Pet Tech has made it easier for pet owners to understand first aid with his PetSaver Training class. Jim travels throughout the Pioneer Valley offering this training class, and next month he will be offering this course at The Good Dog Spot!

With this one-day training course you will know what to do when Rover steps on a nail or Molly misses a step while running down a flight of stairs. The tips offered in this class will help you learn how to react and potentially save your pet’s life! The course also offers information on how to prevent these horrible accidents from occurring in the first place.


Emergencies happen and sometimes rushing to the veterinarian is not as effective as performing CPR right away. When it comes to Pet CPR, it is much different than human CPR. It involves 30 compressions, two breaths and will need to be repeated four times. During the PetSaver class, you will learn how to deliver these effective compressions and breaths, thus allowing for you to be prepared during any situation.

Pet First Aid

When your dog steps on a tack or breaks a toenail, it is important to know how to assess the injury appropriately. Wounds are often hidden by fur and can be small, making it difficult to locate. When these wounds are not tended to right away it can lead to major infection. Recognizing the type of bleed is also important as each wound is different. Cleaning the wound with antiseptic and appropriately covering it is imperative. In some cases this method is only a temporary fix and you may need to immediately book a visit to the veterinarian.

Take action as a responsible pet parent and sign up for the PetSaver Training class. Participants will receive a certificate upon completion of the one-day course. The cost is $120 and will take place at the Chicopee location on January 14th and at the Northampton location on January 21st. You may register online by following the links below.

Chicopee PetSaver Training Class

Northampton PetSaver Training Class

Canine Flu

We have begun to receive calls and have pet parents picking up and dropping off their loved ones start asking about Canine Flu.  We wanted to provide this information to provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.  

Possible Prevention

If your pet has a weakened immune system, is a young puppy, or is a senior dog, refrain from bringing him/her to social settings where they will come into contact with large amounts of dogs. Boost your pet’s immune system at home by supplementing plain full-fat yogurt, a probiotic, Colloidal Silver, or Colostrum to their diet. Lastly, speak with your vet about a vaccination plan that is best for your dog’s individual needs.

H3N2 Symptoms & Facts

  • Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, fever, lethargy, eye discharge
  • and reduced appetite
  • 1 case has been confirmed in Hadley, MA at Valley Vet (December 1, 2017)
  • It cannot spread to humans
  • H3N2 is very contagious, and can spread from dogs to cats
  • Puppies, elderly, pregnant, and dogs that travel or socialize with other dogs are at the highest risk for H3N2

If your Dog shows Flu Symptoms

  • Keep your dog separate from healthy animals.
  • Call your vet to alert them, and use a side entrance (not the waiting room)
  • when visiting the vet.
  • Tell your vet if your dog has been to kennels, dog shows, daycare, dog parks,
  • or other events with many animals present.
  • Change clothes after interacting with your sick animal.
  • If your dog is diagnosed with H3N2, tell the owners of any other pets your dog has potentially exposed to the virus.
  • Also, if your dog has been diagnosed with the H3N2 virus, notify any pet care/ training facilities your dog has attended in the last two weeks.

Also, as a reminder, the Vaccination Policy at TGDS will remain the same (we require only the rabies vaccination and suggest clients have an in-depth conversation with their veterinarian about their personal needs, lifestyle and beliefs regarding vaccines). We encourage anyone who receives a live virus vaccination (for canine cough or canine flu) to refrain from attending daycare for at least 3 to 5 days after vaccination to prevent spreading the virus or contracting a mild case themselves.

For a printable copy of this information sheet please click here.

Holiday Pet Safety Tips

Here is a list of holiday items to be mindful of to ensure you and your pets make it through the holiday season in one piece.

Holiday Treats

Many traditional holiday foods contain ingredients that are toxic to our pets. Make sure all food, sweets, and adult beverages are kept out of reach of pets and instruct your guests not to share. Be especially mindful of young kids. Little kids are at perfect sharing height, so your pet will quickly learn to hover to get lots of yummy, but potentially dangerous treats. Small dogs and cats are especially at risk, as they only need a small amount of ingredients to start feeling the negative effects. If your dog is a counter surfer or likely to get into the trash, it might be in their best interest to keep them put away during the party or arrange a sleepover for them at TGDS! Better to have them miss out on the party then have to rush them to the emergency room. It is a good idea to have the phone number for your local emergency vet clinic and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center phone number (1-888-426-4435) on the fridge in case of an emergency.

Foods your dog should not eat include chocolate, grapes or raisins, onions, garlic, turkey bones, xylitol sweetener, excessively salty foods, yeast dough, seasoned meats and gravy, and alcohol.

Signs your dog may have eaten something toxic include drooling, lip licking, vomiting, lethargy, refusing to eat, diarrhea, constipation, and any other abnormal behaviors. 

