Here are some books I wholeheartedly recommend. They provide great information about training, behavior, and living with your dog. A great place to get books is

home_475x60_1Puppy Training and Development

  • Before and After You Get Your Puppy – Ian Dunbar

Training and Understanding Dog Behavior

  • Culture Clash – Jean Donaldson
  • Don’t Shoot the Dog – Karen Pryor
  • How To Teach a New Dog Old Tricks – Ian Dunbar
  • The Power of Positive Dog Training – Pat Miller
  • Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog – Pat Miller
  • How To Behave So Your Dog Behaves – Sophia Yin
  • Parenting Your Dog – Trish King
  • Dog Friendly Dog Training – Andrea Arden
  • Excel-erated Dog Training – Pam Reid

Behavior Problems


  • Dogs Are From Neptune – Jean Donaldson


  • Aggression in Dogs – Brenda Aloff
  • Mine! – Jean Donaldson (resource guarding)
  • Fight! – Jean Donaldson (dog-dog aggression)


  • I’ll Be Home Soon – Patricia McConnell
  • Canine Separation Anxiety Workbook – James O’Heare


  • Help for Your Fearful Dog: A Step by Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer His Fears – Nicole Wilde
  • Cautious Canine – Patricia McConnell
  • Help for Your Shy Dog – Deborah Wood



Whole Dog Journal Features Dr. Sarah and Her Dogs!

Dr. Sarah teaching Quaid to “wait.” Whole Dog Journal, May 2007

Dr. Sarah teaching Quaid to “wait.”
Whole Dog Journal, May 2007

We are thrilled that Whole Dog Journal has taken notice of The Canine Connection! Recent issues of this national magazine have featured photos of Dr. Sarah and her dogs, and some of her clients and their dogs! And, in Whole Dog Journal’s first ever calendar, Deveron, Dr. Sarah’s “Director of Animal Magnetism”, stole a leading spot.

While we love that we’ve been featured in the magazine, the best part of Whole Dog Journal is the wealth of information it provides. This truly is the BEST monthly source of information on holistic health, natural dog care and positive training for your dog. If you subscribe to only one magazine, make it Whole Dog Journal. Your dog will thank you!


Dr. Sarah Writes on “Educating Bowser” for Bay Woof

Bay Woof, a publication that offers “news with a bite for Bay Area dog lovers”, featured Dr. Sarah’s article, “Educating Bowser” in its October 2007 issue. This article introduced readers to different training needs and options for puppies and dogs. Click here to read this article in this fun, informative magazine.

By Sarah Richardson
For canines as well as humans, proper schooling is fundamental to a happy and successful life. Dogs don’t intuitively know how to live in a human world – after all, they are members of another species, and they definitely don’t speak English! Most of the time when we are frustrated with them, it’s because they simply don’t know what to do or how to behave in order to please us. This is why education is crucial… (more)


Is Your Dog Digging Spring (literally)?

This time of year I receive a lot of questions about digging: “Why has my dog started digging in my yard, and what can I do about it?”. Two springtime activities often converge so that our dogs “dig” spring: (1) we get out our gardening gloves and start to work in our yards, creating wonderful soft spots for dogs to explore and (2) we start leaving our dogs outside more, unsupervised, with lots of time on their paws and often way too little to do. Guess what happens – dogs start “digging” spring.

Digging is one of those behaviors where a dog’s view of landscaping, and our human view, collide. So, what are we humans to do? The first step is to understand WHY dogs dig.

Lenny chooses sunbathing over digging.

Lenny chooses sunbathing over digging.

Why Dogs Dig

Dogs typically dig for at least three good reasons (from their point of view):

  1. They are bored and there’s nothing else to do.
  2. Digging provides a cool, comfortable place for resting.
  3. Digging is just plain fun!

(Please note that dogs do NOT dig out of spite. They’re not trying to get back at you for anything. Dogs just don’t think like that. But they may be unaccustomed to longer hours alone in the backyard, which can lead to digging and other undesirable behaviors).
What To Do About It

1. Do not leave your dog outside unsupervised. You can NOT train your dog to act appropriately if you are not there to guide his behaviors. If your dog must stay outside unsupervised, then put him in a smaller confinement area, like a well-shaded, safe, and comfortable dog run, so he doesn’t have full access to the yard. Or fence off your prize plants so your dog can’t have access to them!

2. Be sure your dog has PLENTY to do – exercise his mind and body every day.

  • Daily interactive toys – Stuffed Kong toys are great for unstuffing, which simulated digging
  • 20 minutes of aerobic activity every day!
  • Lots of interaction with you – walking, positive training, etc.

