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The Teaching Dog: Partnering With Dogs for Instruction, Socialization and Demonstration in Your Training Practice

The Teaching Dog: Partnering With Dogs for Instruction, Socialization and Demonstration in Your Training Practice

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The Teaching Dog: Partnering With Dogs for Instruction, Socialization and Demonstration in Your Training Practice

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Lançado em:
Apr 10, 2018


The concept of using dogs as teaching aides is gaining popularity among trainers worldwide. A ‘Teaching Dog’ can be used to demonstrate behaviors, work to socialize puppies and even help out in reactive dog classes. Trainer and author Nicole Larocco- Skeehan’s new book is the first to explore all aspects of what trainers need to know about using teaching dogs to make the job of learning new behaviors and problem solving easier for both human and canine clients including the roles they can play as well as the types and breeds that work best for the tasks you want them to do.

Lançado em:
Apr 10, 2018

Sobre o autor

Nicole Larocco-Skeehan, CPDT-KA, owns and operates Philly Unleashed which provides group and private dog training in Philadelphia. She also teaches shelter behavior classes. Nicole and her husband live with a wide variety of animals on a small farm and recently welcomed a new baby to her family. She can be reached through phillyunleashed.com.

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The Teaching Dog - Nicole Larocco-Skeehan



As far back as I can remember, dogs have been teaching me.

I came into this world as my parents’ second child, albeit the first of the two-legged variety. Their first child was named Gabriel, and she was 15 pounds of shaggy white terrier mix who preceded me by ten years.

Although I am still told to this day that Gabriel was friendly, I never saw that side of her. If I tried to play with Gabriel, she nipped me. If I bothered Gabriel while she slept, she nipped me. If I tried to take food from her, or if I clumsily stumbled into her…you guessed it, she nipped me.

My parents’ response was generally something along the lines of, Nicole, you are upsetting the dog. Go settle down.

Gabriel lived to be 18 years old. She learned to live with me. I tried to make her Lassie. Much to my dismay, she was not a willing partner. Then, when I was 7, we got new next-door neighbors—a young couple named Karen and Bill who had their hands full with a 3-month-old daughter and a 10-month-old Black Labrador named Kia. Kia frequently got tethered to a tree in their backyard. I watched from my window and begged my parents to let me play with her. Finally, they let me introduce myself to the neighbors, and their dog.

Kia was everything an adolescent hunting line Labrador should be. Willing, friendly, food motivated, with enthusiasm in spades. I asked Bill and Karen if I could help train Kia after school. They practically kissed me and gave me a key to their house. Armed with every dog training book I could find at the library, I took Kia under my wing.

Kia’s owners let me enroll her in a basic obedience class. I was hooked. I could get this unruly Lab pup do anything I asked. I dragged out every garbage can, two-by-four plank and wheelbarrow that we had lying around our yard to make a show jumping course for Kia. I even made a brick wall out of cinderblocks complete with potted plants on each side. And there I had it: a complete show jumping course for my best Labrador buddy to play on!

I took my love of dogs with me to college. That’s when I bought Libby, a tall, slender, fawn-colored Great Dane. Little did I know that Libby would teach me patience, and vastly improve my dog training chops. Libby was my first foray into formal dog training and using a dog as a teaching tool and partner.

When I got Libby, I thought I was an amazing trainer; after all, I’d trained Kia to do show jumping courses in the back yard! But I quickly learned that having a dog is hard work. Puppies are like babies! They need to be watched every second of the day. Everything that is within reach goes into their mouths. They poop…A LOT. I thought I was prepared. I was wrong.

There was so much more to this dog ownership thing than I ever thought. I enrolled us in puppy classes. I was determined to make this work.

Soon, we were taking two classes per week and my pretty little Dane was eagerly learning her lessons. After my first round of classes, the owner of the training facility came up to me and asked me if I was a dog trainer. When he found out that I did not work for one of his competitors, he hired me on the spot. He said half my time would be spent scrubbing kennels and the other half monitoring a doggie daycare. And maybe, if there was extra time, I could do a little training with some of the boarding dogs. But after three months, I was training dogs full time. I graduated from college a couple years later, but instead of working in the business world like a good little marketing major, I kept training dogs.

