How To Fix Leash Reactivity

Hi everyone!

If you are struggling with leash reactivity in Portland Oregon or anywhere for that matter I am available for consultations and lessons. Leash reactivity can be a little tricky to “fix.” But let me break it down for you a bit.

There are a few theories as to why this happens in dogs. I would say about 95% of dogs are uncomfortable with the leash itself and here are a few possible reasons:

  • It makes them nervous because they can’t greet dogs in the way they could without a leash
  • Dogs and people make them nervous in general

So leash reactivity in dogs is really about them trying to “push” things away from them. Like, “please leave us alone – I am so scary.”

A possible theory to consider: If your dog really trusted you to make decisions for the pack because you have a good track record, they could defer to you to deal with the scary things like dogs and people. Getting a dog to buy into you as a pack leader is about your relationship with them, how much you ask of them in day to day activities and how you can hold them accountable for their behavior, meaning, if they blow off your “ask” there is a consequence that they would rather avoid.

I’ve been a dog trainer in Portland Oregon for several years now and have worked with many leash reactive dogs. I think the magic combo is asking a lot more of them in daily life and then working on your leash handling skills with a prong collar or head halter and an e-collar.

How to Improve Pack Leadership:

  • Claim your space in your house.
  • Kick them off of couches, beds and out of rooms like the kitchen… just because, like, for no reason other than that’s what you decide on a whim.
  • Make them stop at thresholds like the crate door, car door and front door before going through it.
  • Wait for eye contact before you give them food.
  • Don’t let them jump up on you or anyone else.
  • Teach them how to hold commands like a down with an e-collar as reinforcement.

I recommend checking out Cheri Lucas’ website for more ideas: https://cheriwulfflucas.com

These are just some ideas that really really help them to buy into you as a leader. Dog training shouldn’t be something you just do for a period and then stop, it’s something you have to constantly be working on. I help people with dog obedience training in Portland and see that the clients I work with that really adopt the mindset that its a lifelong process, have the best results.

The second part of the magic combo to stop leash reactivity is leash handling skills with the right collars. This is something you may need help from a professional dog trainer. E-collar training is a game changer for stopping leash reactivity. And no, an e-collar will not mess up your dog unless you blast them unfairly with is constantly on a level that is ridiculously high. I’ve never had a client do that. Most people are afraid of messing up their dogs so they use the e-collar on levels that are way too low, often not getting the best results from it.

If you are looking for a leash reactivity dog trainer in Portland Oregon, check out my website at www.balancedpackk9training.com and my services page.

Too Much Affection Can Be Working Against You in Training Your Dog

Hi, I am a balanced dog trainer in Portland Oregon.  I help people with serious behavioral issues, basic dog training and rehabilitation.  Here are my thoughts on too much affection with your dog.

Coming from the animal kingdom, dogs rely on instinct to make decisions and they are always ranking everyone around them to see who is a strong leader or a softer weak pack member.  

They see too much soft nurturing energy as weak.  If you have an easy happy go lucky dog with no behavioral issues, a lot of affection might be ok.  However, if you’re struggling at all (which is the majority of dog owners), cutting back on unearned affection could be a game changer.  

The way I think it actually works though, is that you can share affection in proportion to how much you share rules and are buyable as an authority figure or leader.  If you want to be super affectionate with your dog, you might have to be more intense with them, more serious and more no nonsense about rules.

When you are trying to turn some behavioral issues around however, getting very serious, quiet, and calm is super helpful.  It doesn’t mean being cold, it just means being present without needing anything from them.  And I know you got a dog so that you could love it and show it affection, but if you are struggling, there is other value your dog is presenting to you.  That is the value of channeling your inner strength, learning about dog psychology and being of service to them and what THEY need.

Many people that have adopted really difficult dogs unknowingly and learned how to handle it, have been appreciative of the experience and the lessons it has brought.

Personally for me, when I adopted Honey Bear the pitbull in my early 20’s, I did everything wrong.  She was having issues because I was not a strong leader.  It reflected back to me my codependency issues and showed me that I needed to do a lot more work on myself spiritually and emotionally.  Dogs are always our teachers.

