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As professional trainers, we get this question A LOT. And the answer is: It depends.

Pictured is Babe the border collie who not only listens anytime I ask her to do something and gets off the couch immediately if asked, she will happily go in her crate and relax quietly without any persuasion needed, she has no aggression, resource guarding, anxiety, or reactivity and overall is a really well mannered and well behaved dog.

If you answer ‘Yes’ to any of the questions below, it may be a good idea to stop allowing your dog on your furniture, at least temporarily while you work through any issues.

1. Is your dog struggling with any aggression issues?

2. Does you dog display any resource guarding behavior?

3. Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety and/or struggle with being separated from you?

4. Is you dog reactive on leash to other dogs or people? (Barking, growling, lunging, pulling, etc)

5. Do you have to repeat yourself several times or use food bribes to get your dog to do basic commands? (sit, down, come, stay, place)

6. Do you have to repeat yourself several times, raise your voice, or change your demeanor to seem more “serious” to get your dog to STOP doing something?

If you answered ‘No’ to all these questions, it may be ok to invite your dog onto the couch for some cuddles.

If you need help addressing any of the issues in the 6 questions, we can help!

When I adopted Tiberius, I was completely smitten with his big personality and goofy antics. I was also completely unprepared for how his year-long stay in the shelter had led to resource guarding and extreme reactivity toward people and other dogs. I did the best that I could to work with him on basic obedience and addressing his behavioral issues, but I was overwhelmed with conflicting information on the best way to proceed and made very little progress on my own. 

Even just going out for a walk in our neighborhood was extremely stressful for both of us as I struggled to control him and ensure we avoided all other dogs and people, which is essentially impossible where we live! At the suggestion of a friend who had worked with Heather, I reached out to Lead the Way and Tiberius and I began working with Elaine. 


From the very first lesson, I learned so much about how to work effectively with Tiberius instead of just trying to give him commands before really understanding how to communicate with him. He was pretty stubborn at first since he had been so used to running the show, but with Elaine’s expertise and lots of patience, the dynamic began to shift. Training sessions became something that we not only look forward to, but have strengthened our bond immensely. 

We are continuing to work on the skills that Elaine taught us every day, and Tiberius has become a much calmer dog in the home as well as outside of it. He is no longer bothered by people on walks, and there has been big improvement in his reactivity toward other dogs as well. Most importantly, I am much better equipped to handle stressors when they do arise and feel far more prepared to advocate for Tiberius and set him up for success. We are so grateful to Elaine and the whole team at Lead the Way for everything!

-Elisha Courts of Charlottesville, VA

In this article I am going to give you the 3 Biggest Secrets to successful puppy raising and training. If you focus on the following 3 things with your new puppy, I guarantee you will be well on your way to having an amazing dog!


Sleep Is Key!

Puppies need between 18 and 20 hours of sleep every day until they are close to a year old. Most of their puppy energy is going into growth and development at this stage which doesn’t leave a lot of energy left over for being awake and making good choices. The majority of puppies we train are significantly sleep deprived and a sleep deprived puppy is a puppy who is not capable of good behavior or exercising control. What an overtired puppy commonly looks like is what I like to call “Piranha Mode” meaning as the puppy gets tired, their teeth come out.

Sleep is the first priority in puppy training because without adequate sleep, even the best toys, treats, or training techniques won’t work consistently to combat unwanted puppy behaviors like biting. We recommend a 1:2 ratio of awake time to crate napping time until about 6 months of age and then switching to a 2:2 ratio. In other words, for every hour your puppy is awake until 6 months old, they will need to follow it with about 2 hours of nap time. We recommend most of those naps happen in their crate because your puppy will get more restful sleep with less interruptions. This also helps your puppy get comfortable in their crate more quickly as it becomes a regular part of their day where they can go to relax and rest.

Ditch the Food Bowl

Hand feeding your puppy’s meals as a part of socialization and training is a great way to make use of a daily necessity to help positively shape your puppy’s behavior. This automatically gives you 3 opportunities every day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to interact with your puppy in a purposeful way while teaching them the skills they need to be a successful adult dog and while also building a relationship where you become associated with good things.

