Saying “No”

Years ago, when Luc was way younger, we were at the grocery store shopping. 

He brought me a sleeve of Pringles, "Mom, can we get Pringles?" 

Sure. And he added it to the cart.

Then he brought me a can of ravioli, "Mom, can we get ravioli?" 

Sure. And he added it to the cart. 

Then he brought me a candy bar, "Mom, can we get a candy bar?"

"Nope, buddy. You get two snacks. If you want the candy bar, you need to put away the pringles or the ravioli." 

And he put away the candy bar. 

"You aren't upset that you can't get all three?" I asked him.

"Nope. I was just seeing what I could get away with," he replied. 

Guess what? 

Dogs are the SAME WAY.

They will push boundaries just to see what they can get away with. So we need to be consistent. 

Don't tell you dog "no" today, and let them do it tomorrow. If you are inconsistent, your dog will be confused. 

Do you need help setting boundaries and life rules? They don't have to be harsh, but they have to effective. Contact us today and we will get you started.

Gypsy, Service Dog In Training, First Week

Rich and I flew from Orlando to Atlanta to pick out Gypsy. She had a lot of firsts that first day with us.

  • away from littermates and mom
  • crated
  • car trip, in Atlanta traffic no less
  • elevators (at the airports)
  • trains/trams (at the airports)
  • flight (in the cabin, of course)

And that was just the first day!


We had soft treats for Gypsy at first, because it took a while to crunch the kibble. However, about a week later and she was doing better with the kibble. Make sure you use small treats, and stop early. If you find yourself losing your puppy’s attention, STOP! It is better to do 5 reps 5 times a day than 25 reps at once. Especially with puppies.

First we started with the marker words:



“No” or “Nope” or “Uh-uh”

And we started adding in the basics:

Her name, “Gypsy”



“Come” and “Here”


Next week our goal is to start “Heel,” “Look,” “Down” and continue with what we have started, upping duration and distractions.


We do mealtime twice a day for Gypsy. At least one is training, where we put her food into her bowl and she works for it. She is offered the rest after training, and can eat if she is still hungry. I prefer to give her a little more at this point, so she walks away with a few kibbles – or more – left in her bowl. We also feed her when she is in a calm state of mind, not crazy and wild.

Her breeder warned us against using “Puppy” food – so she is on our regular food. We add our “veggie slop” along with Young Living supplements – NingXia Red, Longevity EO, OmegaGize, MultiGreens, AgilEase, ParaFree, ParaGize, and others – and top it all off with yogurt and water.


Service Dog/Socialization
Gypsy has already gone to Tractor Supply, McAlister’s Deli (outdoor dining), Sam’s Club, the dentist (we stayed outside and trained), and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We kept these outings short and sweet, gave her potty time before, during, and after, and brought training rewards to work her. Rich and I both went, so I can work Gypsy, and he can get done what needed doing.

She has a bandana she wears for her outings, which says “Do Not Touch” and people still ask if they can pet her. No. You cannot. She is working. She has a big job ahead of her and she needs to learn to ignore people, dogs, and other distractions now.

We want her to be used to all the “everyday life” distractions – the dishwasher, vacuum, etc. And we do not want her to think that we are always nearby and close, so she gets crate time away from us.

We are also working her on a 2.25mm herm sprenger prong collar. We initially brought a slip lead to pick her up, and a flat collar, and she pulled and pulled on them. Horking and coughing. So we fit her for the chiropractially sound prong collar, where she is learning to respond to light pressure. Prong collars are not for “naughty dogs,” but can be used with ANY dog or puppy, as long as they are used appropriately.

One of the big things Gypsy is learning is that she can potty while on leash or while off leash. While this may not seem like anything big, it is. We have had dogs come to us who do not understand they can potty while on leash, which service dogs will do.

Any Dog Can Be A Service Dog, Right?

Actually, no. It takes special dog to train up as a service dog. Here is my service dog history…

I found a Siberian Husky running wild in a park. I caught her and brought her home. No one claimed her, so I started training her. We named her Boo and this is the dog that started my professional dog training career. She trained up to be a fantastic therapy dog and service dog. We were initially told she was around 2 years old, however, that is what everyone who finds a dog of unknown age is told, because the dog is older than a puppy and still has a long life ahead of them. But when we talked with a Siberian Husky breeder, we discovered she was around 8 years old when we found her. All the training that she had, and now I had to look for a replacement.