If you are interested in my services scroll through my website.  I do offer short board and train programs in Portland Oregon.  I also help people with e-collar training in Portland in addition to basic dog obedience.

Take Care,


4 Simple Tips for Dog Training and Rehabilitation

Hi everyone, I am a balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon.  I help people get results.  I wrote this blog to help give you a guide on what really helps to turn things issues around with your dog.  Enjoy!

1.  Consistency – Dogs are like kids in that they thrive in consistency.  Routines, rules and schedules work well for them because there is a certain comfort in knowing some things are always the same.  Being consistent with rules is a game changer.  Make sure everyone in your household is also on board with enforcing your rules.  Let me give you some examples of rules you can be consistent with:  

  • Stopping at doorways (including the car)
  • Making them sit when you come to an intersection
  • Walking in a heel position 
  • Waiting for eye contact (before they can come out if the crate, before they eat)
  • Kicking them out of rooms/the kitchen when you cook

2.  Pressure – Most people disregard and misunderstand pressure as a method of getting amazing results in your dog buying into you as pack leader.  Why is pressure important?  Because dogs are not verbal animals – their communication lies solely in body language.  What does pressure mean?    

There are 3 forms of it:  

  • Body or special pressure 
  • Leash pressure 
  • Electronic pressure or an e-collar

Pressure is a game changer and is the difference between a dog listening only to get a reward or listening because it buys into you as a leader or authority.  For me, having my dog buy into me as a leader is really a safety issue.  When I’m doing off-leash training in Portland, I train dogs to focus on me and the training even with distractions like squirrels and other dogs.  Of course the repetition in dog training is a key to success, but if a dog also buys into you as a leader then you’ve got a dog that’s listening really well over-all.  

3.  Mindset – Whatever you are trying to teach your dog, don’t give up!  Sometimes it takes even professional dog trainers a few days before a breakthrough occurs.  Sometimes a breakdown appears to happen but remember on the other side of that is a breakthrough. 

4.  Guidance – Want to know the easiest way to get better results?  Work with either a martingale or prong collar (which applies pressure), and leash your dog up 100% of the time until you start to have breakthroughs.  If you hired me to be your balanced dog trainer in Portland, I would do exactly that.  Doing this gives them guidance so they know what is expected of them in every moment.  

I hope this is helpful!  I help people with e-collar training in Portland, Oregon.  I also assist people with behavioral issues and off-leash dog training in Portland.  

Reach out if you are looking for a dog trainer!



Teaching “No” in Balanced Dog Training

Teaching “No” in Balanced Dog Training

How to Teach Your Dog the Word “No”

I’m a balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon.  Often times when people reach out to get in touch with me about dog training, they have a huge list of unwanted behaviors that they would like their dog to stop.

Here is an example:  “Jumping on houseguests, playing too rough with our other senior dog, not dropping things, not coming back when called.”

A list like this can seem overwhelming to owners, but let me break this down conceptually to make it really simple.  You have to teach your dog the word, “no.”  Like… really teach it.  Most people think this means, saying “no” in a stern voice when they do something wrong.  The reality is that dogs don’t know English or any verbal language and a stern voice most likely isn’t a valuable consequence to get them to actually stop doing something annoying or dangerous.  They primarily communicate with body language.  So this means that we have to teach them that the word, “No” means this:  “I don’t like what you did and there is going to be a negative consequence for that unwanted behavior.”  Both “no” and “good” are what we call “marker words,” and mark a moment in time where you are identifying either a wanted or unwanted behavior.

For example in positive reinforcement you ask the dog to “sit,” and when they do, you mark it with, “good” and deliver (positive = adding something) the reinforcer – the treat.  Side note:  a “correction” is “positive punishment not negative reinforcement.”  This means we add something (a correction) to decrease the likelihood of a behavior.

In balanced dog training we use both positive and negative reinforcement which makes for a very effective way to get dogs to calm down, and proof more reliability in dog training obedience commands.  This is what everyone wants:  a dog they can take to a café and put into a down and enjoy lunch with their friends.  You can’t do that with an out of control dog and bribe them the entire time with treats or positive reinforcement if you want to have a nice relaxing lunch and not be hyper focused on your dog the whole time.