Libby came to all of my classes. She was the perfect All-Rounder. (What’s that? Keep reading. You’ll find out!) She could demonstrate any of the class concepts, would work with a child if he was upset that his older sibling was getting more training time with their new dog than he was, assisted me with lectures to local school groups, and had a stable enough personality to properly socialize a puppy. Libby did several commercial and editorial shoots, and taught me that dog training could be a blast. While I credit Kia the Labrador for teaching me to love dog training, I credit Libby for teaching me that I could make dog training into a lucrative career.

Fast forward a couple of years. I was the director of behavior and training for the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia. Uluru, an Australian Cattle Dog, was a puppy I was trying to place in a permanent home. She was returned no matter how many times I sent her out to the world. She was easy to place, but two weeks later, she’d destroy a sofa and end up back at the shelter.

The last time she was returned, her family said she was reactive toward anything that moved. I took her home that night to work with her. Since that day seven years ago, Uluru has been my constant companion, training buddy, teaching dog and the star of pretty much any situation I’ve put her in.

You will hear a lot about Uluru and my other dog, Porterhouse, throughout this book. Between Uluru, the hardest working dog I’ve ever had, and Porterhouse, the ultimate Cool Dog (keep reading—I’ll explain!), right now I’ve got two fantastic teaching dogs.


Great teaching dogs will show your clients what positive training can really do! They will relax a tense situation, demonstrate the process of training even the most complex behavior and, at times, show your clients that even the most well-trained dog still struggles, embarrasses her owner and makes mistakes. Moreover, a great teaching dog will show your clients that dogs behave the best when they are happy to work, rewarded and receive clear communication.

A teaching dog can bring a shy dog out of his or her shell, give a fearful dog the confidence needed to conquer that super-scary flight of stairs or teach an under-socialized puppy how to interact appropriately with other dogs. A teaching dog can perform complex tricks at a function for clients, act in a commercial or help you demonstrate a point on your blog. A teaching dog can also help you make money.

And if you look, teaching dogs are all around us.

Our culture recognizes police canines, assistance animals and detection dogs as working dogs, but there is a whole other community of working dogs who rarely make headlines. It’s important to recognize that sometimes the hardest working dogs are the ones we have working for us in our own training practices…our teaching dogs.

In this book, I will delve into the world of using a dog as a working partner. I’ll discuss the various ways that teaching dogs can be utilized in classes or in one-on-one training situations. We’ll explore using both the dogs you own and the dogs you train with. A very important part of the book is a review of traits and personalities of dogs to help you choose the type of dog to employ as a teaching dog based on the kinds of training you do. I’ll cover how to keep your teaching dogs happy and healthy in order to ensure a long career, what to do if you find yourself in a pickle with a teaching dog and the legalities of using a teaching dog. Finally, I will talk about how using a teaching dog can make you money and benefit your business.

So, grab your dog and dig in. It’s time to learn how to make dogs work for you.


What Is a Teaching Dog?

A teaching dog is a dog who helps a trainer teach. This dog can help you illustrate a point to a class, demonstrate the behavior you are trying to elicit and even inject humor into your lessons. A teaching dog can be called upon to clarify a point, offer a visual example of the canine thought process, safely socialize an awkward puppy or show your client how dogs problem-solve.

Teaching dogs can be an invaluable help to your clients. They can hold a stay and allow shy dogs to approach them to build confidence, or give beautifully appropriate corrections to a puppy who has become over-stimulated in a social group. Showing how a teaching dog has mastered certain skills can motivate and inspire your clients to keep heading in the right direction.

A teaching dog can help you, too. Working with your teaching dog can teach you how to make a plan for eliciting a behavior, and identify when it’s time to change said behavior plan. Most importantly, it can teach you how to think on your feet when things don’t go according to that plan.

A teaching dog doesn’t have to be the smartest dog on the block, win multiple obedience champion titles, or have a penchant for running for help when his precocious young owner (or trainer!) falls into a well. A teaching dog simply has the ability to help you demonstrate a point. He is a dog who can give someone that aha! moment, whether that someone is an attendee of a group class,

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