A friend involved in local rescue told us of the litter of purebred 4-month old German Shepherd puppies dropped off. Of course, with my dog training background and reputation for rehabilitation, I ended up with the worst of the litter, because the rescue didn’t trust her with anyone but me. We brought Jedi home and hoped that she would be my future service dog. However, breeding matters and even though she had a high level of training, she never had the temperament to be a service dog, and was never used as one.

We adopted Zoe, a border collie, from another rescue, and while she had a fantastic temperament (I learned my lesson after Jedi!), she did not have the physical health to work as a service dog. Of course, we learned this (again) after we put the work into her and she was working with me. She has hip dysplasia and if she moves the wrong way, she cannot move for a day.

Which brings us to Arrow, our malinois and my current service dog. We knew we needed a physically healthy dog with a good temperament and trainability. He is a phenomenal service dog for me, and will do anything we ask. However, I do not recommend a malinois service dog for anyone. He only works for us because we are both professional dog trainers. We keep his mind and body active and exercised. Let me give you an example. After a full day (10 hours or so) of being at Disney World with us, walking around, riding rides, dealing with crowds, etc, when we go to the hotel and his working gear comes off, he wants to play “towel” which is his version of fetch in the hotel room. I am exhausted after the time in the parks, but he needs the physical exercise so he gets it.

Gypsy is our newest service puppy. She is a golden retriever and will be the foundation of our service dog breeding program. Her service puppy training begin at 8 weeks old, the day we picked her up from her breeder. You can follow her story on Instagram @ gypsy_rose_service_dog.

What I hope you take away from my history with my own service dogs, is that it takes a special dog to be a service dog. Even dogs who are specially bred for service dog work have a high fail rate. We do not recommend adopting a dog for service dog work because you never know what baggage they have or when that baggage may show up. Health, temperament, and workability are key, but they need that special bit of magic that makes them an extraordinary service dog companion.

Task Training

A service dog is individually task trained to mitigate their owners disability. But what tasks should your dog be trained for? Well, there are tasks and there are “bonuses.” A task is something that helps you to live your life with your disability. A bonus is exactly that, something that is not needed, but is nice.

We recommend that you search google, YouTube, service dog blogs and Facebook groups for task ideas for your service dog. The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners has two great lists –

Traditional Tasks performed by Guide, Hearing and Service Dogs &
Tasks for Service Dogs for Persons with a Psychiatric Disability

Write a list of tasks that would help you out. Then rank that list from top priority “I NEED this” – to less important “This would be nice.”

We also train other things. For example, with Arrow we train a lot of things, like diabetic alert, targets, wheelchair button pushing, front and rear block, and while we trained them thinking they were bonuses, they have turned into useful tasks. Plus it keeps us busy, after all, learning never stops.

How to Pick Your Future Service Dog

We already covered WHERE to find your future service dog in a previous post, where we addressed breeders vs rescues, male vs female, and breeds. This post will cover which puppy to pick out.

When we picked Gypsy out, we knew we wanted a girl, and there were only 4 girls in the 2 litters (it was a mom and her daughter, both bred to the same male, and born on the same day). So our choices were limited. The breeder knew we were looking for a service dog, and I asked for her input on which puppy would suit me best.

Out of the 4 puppies:

  • Puppy 1 was shy, she cowered a bit and didn’t approach us. When we dropped something next to her, she froze for a moment and snuck away.
  • Puppy 2 was very adventurous. She snuck out of the enclosure, knocked over a broom right on top of her and didn’t flinch. We called her back and she came back part way, then got distracted and took off exploring down the walkway. She was show quality. We are not sure if we are going to show her, but we did want show quality for full registration.
  • Puppy 3 went off on her own and hid. Then we couldn’t find her, even though the enclosure wasn’t that big.
  • Puppy 4 was happy go lucky. She wanted to play with sticks and leaves, and came to us when we clapped and called to her (“Here, pup! Pup! Pup!”). She was happy interacting with us and wasn’t fazed by anything (dropping items, holding her like a baby, etc). She was also show quality.


Which would you have chosen?


Puppy 1 & 3 were not show quality, but if one of them would have been a perfect service dog candidate puppy, we would have gone with her. But neither grabbed us as our new puppy. They were fine dogs and will make fine pets.

Puppy 2 & 4 were show quality, and they happen to be the more confident of the four. Either could make an excellent service dog. However, we wanted the puppy that was more people-oriented.


Some of the testing we did on the puppies included:

  • flip them onto their back and hold them like a baby. Did they squirm? Did they settle?
  • clapping our hands, “Here pup! Pup! Pup!” with excitement. Did they respond?
  • recovery – hold the puppy an inch off the ground and drop her. Did she flatten? Did she bounce up and keep on going?
  • toy drive – does the puppy want to play with a toy? Did she chase it and play? Chase it and ignore it? Ignore it all together?
  • food drive – does the puppy want to follow a food lure? Did she eat it and work at getting it?
  • how did she interact with her siblings? Did she chase everyone? Was she the one being chased? Was it back and forth?