Seasonal Decorations

Dogs and cats are curious, playful animals, which means they can get themselves into a lot of trouble over the holiday season. To prevent any disasters, here are some tips:

  • Secure your tree to prevent any climbing cats from knocking it over.
  • Place valuable tree decorations towards the top. Playful paws or happy tails will likely knock off any low-hanging decorations.
  • Avoid decorating your tree with tinsel to prevent your pets from swallowing it.
  • Skip the holiday plants if you have a plant chewer. Poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, lilies, and the Christmas tree can all pose a risk to your pet if ingested (particularly to cats!).
  • Monitor your pets around any new plants and the tree to make sure they aren’t chewing and swallowing them.
  • Many pets enjoy drinking the Christmas tree water, which can contain bacteria, mold, or chemicals from the tree. Many retailers offer pet-proof tree stands to prevent your pet from drinking or playing in the water.
  • In general, monitor your pet for the first couple days after putting out new decorations to see how they will behave. This will help you identify any problems sooner than later.


Busy holiday seasons and frequent visitors often disrupt our pets’ normal schedules and training routines. Monitor your pet for signs of stress or for inappropriate interactions with your guests. Not all guests are pet savvy or recognize signs of discomfort. Be especially mindful of interactions with children. Even if you have the most patient dog in the world they need to be given their space and the ability to get away when they are uncomfortable. All interactions with children should be monitored closely, especially if the dog has food or valuable toys or bones around. Children should be instructed to be calm around any pets, and be taught to pet nicely, rather than to pull tails or ears, sit on or hug. The last thing anyone wants to do on a holiday is to rush a child to the emergency room because of a bite or scratch from a stressed-out pet. To prevent any problems, give your pet safe places to go away from the commotion and instruct children to leave the animal alone if they go to their safe space. This could be a bedroom, their crate, or a bed. Don’t be afraid to give your guests guidance on how to interact safely with your pets or to encourage them to follow your training protocols. If you have a nervous pet, it may be best to keep them away in a separate room or to board them with us at TGDS to prevent any disasters.

Winter Activities To Do With Your Dog

We have been lucky so far this winter to have warmer days that allow us extra outdoors time with our pets but soon it will be cold, snowy, and icy which will make exercising our pets much harder. Some dogs will play outside no matter the temperature or weather, but that doesn’t mean you want to join them so here are some fun activities you can do with your dog this winter to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.

  • Enroll in a training class. Even if your dog is well-behaved and knows many of the basics, training classes are a great way to bond and spend quality time with your dog in a new environment. The new sights, sounds, people, and dogs will be very stimulating for your dog and will help tire them out more than if you were at home. You might even meet a friend for your dog so you can schedule puppy play dates throughout the winter. There are many different types of classes beyond basic obedience, so maybe you and your dog can find a new hobby or sport to try this winter. If you have a reactive or fearful dog, there are classes that are designed for you too! These classes will give you the tools you need to help your dog feel more comfortable.
  • Brush up on training at home. Is there something you have always wanted to teach your dog but never do? Try it this winter! There are plenty of training videos and suggestions online. You could learn a new behavior every week or month, depending on how ambitious you feel! Just be sure the videos you find use only POSITIVE training methods. One suggestion you could try is putting names with all of your dog’s toys and ask them to bring them to you by name. You could also then hide the toys around the house and ask your dog to find them.
  • Practice recalls in the house. One activity that is fun and productive is practicing having your dog come when called while in the house. This is best done with multiple people. Have each person pick a place in the house and call the dog to keep them running back and forth for a while. You could have people switch locations each time and play hide and go seek with the dog. To play the game alone, teach your dog a reliable “stay”, ask them to “stay” while you hide then call them to you.
  • Feed your dog in a puzzle feeder. This will help enrich your dog’s mind. There are many different models of puzzle feeders so switch them up or get create with what is in your house. You could hide kibble in empty bottles, boxes, or paper bags and let your dog figure out how to get it out (bonus: let your dog tear apart the boxes or paper bags. It will make a mess but your dog will have a great time).
  • Hide food and treats around the house. Then let your dog sniff them out!
  • Go to pet-friendly stores. Bring your dog to your local pet store and explore up and down the aisles. Work on some training while you’re at it. Finally, end the excursion with some new treats or toys! To find out which stores are dog-friendly, check out this list by Huffington Post. Always call your local store to be sure you can bring your pooch along.
  • Get creative. You know best what your pooch likes so find new and exciting ways to stay active this winter together!

Bone Broth Benefits for Your Dog

During these cold winter months, broth can be a great addition to any meal. Not only will it help make the meal hearty and delicious, bone broth has amazing health benefits and allows you to use up all the leftover parts of those holiday meats. Bone broths contain many important nutrients, such as protein, minerals, and amino acids, that can help keep you healthy throughout cold season (there is a reason chicken noodle soup is a cold-fighting staple).

Making your own bone broth is nutritious, cost-effective and easy, and allows you to make it just the way you like it without any additives or fillers. You can use the broth to make soups or stews for meals during the week. You can also use the broth to make rice or pasta dishes to give them a little more flavor and nutrients, to braise meat or vegetables, or to freeze for future use. For more information on bone broths, including recipes, visit this website from Nourished Kitchen.

