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

Your Relationship with Your Dog is a Feedback Loop

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.


What’s So Great About E-collar Training?

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!

E-collar Training

E-collar Training

If you are interested in e-collar training in Portland Oregon, check out some of my videos.  I use e-collars in all of my training programs as they are a fantastic communication tool to use in dog training.  The collars I use and recommend are some of the best on the market today and are the same technology a tens unit that a chiropractor has (basically it is electrical stimulation).  The best collars you can buy go from levels 1-100 so you have a wide range of stim to communicate with your dog.

With the ecollar we can work the dog on low levels which feels to them like a gentle tap on the shoulder or we can shout at “correction level” if we need to stop any unwanted behaviors etc.  Some unwanted behaviors in dogs are quite dangerous and need to be stopped immediately so the e-collar or remote collar is a great way to do to that efficiently.  As a balanced dog trainer in Portland, I utilize both positive and negative reinforcement in my work. This is really simple.  Basically we reward what we like, and correct what we don’t like.  It’s a pretty black and white system, and it works really well.

Another thing the e-collar is awesome for is re-call (dog coming back when called) which I teach in my off leash training program in Portland Oregon.  The e-collar works like an invisible leash and is a great way to enjoy your dog even more (if you feel your dog is safe in the general public to be off leash and you want to take them hiking or to the beach but need to increase their reliability with the command come).  Using positive reinforcement only to teach the “come” command can only take you so far.  With some dogs that will work, but probably with most dogs, they will at times (or often) blow off your come command for something of a higher value in the moment.  There may be something of a higher value than the treat you have in your pocket – like a squirrel or cat and this is where the e-collar comes in to basically proof your dog and share with them a consequence for not coming back when called.  The thing to think about is – having a dog with a reliable re-call is really one of the things that makes a dog, “a good dog.”  It is also super dangerous to have a dog blowing off your “come” command when we live in a world with cars, streets, other off leash dogs and various dangerous things you don’t want your dog to get into.  With the e-collar you can continue to work on re-call which is also a super fun exercise to teach your dog.

If you are looking for someone that can help you with e-collar training in Portland Oregon check out some of my videos.

If you are looking for a Portland dog trainer for behavioral issues also check out my videos and fill out a contact form if you want to move forward.

The Value of Structure in Dog Training

The Value of Structure in Dog Training

A lot of people call me to get a feel for what my dog training program in Portland, Oregon looks like, so I want to take the opportunity to lay some of this out in this blog.

Everything I do as a balanced dog trainer comes down to the foundational work of laying out a very structured environment for your dog.  Structure means some key things:

  1. Dogs sleep in a crate
  2. We use specific training collars to optimize our results
  3. Dogs have to walk in a heel position
  4. We hold the dog accountable for commands
  5. During the training period, free roaming is limited or eliminated
  6. We reward behaviors we want and correct behaviors we don’t want

These are just some of the basic elements to what I teach in my dog training and rehabilitation program in Portland Oregon.  Some of it may seem really strict but the thing is that it really works to get dogs into a better state of mind.  All of the structure I add in works with the basic idea of pack hierarchy in dogs.  Dogs are constantly looking for leadership and if they don’t have it, things like, behavioral issues, aggression issues and separation anxiety can set in.  We may at first see an increase in the behavioral issues or fear states in a dog when we begin to add in structure, but what we are actually seeing is the dog’s deepest issues underneath all the behaviors we don’t like.  Then we can work the dog through all of that stuff and start to bring in the positive reinforcement training, and clicker training in Portland.

If your dog is struggling with any behavioral issues and you are looking for a balanced dog trainer in Portland Oregon, check out some of my videos.