There are also puppy aptitude tests, including the Volhard Puppy Test and Avidog Puppy Test. I highly recommend testing your dog and interacting with the puppies to help choose your puppy, and rely on your breeder to steer you in the right direction. After all, you did your homework and trust your breeder, who wants you to be successful.


Where to Find Your Future Service Dog

The two most important things to us are health testing and temperament, and you need to have both to be a successful service dog. A dog with terrific health but poor temperament will not make it as a service dog. Neither will a dog with poor health but terrific temperament.

Since we are getting a golden retriever, we looked at:

  • Hips
  • Elbows
  • Heart
  • Eyes
  • Longevity
  • Cancer


Where to find your future service dog

Giving a dog a second chance is what rescue is all about. People like the warm fuzzies from “saving a life” but so many get caught up in the dog’s back story that they don’t allow the dog to move forward. For pet dogs, going with a rescue is fine, but I do not recommend searching for your next SD in a rescue. You need to know health, temperament, and history of the specific breeder lines for your dog to excel at their career. Many dogs start with a honeymoon period of a few weeks, and you do not see their true selves until after that. I have been told that, “As a professional dog trainer, you should be able to take any dog and make him a service dog.” This is far from true. And even dogs who are specially bred do not always make it as a service dog.

Breed Rescue
Once you have decided on a certain breed (for us, it was Golden Retriever), you may be tempted to look into breed rescue (or Golden Retriever rescue groups). Remember, service dogs are not rehab projects, and we do not want to start with behavior challenges already, nor do we want health challenges. Since we do not know the history, breeder, or health testing, we are not doing with breed rescue. Plus, many times they have ridiculous rules you must abide by, including the dog cannot have a job at all – even therapy work, and for many, you must have a fenced yard.

If you are set on adopting a dog to be your service dog, make sure the dog is young and that you can return the dog within a month or two if it does not work. You will not receive your money back, but you need time to see how the dog will be with you and your household, time to take the dog to your veterinarian for hip preliminaries and structural examination.

Pet Store
We lived in Gainesville for 10 years, and there were no pet stores that sold dogs or cats (they just had rescue adoptions). It is rather a foreign concept for me that pet stores not only sell puppies, but that people buy them. Here is the truth about where your pet store puppy came from – they came from a puppy mill. The mom was kept in a small crate and produces litter after litter which are taken away too young and shipped to pet stores. Many times these puppies are sick and have behavior and medical issues that are deep rooted and hard to rehab.

Now, I have had someone tell me that they got their dog from a pet store, but it was from a good breeder. Those two things do not go together. A good breeder never places a puppy in a pet store to be sold. NEVER. Do not support puppy mills, do not purchase puppies from pet stores.

Backyard Breeder
This is when one owner says to the other “I have a (blank) breed. You have a (blank) breed. Let’s make puppies!” There is no health testing done, and little regard for temperament. Their veterinarian may have said the dogs are healthy, but they did not get hips, elbows, eyes, and heart tested beforehand. Many backyard breeders sell their puppies on craigslist or in the newspaper.

Reputable Breeder
This is what I recommend for service dogs. Reputable breeders do health testing. They have their dog’s hips and elbows x-rayed and sent in for evaluations and listed on Depending on their breed, they do other appropriate health testing as well. For goldens, you look for hips, elbows, heart, and eyes. And temperament is key. You want a breeder who has produced service dogs and therapy dogs in the past. Talk to the breeder about it, ask them to help choose your dog and what you will need the dog for. You want to see the parent on site, and your breeder should answer all of your questions. If they get defensive, refuse to answer, or do not want you to see the parent in house, move on.

Some breeders donate puppies as service dog candidates. However, this may be because they couldn’t place those puppies, so be sure to do your research. And remember, health testing and health clearances first.

Where did we search for breeders? We searched for reputable breeders thru AKC breed clubs, local AKC clubs, online searches, and golden retriever friends and clients. We checked websites and contacted the breeders we liked, inquiring on upcoming litters. Then we checked the parents on and We looked at the pedigree of the mom (dam) and dad (sire) and printed each of these up. We researched and made notations regarding testing outcome, death age and reason.

Once we had that information, we talked to the breeders. Have they had dogs used as service dogs and therapy dogs in the past? What “feel” did we get from each other?

