Two Steps to Working with your Dog, or Why You Need More RuPaul

“The ego urges you to accomplish, while the soul merely asks you to enjoy the process.”

— Doreen Virtue
Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham
Photography – By Brittany Graham

I got pulled over by the police yesterday.  I was going X amount of mph in a x mph zone.  I never speed, either!  First time in 20 years (maybe more) that I’ve gotten a ticket. So what happened?

I didn’t follow my mandatory three steps for everything in the whole wide world.

 No, that wasn’t me; not my style.  However, I did ask the officer if I got bonus points for not ugly crying.

Step 1 – Control Yourself

I had a lot to do yesterday before my evening training session.  And to be honest, business has been booming.  It’s been difficult to keep up with everything sometimes.  I tried to squeeze in working on a blog post, straightening up my office, walking my dogs and returning phone calls all within the 2 hours between sessions.

I was like a cyclone of energy.  Meaning I was pretty keyed up by the time I had to leave.  I also meant that I didn’t keep track of time very well.

Now, if you know me, I’m am punctual.  To a fault. Typically I arrive 10 minutes early to each session (to everything, really), and kill time on a side street until it’s actually your appointment time.  So running late is not something that is normal for me.  But I hadn’t controlled myself, and had whipped myself up into a frenzy. So from the beginning, I was destined to fail.

Every now and then I fall apart.

Every now and then I fall apart.

Step 2 – Control the Situation

I never add energy or stimuli to a situation until I have control of the current situation.  So what happened?  When I suddenly realized that I was going to be 10 minutes late, rather than controlling the situation by calling my client and letter her know, I was going to make up the time.  Problem was, she was pretty far, actually outside my normal travel area.  So there we go; doomed to fail.  Which I did.


How does this apply to your dog?  Well, let’s start at the beginning.  Your dog does something you don’t like, say…barking, jumping, dragging you on a leash, etc.  For this instance, we’ll say the doorbell just rang.  That’s your dog’s cue.

Step 1 – Control Yourself

Fido goes nuts!  Barking, howling, jumping at the door.  It’s time for action.  But before you do anything, as yourself: are you angry?  Frantic? Yelling?  Then it’s not going to work.   Take a deep breath, organize yourself, and make sure you’ve got it together.  Remember, you can handle this.  Keep calm, and pull yourself together.

Don’t forget to watch your body language, too!  Put on your Piloting uniform.  Stand up as straight as you can.  I always tell my clients, pretend you rubbed Viagra all over your body.

Stand tall. Hand either beside you or behind your back.  Don’t feel the need to get down to your dog’s level; aim your belly button either at them or directly over them. I call this stance your Piloting  uniform. It’s the uniform you wear whenever you’re about to answer your dog’s questions, such as, “Can I bark at the door?” or “Can I jump all over our guest?”.  And do you know who wears this uniform best?

Drag queens.  Yes, you read that right.

Perfect body language, as usual, from RuPaul.  She  looks confident.  In control of herself.  She doesn’t look aggressive, but she looks as if she could handle just about any opposition without breaking a sweat. Is that what she (or any drag queen) looks like all the time?  Not necessarily, but it’s part of the job, so they put on their uniform. Their armor.  And they wear it proudly.

Step 2 – Control the Situation

Okay, you’ve released your inner drag queen.  You have your armor on, or your Piloting uniform, as I like to call it.  Now it’s time to control the situation.  Your dog is most likely misbehaving at the door already.  That’s fine.  You’re about to control that by claiming the door.  Simply walk up to the door, get between your dog and the door (stomach facing your dog still, RuPaul style) and back him off the door.  Pretend you’re a snowplow and gently, but firmly, use your legs to plow him back from the door like snow.

Now you’ve got a few feet to operate.  As soon as Fido is backed off the door, I want you to start backing up towards the door while pointing at him like your finger is a squirt gun and you’re going to shoot him between the eyes.  Nail him to that spot with your eyes and your finger as you move towards the door.

If he starts to move towards you, simply start over.  Snow plow him back, and then RuPaul him by pointing at him and nailing him to his spot with your finger and eyeballs.  Each time you are doing this, you are giving him a negative.  His question is, “Do you need help at the door?”.  This is how you give a dog a negative.  It may take a few times, but as you do it, you’re getting more and more money from his Piloting Piggy Bank into yours, and whoever has the most money wins.  Only once you have enough money in your Piloting Piggy Bank will you be able to s-l-o-w-l-y open the door (keeping your back to your door and your front towards your dog as much as possible).

Continue to control the situation.  If you lose control (your dog comes running up again), simply stop and reboot.  Close the door again even if you need to.  Your guest would rather wait outside a few more moments rather than be mauled and jumped on when they come in.

Once you let your guest in, you’re going to make a sandwich.  Your dog is bread, you’re guest is bread, and you’re the cheese.  Bread doesn’t touch bread.  You will be the cheese between them, answering your dog’s questions about your guest, even as they come through your house and sit down. Continue answering your dog’s questions using the same body language.

Congratulations, you’ve just answered your door without all the drama.  And the best part is, each time it gets easier and easier!

RuPaul would be proud.