Coming back to the list of behavioral issues above.  Once dogs understand the word “no” very clearly, you can apply it to your list of behavioral issues.  In fact, what you can start to do is chip away at that list by using the marker word and applying a “punisher.”   Jumping on your houseguests for example, say “no” as they do it and then correct them.  Then move onto the next area like not dropping things from their mouths.  Think of this like charging up the marker word “no.”  Say you’ve been consistent with using a punisher more often than not when you say, “no,” now you can apply it to moments that might be harder to correct like, when the play all of a sudden gets too rough with your senior dog.  You can just say, “no,” and they will most likely chill a bit.  Or you can say, “no” and also step in between them stopping the play for a bit.  In other words, “no” becomes valuable because you make it valuable and now you have leverage.

It’s basically having good boundaries in your life… but with your dog.  In fact, I think dog training is a great place for people to practice fair and healthy boundaries.

Like I said, I am a balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon.  I also help people with e-collar dog training and basic obedience in Portland, Oregon.

If you’re looking for a dog trainer head over to my “contact us” page and fill out a form for a free consultation!

Take Care!

-Ren Marshall


Operant Conditioning Chart for Dog Training

The Feedback Loop in Dog Training

A lot of people think a balanced dog trainer can “fix” their dog and their issues.  The reality is that the relationship you have with your dog is a two-way street.  Many people don’t realize that the dynamics that occur between and owner and their dog work like a feedback loop.  Sure, there may be a genetic predisposition of the dog, but more often than not, there is also the energy that a person is putting into the feedback loop.  The dog then responds and gives that energy back – and the behaviors that arise from this feedback loop can look really out of control and even be outright dangerous.

I work as a dog behaviorist and balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon.  I help people with a balanced approach and also do ecollar training in Portland.  In my experience, most people share pretty “soft energy” with their dogs which can contribute to and even create behavioral issues.  As a dog behaviorist I focus a lot on energy, and teaching people how to share strong, grounded and neutral energy with their dogs.  This is the difference between “coddling and nurturing.”

A lot of potential clients say, “I know I really need training just as much as my dog.”  This is absolutely true and a good place to start.  It’s both though.  We can teach our dogs a lot of things and get them into a way calmer state of mind with the training methods I teach, but cleaning up your energy and also codependent reliance on your dog for emotional support is helpful when you want to have a mentally balanced dog and see real change.

If you are looking for a balanced dog trainer in Portland Oregon, or e-collar off leash training in Portland, Oregon please reach out at www.balancedpackk9training.com.


Are E-Collars Humane in Dog Training?

I am a balanced dog trainer in Portland.  I actually used to think e-collars were inhumane, but after getting a dog with serious behavioral issues, I discovered how amazing they were.

Here’s the deal.  Not only do I think e-collars are great, I believe that without e-collars you can get in a lot of trouble.  I think of e-collar training as training that ensures the safety of my dog.  With ecollar training we proof re-call.  Re-call means getting your dog to come back when called.  If my dog is off-leash and a car is coming, all of the e-collar training I have done, gives me leverage to more reliably call my dog back to me so they don’t get hit by a car.  This saves me from an extremely traumatic event, a massive vet bill and possibly a death.  Or if we are off-leash hiking and they see a squirrel that ecollar training might help me out in that moment that my dog wants to take off of me.

There is so much misinformation out there about e-collars.  People say they are inhumane etc. etc.  I have a lot of opinions about this but the facts are this:  if you only have food reward for recall, is that as reliable in that moment to your dog than the squirrel?  For most dogs, they’re going to weigh out what is more valuable to them in the moment and it will have nothing to do with pleasing you.

It’s our job to keep our dogs safe.  Even if e-collars administer a momentary discomfort to my dog for literally a split second of their life, this is the more humane thing than not having this off-leash reliability and risking them getting injured.   That means having a reliable re-call so that if a car comes, they will come back to you and not blow you off.  E-collar training also helps calm dogs down by giving them a set of non-negotiable rules they have to follow to be a member of your pack – thus increasing your rank as pack leader.  This is what really creates psychological balance in dogs – knowing that there are rules and that they don’t have to be in charge.  Navigating the human world I imagine feels impossible and overwhelming for them, thus the anxious behaviors we see when owners are too “soft,” with dogs and share only soft energy.