The breeder we chose to go with had dogs living 13+ years. Some dogs did have eye issues, when they were 10 years old or so. We trained one of her puppies last year, and I fell in love with that dog. When speaking with Kaila, our veterinarian, trainer, and friend, she mentioned the same breeder. Her friend has one of her puppies and the dog is amazing. Ideally, we wanted an excellent/excellent hip pairing, with no eye issues and longevity. However, the excellent/excellent, excellent/good, and good/good pairings that we found had eye concerns on both side. So it was a trade off – good/fair hip pair with great elbows, eyes, heart, temperament, and no cancer in the lines. We will do all we can to keep our puppy healthy and prevent issues before they arise.

When looking for a puppy, or a breeder, do not look for “rare” or “we breed for certain color eyes” or “certain coat color.” Remember, health and temperament are key.


Male or Female
This is usually a matter of personal choice. We are getting a female because Arrow is intact and he gets along better with girls. We will not breed them together, but intact animals can co-exist without reproducing.

I am a firm believer in keeping your dog intact for as long as possible. At the very least, wait until they are a year old, but studies have shown health benefits if you wait until they are two years old or so. Do you feel comfortable when your female goes into heat?

For most (all?) breeds, the males are larger than the females. This may be a deciding factor for getting a male. Do not worry about marking and humping, as those happen if you allow it.


Look at your lifestyle and what dog would fit best. Do you want a small, medium, large, or extra-large size? A smooth coat, long coat, or somewhere in between? Do you want to bring your non-shedding dog to the groomer every 4-6 weeks? What climate do you live? How active are you? What do you do for fun? How much time can you give your dog?

One of the reasons we are getting a golden retriever – besides the fact that they are amazing dogs with awesome temperaments – is that I can recommend them to pretty much everyone. When I am out with Arrow, people see how calm and attentive he is, and they want one. But I do not recommend a Belgian Malinois to anyone (unless you are a professional trainer and can give your dog the extensive work and exercise they require). Be honest with yourself and your abilities. Most people who need a service dog need a dog they can easily train and easily handle, which is why my standard suggestion is a golden retriever.

Check out our blog How to Pick Your Future Service Dog for how to pick your pup from the litter.

What does it take to be a Service Dog?

Being a Service Dog is so much more than signing up on one of those fake online registries. Did you know that there are NO official registries, that these are just scams set up to rip you off, collect your money, and make it harder for legit teams?

3 things are needed for your dog to be a service dog:
1. You must have a disability
2. Your dog much be task trained to mitigate that disability
3. If working in public, your dog must be public access trained – rock solid in public – with absolutely NO behavior problems
4. Bonus – the dog must love their job

Each of these must be met.

If you do not have a disability, no matter what your dog was trained for, your dog is not a service dog. So if I left Arrow (my service dog) with you, you cannot take him out with you. Because even though he is a service dog, he is trained to assist me.

If your dog has not been individually task trained to mitigate that disability, your dog is not a service dog. Just because you have a disability and a dog, your dog is not automatically a service dog.

Now for the public access part. Any behavior issues – fearful, nervous, anxious, jumping up, pulling on leash, aggressive, reactive, snarky – means your dog is not a service dog. Even if you have a disability. And your dog is task trained to mitigate it. If your dog snaps at people, you dog cannot go out in public as your service dog. There is a possibility that your dog can be an “in home service dog,” but can NEVER go out in public because of their behavior. A service dog is not a rehab project.

The dog must love their job. Arrow looks super serious when he is out working, and people think he is “sad,” but that is his working face and he knows he has an important job to do. But some dogs do not love their job. If they must be forced to work, they aren’t a good service dog for you because – when you need them the most – they won’t be there for you.

It is a long road on the path to Service Dog status, and some dogs will not make it. We are here for you and can guide you along along. For more information, check out our Service Dog Program.

Goals, Dreams, Reality

Rich and I were debating on which direction we wanted Dream Dogz to grow. It is easy to let things go with how they always have been. But we wanted to set goals and plan for our future, and the future of our business.

Should we purchase a commercial property and expand to include daycare and boarding? Should we purchase a place in the country and grow board & train? Should we purchase a city house and just do one dog at a time?

Our board & trains grew, and with our 4 personal dogs and our family (me, Rich, and Luc), we would have up to 5 board & train dogs sharing our townhouse with us. At a little over 1200 sq ft, and no fenced yard, it was snug, we were happy. But we knew we needed to expand.