Remember, these two steps are integral for any time you are Piloting your dog.  Dogs don’t require training in these circumstances, they require answers.  Think of dog training as tricks. Or something one dog wouldn’t teach another to do.  We train dogs to sit (teaching them English), to come on command (English again).  We may train them to go outside to go to the bathroom, or even to walk on a leash.  Those are commands we give them.  Piloting is when you are answering a dog’s questions: Can I jump on you?  Can I steal food from the counter?  Can I bark?

Usually I’m very good at Piloting myself, but like every other human, I’m not perfect.  Sometimes I flub things.  Hence my ticket.  But here’s the interesting thing:  I know that speeding is not acceptable.  However, I hadn’t controlled myself nor the situation. In other words, I didn’t Pilot myself.  A cop actually had to do that.  Piloting is simply giving negatives and positives.  My question was, “Can I speed?”.  It was preempted by my lack of controlling myself and the situation.  Cops answer: no.

Funny thing is, after the ticket, I actually felt better.  Rebooted, if you will.  While I was waiting for my ticket, I texted my client and informed her of the delay.  She was very understanding. I was only 15 minutes late. Not the end of the world, but now I was rebooted.  Calmer, even. I realized that I was going about everything wrong.  My unwillingness to control myself and my situation had cost me both time and money.  That’s a negative.

So I took a deep breath, pulled away with a fresh ticket in my hand, and calmly drove to my next session, singing along with Robert Plant and enjoying the ride rather than focusing on the destination.  Once arriving, I rebooted again, taking a deep breath, focusing on how lucky I am to have such a wonderful career that I work with dogs all day!  And then proceeded to have a wonderful session with amazing people and three incredible dogs.

Thank you RuPaul.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack & Special Guest: RuPaul
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

3 Ways to Help Your Obese Dog Lose Weight

We here at Darwin Dogs welcome guest blog posts.  Farah Al-Khojai of Pets Delight has written a wonderful article regarding your pet’s weight, and how to get it back under control.  We strongly encourage keeping your dog healthy and active, and encourage you to take your dog’s weight as seriously as any other health issue that may occur.  
Boot and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boot and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Many of us love our dogs just as much (or maybe secretly more than) we love other humans. And it is easy to see how that is possible; after all, they are man’s best friend!

Given the depth of our love for our dogs, it would seem logical that we would all want to have them by our side for as long as possible. Yet, over the past decade, dogs around the world have been getting fatter and fatter.

Just like with the human obesity epidemic, dog obesity has serious health consequences for your furry friend. An overweight dog is more prone to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, lung problems, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, cancerous tumors, and respiratory diseases. Not to mention that it will also cost you, the owner, a lot of money and emotional turmoil.

Recent reports have shown that owners of overweight dogs tend to spend 17% more on healthcare costs and 25% more on medications than owners with a healthy weight dog. Over a four-year period, the dollar amount of this difference is around $2,026.

So, for the sake of the lifespan of your best friend and the thickness of your wallet, here are five ways to help your obese dog lose weight.

  1. Set Realistic Goals

In a lot of ways, helping your obese dog to lose weight works the same as assisting your overweight friend. The principle for both is the same — to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn. The slight difference is that you can’t have one-on-one conversations with your dog, so you are unable to know what is going on with them.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Make an appointment with your local veterinarian to discuss your dog’s health. The veterinarian can help you figure out your dog’s ideal weight, as well as screen him or her for diabetes, Cushing’s Disease, and hypothyroidism — all of which can contribute to obesity.

From here, you can create a timeline of realistic goals. You don’t want to overwork your dog or overdo his or her changed diet; be patient with him or her, follow the plan, and the results will come.

  1. Calculate Calories & Measure Meals

The first step is to cut back on the amount of calories your dog is consuming each day. This shouldn’t be as difficult as it sounds because chances are he or she needs a lot less food than you think.

Use a measuring cup for precise portioning and consider changing to a grain-free, high-protein food as it will increase the nutritional value but not necessarily the caloric amount.

Orion gets some positive, this time a treat. Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

However, if you are giving your dog the right amount of high-quality dog food and they are still having weight issues, then you may be guilty of giving them one too many treats.

Don’t give your dog a treat unless they really deserve it, and even then, try to reward with fun, not food. Next time they are well-behaved, give them a round of fetch, a 5-minute belly-rub, or a fun toy.

  1. Get Those Legs Walking…Daily

Once you have the caloric part of the equation sorted out, it is time to work on the burning part, otherwise known as exercise.

Ensure that your dog has at least one daily walk, though one in the morning and another one in the evening would be more beneficial. In fact, 15 minutes of strenuous activity two times per day is a great place to start.

As your pet gets more used to these walks, start to provide extra exercise opportunities. That might mean upping the intensity and going for a jog or playing a game of fetch in the park for 20-30 minutes.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

If your dog has joint problems due to obesity or aging, swim therapy is an excellent option as it encourages movement but takes the pressure off of suffering joints.

On average, dogs that maintain an ideal body weight are likely to live almost two years longer than those who don’t. But there are no quick fixes for obesity. Instead, addressing it takes consistency and time.

Obviously, the more extreme the obesity, the more time and attention it will take to get your dog down to the ideal weight. Just like with humans, moderate, habitual changes have the most effect. So, concentrate on making lifestyle changes that harmonize exercise and a healthy diet in your dog’s daily routine.


Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Origen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog training in Cleveland, Ohio