3. Give your dog his or her own sandbox – a “legal” place to dig!

  • Demarcate its limits so it’s clear where they can legally dig
  • Make it attractive – bury things in it
  • Reward digging in it – your praise, hidden treasures

If your dog is caught in the act digging elsewhere, interrupt and redirect to doing more appropriate behavior, such as digging in a “legal” place.

4. Be sure your dog has a soft, cool place to rest, with plenty of water.

Is it Anxiety Related?
If digging is part of a package of destructive or unruly behaviors it could be a symptom of separation or other anxieties (like fear of noises, like lawn mowers). Make a record of what other behaviors are present along with digging (barking, chewing on door frames, fence jumping) and when they occur. Seek professional help to address underlying feelings of anxiety through a thorough program of behavior modification.


Vacationing With Your Pet

Pets Are Traveling Too!

As pets are becoming more integrated into our families, pet owners are looking for vacation options that include their pets! A recent study by the Travel Industry Association indicated that in the last three years 29.1 million people (about 14% of the U.S. adult population) have traveled with a pet. The most popular pet travel companion is a dog.

The Travel and Recreation Industry Responds

Travel with pets is a growing consumer trend to which the travel industry is responding. Many hotels that once tolerated pets, now welcome them with open paws. Indeed, some have rolled out the welcome mat, with pet friendly programs like Starwood’s “Love That Dog!” Visiting canines to their Sheraton and Westin properties are treated to special pet beds, bowls, and homemade biscuits and treats. Still other lodging properties are dedicating themselves primarily to the person-and-pet market. And for those who want to not just bring a dog along, but make dog-life the center of a vacation, summer camps for dogs and people abound. An example of this is Camp Winnaribun, which occupies a scout camp when the scouts have gone home. In this rustic setting, dogs and people can enjoy dogs sports like flyball and agility, and take walks in the woods or romp in the lake – all in the presence of other like-minded creatures!

Need Help Planning Your Pet Friendly Trip?

Numerous websites, and even travel guides for pet-friendly travel abound. Here are but some of the many helpful resources that can help you plan your trip

Should Fido “Come!” or “Stay”

Four considerations should dictate whether Fido accompanies you on your next vacation.

  1. Health – just as travel can be strenuous for people, so too can it be strenuous for pets. Be sure to visit your veterinarian to make sure your pet is in good health and up-to-date on all vaccinations. A rabies vaccination is required, by law, in all fifty states.
  2. Disposition – if your dog is uncomfortable with new people and places then he or she is better left at home. A reputable kennel or professional pet sitter can ensure your pet’s comfort and give you peace of mind. Go to to find a local professional petsitter.
  3. Ability to be alone and confined – there WILL be times your dog will need to stay alone and confined (crates are the best and safest confinement systems provided a dog has been introduced to one properly). Will your pet remain relaxed when alone and confined? If not, your pet is best left at home.
  4. Your ability to thoroughly plan your trip, then adapt to new situations. Expect the unexpected when traveling with a pet – a hotel that has lost your reservation, the need to change your schedule to accommodate a pet’s need to walk. Guilt is not a reason to vacation with your pet. If you do not truly enjoy changes that must be made when traveling with a pet, leave Fido or Fifi at home.

What Should I Pack in My Dog’s Suitcase?

  • Rabies certificate and other medical information
  • Name and number of your veterinarian
  • Temporary ID tags – update it every time you change locations
  • Permanent ID tags/microchip so if your dog is lost he or she is better assured of coming home
  • Bed, toys, and crate
  • Enough of his regular food to get him through the trip
  • Plenty of water and a collapsible water bowl
  • Pet travel guide and loads of pet travel information!

What Will Ensure a Successful Trip?

Plan, plan, plan! Then have a doggone good time!!!


 Why Dogs Bark? And What Can We Do About It?

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Barking is a natural way for a dog to communicate. Just as we verbalize in order to communicate with others and about the world around us, so too do dogs vocalize with a host of yips, yaps, howls, growls and bays.

Barking serves many functions for dogs and for us. A well-timed yip lets us know when our dog needs to go out or come in. A series of low, resonant “ruuuuuuuff, ruuuuuuuff, ruuuuuuuuuff”s tells us a stranger is approaching, and short, high-pitched “ruff”s and “arf”s mean that our dog is having a howling good time. However, too much barking can become a nuisance to owners, neighbors, visitors, and even other dogs. If you want to understand how to solve a barking problem you must first understand what your dog is trying to communicate since different types of barking require different training responses.

There are six common reasons that dogs bark, and a good way to remember these is with the word “BARKER”.