We started looking at property, not knowing exactly what we wanted. At first, because we are self-employed and own our townhouse (but paying the bank for it), we would have to sell our townhouse before we could buy something else. But, with 4-9 dogs in the house, people would take one look and run. Maybe we should pay cash for a house? So we socked money away, but what we could afford needed a new house put on it. And where did we want to move? We knew we wanted outside of Alachua county due to taxes, restrictions, and electric rates. But some of the areas that we ventured to… yikes. As much as we love going to Disney World, we would love to be closer, but we still wanted to be close enough to Gainesville, not 2 hours away.

We finally found our dream property – after about 2 years of searching! Located in Sumterville, it is one exit south of the I-75/Turnpike split. 7 minutes from I-75, it is right on S US 301. Over 5 acres, fully fenced with chain link, and divided up into 9 separate paddocks. The house has about 1000 sq ft that we are using as our dog area – boarding, training, and client sessions – even an office! It has most everything we wanted. And is more than double the size of our townhouse.

We closed today. It took time and hard work. We kept our eyes on the prize and now we wonder what possibilities the future holds. We have movers coming in a few days, so we can begin this new stage in our lives. The dogs will be happier, they will get so much more off leash time, socialization, and play. They will be able to just lay outside sunbathing if they want to. We will get distractions for them (chickens and horses), new training for them (herding sheep and goats), and put in a pool for swimming. Dream Dogz Ranch will be the ultimate board & train paradise, with the dogs staying in our house, as part of our family during their time with us. We will even be able to board client dogs (I did mention we are close to I-75, if flying out of Orlando or Tampa).

Our next goal is to move, get settled, attend the IACP conference in September, along with Disneyland, Hollywood, and LA. Once we come back from there, the real magic happens. By making goals, working towards them, our dreams became reality!


Do Training Tools Do The Training?

I was just talking with a friend who overheard a couple people while shopping. Apparently, Dream Dogz was the topic of conversation. One person said how we were so reliant on the tools that we used, but they can see why since we deal with the behaviors that we deal with. My friend chuckled and passed the conversation on to me.

It’s not the tool that trains your dog. It is the training that trains your dog. The tool just makes it easier for your dog to understand and connect with you.

We commonly use prong collars, e-collars, slip leads, slip lead/head halter, essential oils, body language, spatial pressure, tug, pet convincer, sometimes food, and so much more.

We are inclusive trainers, always looking for effective tools to add to our trainer box. We try it out with our own dogs first, and depending on the results, with friends and students dogs. As we get the outstanding results we are known for, they become part of our regular stuff.

We use food and lure training with puppies, with service dog tasks,  and tricks. But we don’t use food with every dog. We find it unnecessary and do not want to have to carry a pocket of food with us everywhere. Nor should you have to do that, or live your life with a dog who is out of control.

Honestly, I am glad there are a lot of other methods out there, and other trainers. Our style isn’t for everyone. It is for people who are serious about their dogs training, behavior, and state of mind. If they want to understand their dog more, form a deeper relationship, and stop unwanted behavior instead of excusing it, they come to us.

Check us out and watch some of the hundreds of videos showing the improvements of dogs that were not possible without our training and methods.

1 It Worked for ONE Dog

SCAN64~1Growing up, we adopted a beautiful Shiba Inu looking dog from the shelter and named her Codi. When we got her home, we found out that Codi was a cat chaser. This wasn’t good, since we had two indoor cats. However, our house had a basement, first floor, and second floor. So Codi would be on one level and the cats would be on another, and they would switch at night. This worked fine for a few months, until Codi got out of her level and started chasing one of the cats. My mom happened to be switching papers in a clipboard at that time and yelled “NO!” as the clipboard clacked shut. That was enough of a deterrent to stop Codi in her tracks. Hmmm…. For the next few days, we watched Codi and would clack the clipboard if she thought about going after the cats. To this day, when we get a cat aggressive dog in, my mom asks if we’ve “tried the clipboard.”

You see, everything has worked for at least one dog at one time. Ignoring it. Treating the opposite behavior. Asking the dog to sit. Everything has worked at least once. But that isn’t good enough for me. I want the methods and protocols that we use to work for multiple dogs in multiple situations. It isn’t good enough if it just worked one time. And this is where I have a problem with some of the dog training books I see out there, and some of the advice I hear. Just because it worked for ONE, doesn’t mean that it will work for YOUR dog. I could write a book on using a clipboard to solve cat aggression in dogs, because it worked for my dog, but it would not be helpful to the vast majority of owners. Instead, I take what Codi taught me, one good correction is better than management and nagging, and you can stop the thought of the inappropriate behavior before the dog acts on it, and apply that to the dogs I work with every day.

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