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Natural Awakenings Boston

Area Dog Trainers Accentuate the “Pawsitive"

Oct 31, 2011 03:47PM ● By Kim Childs

The Boston area abounds with dog trainers who use positive methods to improve pet behavior. Liz Shaw of Magical Mutt, in Somerville, says it’s important to “accentuate the pawsitive” every day. “Even when you’re not formally training, you can open new lines of communication by remembering to tell your dog what he or she is already doing right,” says Shaw. “Whenever you see behavior you like, from a calm greeting to curling up for a nap while you eat, reward it with treats, play or affection, and your dog is more likely to do it again.” Shaw says this method reduces the likelihood that dogs will repeat unwanted behavior. “You and your dog will be less frustrated and happier, and focusing on all the good things your dog does is much more fun.”

Bette Yip of Picture Perfect Pets, in Arlington, says that leashes, crates and baby gates can be used to prevent a dog from repeating undesirable behavior until it is trained. “When you’re not home to give your puppy well-timed feedback for chewing on electrical wires or furniture, keep her in a puppy-proofed room or crate with appropriate chew toys to keep her away from the forbidden items,” Yip advises.

When it comes to preventing dogs from jumping up on people, Yip says the issue is more complicated. “Sometimes it’s cute when a dog jumps up, but not always, and it’s tough for dogs to learn complex rules,” she says. She suggests that owners teach their dogs to jump up only on cue, while training those nearby to walk away or ignore the dog if it jumps up uninvited. “Step on the leash to anchor your dog around humans who don’t yet know the rules,” she adds.

Joanne Lekas, CPDT-KA, of Happy Dog Training, in Waltham, wants clients to understand and honor the ways in which puppies learn and promote the conditions that best support that learning. Lekas says the key factors that determine a puppy’s ability to grasp new concepts are location, distractions and distance. “When in a familiar room, it’s easy for your puppy to learn,” she says. “When there are no distractions, it’s easy for your puppy to focus on you, and, when you’re close to your puppy, it’s easier for him to pay attention.” If any one of these conditions changes, adds Lekas, the puppy may “drop back a grade or two.” It’s then up to the owner to stay calm and train at a level that allows the puppy to be successful again.

To connect with Liz Shaw, call 617-628-8862 or visit For more information on Picture Perfect Pets, contact Bette Yip at 617-966-4240 or visit Contact Joanne Lekas at 617-448-7447 or visit

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