Feeding your puppy in a bowl on the ground is such a wasted opportunity! Using your puppy’s food you can build engagement (aka eye contact and focus on you) which will help teach your puppy to pay attention to you instead of all the other distractions, reward them for potty training success, practice obedience commands like polite leash walking and sitting to be pet, and expose them in a positive way to new environments, sights, sounds, objects, and important experiences like being brushed and groomed or going to the vet.

Be Proactive Not Reactive

The most common reason people reach out for puppy training help is because they don’t know how to stop their puppy from doing “insert annoying puppy behavior here”. The problem with this question is that the real answer is to stop waiting for the puppy to do something wrong to give them any feedback. We recommend being very proactive and finding as many opportunities throughout the day to tell your puppy they’re making a good choice or practicing good behavior and reward it! If you spend more of your interactions with your puppy showing them what you want and rewarding them for making good choices, you will ultimately spend much less time having to correct or redirect them when they make bad choices.

A puppy is developmentally just a baby and they don’t know yet what the right behavior is, so it’s your job as a puppy owner to help them understand which behaviors you like and will produce positive rewards. It can be as simple as rewarding your puppy for laying calmly by your side while watching squirrels run around outside or for NOT barking when someone knocks at the door or the UPS truck drives up. Reward your puppy proactively for the things that they do that you DON’T want them to stop doing and you will spend very little timing trying to figure out how to stop any unwanted behavior.


Need more puppy training help? Check out our one of a kind Platinum Puppy Program HERE!

Happy Puppy Training!

“Justin, me, Moxie and Atlas are at the beach this week (got here Friday) and it has been a complete 180 from the last couple of years at the beach. People stop them on the beach and comment on how well-behaved they are. Dogs off-leash or acting up run towards them and they are able to remain composed. It’s truly amazing and such a relief we could almost cry.

They will sit by us in the tidal pools and play or dig as little kids or dogs run by. I can’t express how wonderful it truly is, but we wanted to let you know. They’re not perfect, but they better know our expectations and now when they bark it’s more like a “hey” instead of a hey hey hey hey hi hi hi look over here HEY I NEED TO GET TO YOU RIGHT NOW.I could write more, but all of this is to say we’re so happy and grateful.”-Blake Jordan of Shipman, VA

BEFORE TRAINING: Kaiya, a 4 year old female Golden Retriever who was adopted after having spent her life as a puppy mill breeder. Her new owners immediately recognized that she needed even more than just obedience training; she was extremely fearful of almost everything including loud noises, doorways, men, and any new situations. Having never experienced living in a home let alone a downtown environment, she was struggling with the transition.

AFTER TRAINING: Kaiya is now able to enjoy the freedom of being totally off-leash at the park, coming back as soon as her mom or dad call her. She is a much more confident dog who has adjusted to life as a house pet remarkably well, she even enjoys going in the elevator at their condo. Jeff & Kaye were completely committed to doing all they could to help Kaiya live a happier and less-stressful life, and all their hard work and training practice certainly paid off.

“Heather at Lead the Way K9 Training is terrific. Our Vet recommended her and we were not disappointed. She helped us work with our very timid and skittish rescue, Kaiya. The improvement was remarkable and it was joy to watch our girl come out of her shell. Heather is very knowledgeable about training and training methods. We highly recommend her for any level of training that you might need for your canine companion!”
-Jeff Fracher of Charlottesville, VA

Gromit & Lindsay in Charlottesville, VA
4 year old female Lab Mix
Before Training:Separation anxiety and a “Velcro Dog” following owner around 24/7. Not trustworthy off-leash and would chase small animals. Leash reactivity and overall poor leash skills- barking, pulling, not paying attention on walks.

Training was important because: Owner wants to be comfortable taking Gromit on long camping and hiking trips and for her to be off-leash.

After Training:Totally reliable off-leash and able to enjoy taking Gromit with her on outdoor trips. Able to enjoy daily walks instead of getting dragged on the leash. Enjoying more freedom for both dog and owner and recently added a puppy to their family and they are getting along great.

What Owner Has to Say:“She has been great on our walks and off-leash outings! Such a difference with Gromit in a short time.”

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