I truly believe that a strong re-call a huge part of what makes a dog “a good dog.”  E-collars make that possible for the average person that isn’t a dog trainer and doesn’t have hours upon hours of time to try to teach re-call with positive reinforcement only.  A lot of dogs will still blow you off in the moment for the squirrel over the treat.  Even after all of those hours of positive reinforcement training.

E-collars also are a game changer to help in stopping unwanted behavioral issues in dog training.

In my experience as a balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon, I find that people really appreciate the freedom that e-collars bring.  There are so many places to hike including beaches and rivers.  Having off-leash training in Portland is where it’s at!

If you are looking for a balanced dog trainer in Portland Oregon, or e-collar training in Portland, Oregon please reach out at www.balancedpackk9training.com.


From Training Horses to Training Dogs

From Training Horses to Training Dogs

Throwback to when I used to ride horses.

1st photo: before training with the cowboy.  2nd photo: after training with the cowboy.  3rd photo: the cowboy.

Training Dogs
Training Dogs
Training Dogs best

My parents took me to a stable that showed horses and I started riding and training with the head trainer there.  I eventually bought this spicy Arabian horse named “Pistol” that lived up to his name.

As you can see in the first photo, his neck has an arch to it or curve.  This is an unnatural position for their necks but was the preferred “look” for showing “western pleasure.”  *I really had no idea what I was doing, I was just a young teenager that wandered into this world.

My horse began to get frustrated with the training – his head being constricted and never going anywhere fun.  There were warning signs like brattiness coming out here and there but eventually he threw me off really bad one day.  In a huge arena, he started running as fast as a racehorse and I could not stop him for the life of me.  The saddle wasn’t on tight enough and it started to slip – I lost both reigns and had nothing to hold onto as he was doing laps fast as lightning.

We came up to the 5 ft wall of the arena and I grabbed onto it and he ran out from under me as I came crashing down on my back in the dirt with the wind totally knocked out of me.  He continued to do laps and then bucked the saddle off stomping on it a few times.  I bruised a few ribs and was super sore both physically and emotionally.  It sucked.

I consulted all the trainers at the barn and they had crappy ideas.  One guy told me to “rip his teeth out,” if it ever happened again which is to say, give Pistol a strong correction with the bridle/bit.  The problem was, I was just a young kid. I didn’t have the capacity to do that –  it felt… off.  Too violent and ineffective.  I knew it wasn’t going to work anyways – my horse had become too crazy.

Finally, I found this horse whisperer trainer that was a cattle rancher.  He was a true cowboy – “a dying breed,” like they said in that old movie City Slickers.  My mother and I told him about my maniac horse and how hopeless I was feeling. He was so quiet, calm, and sure that we could turn the ship around.

In the beginning, he had me doing drills I didn’t really understand yet.  Also, when I gave my horse information (kicking with spurs – what you do in the horse world), to go from a walk to a gallop, he would blow me off and either ignore me or go into a trot.  Mike would say, “ask nicely the first time, but firmly the 2nd.”  He would also say, “this is a partnership, but you have the 51%.”

He wanted our turns to look better (because we were so out of sync).  We practiced on corners of arenas – 90-degree angles.  He wanted me to inform the horse mostly with my body positioning (weight distribution), and super gentle information with the reign and my leg, to pivot on one of his back feet. This meant that for a second, 3 of his feet would be off the ground at the same time for the turn.

I practiced this for months.  I remember the night Pistol and I did it.  Mike shouted with joy and then rode up to me on his horse and shook my hand.  He said, “Now that?  That was worth about a million dollars.”  My self-esteem went through the roof.  He was the most awesome mentor.  He also showed me these other super-effective techniques for when Pistol tried to take off on me again/throw me off.  I would alternate reigns and hold his neck out to the side – because a horse with his neck out to the side can’t go forward.  Better than “ripping his teeth out.”  It took months of work and so much patience but he stopped trying to “do his own thing,” and we became a team.