Good news! Bone broth is great for dogs and cats as long as it is not made with any ingredients that are toxic to pets such as garlic, onions, or chives. Broth can make kibble much more exciting and is especially good for enticing senior pets to eat.

Bringing Home a New Pet

The holidays are a popular time to bring home new pets. If you are considering bringing a new pet into your home this holiday season, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Always research a pet before getting it. Whether it is a certain breed of dog, a mutt from the shelter, or something different like a snake or a bird, do plenty of research before bringing the animal home. Every animal has it’s own unique set of needs that need to be met, and some of those needs might be very expensive. Make sure that you can meet those needs BEFORE bringing the animal home. Sometimes when our animals are older, or if we’ve just lost an animal, we forget what it was like to introduce an animal into our homes. It can be a long, messy process so you have to be prepared for and willing to deal with the worst aspects of pet ownership (accidents in the house, destroyed furniture, chewed shoes, loud vocalizations, behavioral issues, emergency vet trips, etc.).
  • If you have done all the research and mentally prepared yourself for all the highs and lows of bringing a new pet into your home, the next step is to prepare your house for the pet’s arrival before getting it. Get all the supplies, decide on what rules you and your family will implement, know which veterinarian you will bring your pet to, make a plan for who will stop home for potty breaks in the middle of the day, and pet proof your house.
  • Now that your house is ready, it’s time to bring the pet home. This is a very exciting time, and you and your family can’t wait to start bonding with your new pet but remember that coming to a new home can be stressful. Give them time to acclimate and don’t overwhelm them right away. If you have kids, teach them to be calm, quiet, and gentle with the new pet, and to respect their need for space.
  • If you have other pets in the home, it is best to keep them separated while your new pet adjusts. Let them explore the new environment on their own first, and then gradually introduce new and old pets once the new pet feels confident and comfortable.
    • If you are bringing a dog home to another dog, chances are you have already done dog-to-dog introductions and know the dogs get along well. However, bringing a new dog into the home is a very different experience for your current dog. It might have been all fun and games when they met before, but now this dog is on their territory, using their favorite items and getting attention from their owners. Make sure each dog has their own set of toys, bowls, and beds, and give your current dog plenty of attention while the new dog is settling in.
    • If you are bringing a cat home, keep the cat in a single room for about a week. When cats are moved to new houses their first instinct is to hide. Giving them a small, secure place helps them acclimate faster to the smells and sounds of your house, and also helps you to know where they are. If you are introducing two cats, make the introduction very slow! Introducing two cats properly can take up to a month. Putting them together right away and saying “they will work it out” will not go well and could lead to those cats always having a bad relationship. Most shelters give you plenty of instruction on how to introduce cats to other pets. Listen to their instructions because they will work!

Recognize that as your pet gets more comfortable their behavior will change, especially if you adopted them from a shelter. It can take shelter animals up to two months to feel fully comfortable in a new home. As they become more comfortable they will start to show you more and more of their personality. It may not be what you expected, but learn to love that animal for who they are and adjust accordingly. Bringing home a new pet is a very rewarding experience, especially as you begin to build a bond with them. The staff at TGDS is very knowledgeable about bringing new pets home and doing pet introductions, so please ask us any questions as you consider bringing a new pet into your home.

How to take care of your animal family members: estate planning for pets

Written by Kathryn Wakefield , mom to Bailey the Golden Doodle! (

You love your pet and devote your time and money to caring for your pet’s happiness and well-being.  So, what do you do if you become incapacitated or die while your pet is living.  You have two choices: find a friend or family member who, on an informal basis, will agree to take care of your pet; or make a more formal plan as part of your estate planning.

An informal arrangement is just that, a handshake understanding of what is to happen in a specific set of circumstances.  The benefit of an informal arrangement is that it doesn’t cost anything to set up and you can change your mind at any time at no cost.  Unfortunately, it is not enforceable and can’t be monitored. 

If you decide to make a formal plan as part of your estate planning, one option is to say in your will who you want to have care for your pet and, if you wish, provide money or property to help with that care.  You can name one person or include a list of alternates.   

To deal with what happens if you become incapacitated and your pet needs a place to go, have a written emergency care plan that says where your pet should go immediately, and if different, where your pet should go for a longer term or even permanently.  While this written care plan cannot be part of your will and does not need to be formally drafted by an attorney, keeping a copy with your important documents is a good idea. 

In any case, you should check with those who you charge with your pet’s care before including them in your plan.

If you would like to fund the care of your pet during your incapacity or after your death, Massachusetts now allows you to create a trust for your pet (separately or in your will) as you would for a human family member.  Under this arrangement, a trustee would be responsible for investment of the trust fund and making distributions, and the person you named to care for your pet would provide care.   

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that 6.5 million animals are left to shelters every year.  Having a plan for your pet is vital, so consider consulting your estate planning attorney about creating a properly documented arrangement.