We ended up going out on the weekend trail riding camping trips with no problems.  The graduation so to speak was being invited to his ranch to help with the roundups – herding the cows in for branding/tagging/castration.  I remember the feeling of herding cows with my horse and knowing that he got it – he knew exactly what we were doing and he loved working.  All those drills for quick turns now came into focus – it was our wax on wax off.

Looking back I’m so grateful I had the difficult horse because what an awesome experience meeting my Yoda to help me.  Mike’s mentorship has definitely helped me with training dogs.


Nurturing not Coddling

Nurturing not Coddling

I read a recent article on the difference between nurturing and coddling in parenting.  This led me to look up the dictionary definition of “coddling:”

  1. To treat with extreme or excessive care or kindness; to treat with indulgence; to pamper.

We can easily see the pitfalls of over-indulgence or pampering.  I always recommend to my clients to “not coddle their dog,” especially if they are having behavioral issues.  But what does that mean?  Here are some quick tips:

  1. Limit talking to your dog like they are a human.
  2. Only speak to them using training commands – which means, most of your time with them will be silent.
  3. Don’t make it a big deal when you leave your house or come home (assuming your dog is crated). Be silent during these times.
  4. Don’t let them wander around your house for hours on end looking for stimulation. Teach them the “place” command and make them learn to relax in one place and calm down.
  5. Be calm and gentle when you pet them.
  6. Have boundaries and learn how to enforce them. No jumping on the furniture, no chasing the cat, no digging holes, no barking at the door etc.
  7. Don’t overly pet them or go to them for constant physical touch – they need space too.

To a lot of people, this list sounds overwhelming.  People feel they are being asked to go into this rigid Bootcamp mode with their dog – which is true to a certain extent (especially if you’re having issues).  But the trick to this is learning how to be nurturing and not coddling.

Can you be silent and still be nurturing?  Can you be a leader and still be nurturing?  This is the ticket.   I think in order to do this we have to dig in a little deeper and use our heart, our spirit, and our intentions.  The Monks of New Skete discussed in an interview that these dogs are entrusted into our care.  It’s best to share rules and structures with them, but we also need to remember just how freaking lucky we are to have them in our lives.  They are absolutely amazing and make my life so much better.  My dogs truly are family.

So I can take that gratitude I have for them in my life and share it all the time.  I share it in my energy.  I share it in my boundaries.  I share it when I feed them.  I share it in silence.

When I meet people that are high energy, or anxious/nervous, more often than not, I see amped-up overly excited dogs.  Sometimes that excitement will manifest as aggression or reactivity.

I want to draw some parallels to healthy human parenting and raising a dog or puppy. The most important concept in “balanced dog training” is working on the dog’s state of mind.  As a balanced trainer, I want dogs to be calm so that they can start to experience more peace, and make better decisions in the world.  What’s a better decision you ask?  Coming when called, not chasing the cat, not jumping on people, not lunging and barking at other dogs just to name a few.

So here’s the thing, dogs feed off of our energy.

A parallel between kids and dogs:  “And the developmental experts are in total agreement.  Anxious parents create insecure children.  Indulgent parents raise spoiled offspring.”*

Just like with human parenting, “Intoxicating levels of gratification and stimulation can drain kids of motivation and ambition.”*  This is because life itself is not always easy; it’s not always fair.  We more often than not don’t get what we want – and for animals surviving in the natural world, this is especially true.  Survival is hard work.

This is where I would argue that genetically we are hard wired to experience the ups and downs of life, and hence why I feel pure “pure positive-only training” is a faulty ideology that leaves so many dog owners suffering with behavioral issues.

Just like kids, dogs need boundaries and boredom.  It is in boredom that kids can develop the inner space which also helps their imaginations to become activated.  With dogs, they need to detox from our crazy world and practice impulse control.

The mastery is to find that fine line between being a leader and still being nurturing.  It’s possible, believe me.  And just like parenting, you’ll never be perfect at it.  You will make mistakes – and that’s okay because you are human and your amazing dog will forgive you.

Another tip:  Experiment with adding more soft stuff in after you’re getting better results.  It’s a balance you can play with.

If you’re looking for a Portland dog trainer get in touch with me!


Reference:  https://www.nymetroparents.com/article/Bringing-Up-Baby-Cuddling-vsCoddling—Secure-vsSpoiled

Why I’m Into Kenneling (Crating) Dogs

Why I’m Into Kenneling (Crating) Dogs

In this blog I want to address some key points on the importance of crate training your dog.  I am a balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon and I love helping my clients with getting their dog into a better state of mind.  Crate training is a major part of the puzzle.  Dogs that learn how to be calm and spend time in their kennels usually get into a much better state of mind.  In balanced dog training, calmness is the number one priority to work on even before dog obedience because it’s pretty difficult to train a super amped up dog.  In addition, I am not training for sport, hunting or competition.  I am a dog trainer in Portland that helps people with pet dogs – and usually people want calm dogs inside the house.  I have to, number one, be able to have a conversation with the dog and I can’t do that if they are in what is called a “state of arousal.”

When I get a dog in that has a lot of anxiety issues – it’s often caused or fed by a lack of structure in the home or pack environment. The crate has 4 walls and is immediate structure.  Now add in “being quiet in the kennel” as something we work on and we’ve got a dog “in command,” in their crate learning how to relax and watch the world go by.  I also believe dogs need more sleep/naps than humans – so it’s also good for them to spend time in the crate relaxing, otherwise dogs are chronically overstimulated.

I first want to define crate training, it simply means getting your dog accustomed to being in the crate and being quiet in the kennel (ie: not barking or trying to get out).

Here are some tips:

-Crate your dog at night and in the morning you can start the day with structure (getting your dog to wait at the crate door to come out instead of rushing the door).

-Crating your dog during the day while you are home is an excellent thing for your dog – a lot of people feel their dog should have freedom or be out when they are home, but it’s great for their state of mind to put them in the crate for a few hours during the day even if you are home.

-If your dog struggles with separation anxiety, crating is super important because otherwise your dog can work themselves up in a very anxious state while you are gone. They may be looking out the window, barking, pacing nervously or trying to get into stuff (trash, eating socks/shoes etc.) which is quite dangerous.

-Being quiet in the kennel is a command – it often takes some corrections to let your dog know what behaviors are unwanted and you may need to work with a balanced trainer to figure out the recipe of what works for your dog.

-Always be aware that dogs can also get into trouble in the crate. They can be “crate breakers” which means they try to bust out of their kennels which is super dangerous and could even result in death, serious trauma and/or a huge vet bill.  If your dog is trying to break out of their kennel definitely seek out some professional assistance and take it very seriously. Don’t leave your dog alone unattended at home until you know they can be calm in their kennels without trying to break out (it’s less typical for dogs to be “crate breakers” but I have to give a warning because it is a possibility).

-Also be mindful if your dog likes to eat things like bedding. This can also be super dangerous in the crate and also result in death. If your dog eats things like toys and bedding, don’t put that stuff in there with them.

-There is a cool app called “Presence” that allows you to hook up an old Iphone or Ipad to your current phone which works like a nanny cam so you can keep an eye on your dog in the kennel when you are gone.  I highly recommend this if you are leaving your dog alone in the kennel and don’t know how they will respond. Keep close to the house while you watch them in case you have to come back. You can also use a remote collar (e-collar) and correct them for any non-sense/anxious behavior or trying to get out of the crate while you are outside watching them on your phone.

-FYI I don’t like to crate dogs more than 6 hours at a time during the day as they need a potty break. I recommend getting a dog walker to let them out at the 5-6 hour mark for a break if you are going to be gone for a long time. During the night they can be in there all night, unless they are puppies and need some more frequent potty breaks.

Hope this helps!  It’s a lot of warnings but if you can crate train your dog and get them to spend more time in there it really helps to create a calmer mental state over-all.

If you are having any behavioral issues with your dog and are looking for a dog trainer in Portland, feel free to reach out!