BORED. Many dogs bark when they are bored, particularly if their bored state is accompanied by opportunities to shout at squirrels, birds, and passers-by. To keep your dog from becoming bored, give your dog plenty of exercise and puzzle toys (such as Kongs) to occupy his attention when you are away. Manage his environment to reduce the bark triggers; that is, don’t let barking at external stimuli become your dog’s main source of entertainment. This may mean bringing him inside if boredom in the backyard makes him bark throughout the day.

ALARM / FEAR. Dog often bark to express fear. Watch your dog’s body language to see if it indicates fear – he will be crouched, possibly cowering, and his ears will be back. Alarm/fear barking is best addressed through a sound program of socialization that teaches your dog that new sights and sounds are positive instead of threatening. If your dog already barks out of alarm or fear you must address the underlying emotions through a systematic effort to desensitize and counter-condition him to those things that are frightening and threatening.

REQUEST / ATTENTION. Your dog may have trained you to provide attention, food, or other valued resources at his command (his bark). Some request/attention barking is helpful, such as when your dog lets you know it’s time to go out. However, if your dog’s attention-seeking barking is getting out of hand – or out of paw :) – then remember that complying with your dog’s wishes will guarantee your dog will ask again. If you don’t want your dog training you, ignore inappropriate request/attention barking and reward quiet, polite behavior instead.

KEEP AWAY / PROTECTION. Many of us appreciate a dog that has a sense of territory and barks protectively. However, it is important that we can gain “quiet” when we want and that invited guests can safely enter our domain. To prevent territorial barking, avoid setting up “look out” places around you home (such as a favorite couch next to a picture window) where your dog will constantly be on surveillance duty. Just think how many times he will reinforced when his barking makes delivery people, the mail person, and passers-by go away (at least in his mind that’s what he likely thinks is occurring). Remember, practice makes perfect with all behaviors, including unwanted barking. Practice a positive obedience and socialization program with your dog to ensure that he can quiet and settle down on command, and allow safe passage of welcomed guests.

EXCITEMENT AND ENTHUSIASM. It’s fun to hear our dogs bark with joy But if your dog gets barking and has trouble turning it off, then teach your dog to quiet and settle down on command. An additional strategy can be teaching your dog to grab a favorite toy when he wants to dance with joy (few dogs can bark with a toy in their mouths). As a preventative approach, avoid those situations which are hyper-stimulating and send his barking out of control.

RETURN TO ME! This last form of barking is truly distressing, for our dogs and for us. It is barking out of anxiety – even panic – at being left alone. This form of barking is intense and incessant, and typically occurs right after an owner has left a dog alone. If it is accompanied by inappropriate elimination in the house and destruction of doorways, windows, and other areas then it MAY point to separation anxiety. As a preventative measure, gradually teach your dog that it’s OK to be alone. If you think your dog has separation anxiety, then consult with an experienced dog behavior specialist who can help you and your dog address this very distressing condition.

Do some dogs "talk" more than others? Buddy is part sheltie. Sheltie's are part of the family of herding dogs that are known to be enthusiastic barkers. But Buddy does not bark inappropriately. His good training has taught him to easily quiet and settle on command. While both genetics and environment combine to produce barking, good management of your dog's environment, socialization, and training can help every dog develop good communication skills.

Do some dogs “talk” more than others? Buddy is part sheltie. Sheltie’s are part of the family of herding dogs that are known to be enthusiastic barkers. But Buddy does not bark inappropriately. His good training has taught him to easily quiet and settle on command. While both genetics and environment combine to produce barking, good management of your dog’s environment, socialization, and training can help every dog develop good communication skills.

Should I Use a Bark Collar or Other Anti-Bark Device?

Bark collars, and most other remote anti-bark devices work through punishment. They typically emit an unpleasant shock, odor, spray or sound when a dog barks. While these collars can quiet barking, they can often produce unanticipated side effects. For example, a dog that once barked out of boredom, but has been punished for that, may turn his excess energy to digging instead. A dog that barked because of territoriality may come to associate strangers with pain, thereby replacing natural territoriality with a dislike of certain people. For these and other reasons bark collars and other anti-bark devices that employ punishment should ONLY be used with great care and with the guidance of an experienced behavior professional. If used unwisely, unfairly, or unkindly bark collars and other anti-barking devices can take a simple barking problem and turn it into something much more problematic.

For these reasons, bark collars should NOT be used on a dog who barks out of fear, alarm, or anxiety. The key to resolving these barking problems is helping the dog feel more positive and less threatened by fear/anxiety triggers. Punishing barking in these situations will only add MORE negativity to these triggers. You may stop barking, but you will intensify the fear/anxiety which will produce additional, even greater problems.


Books About Barking:

  • The Bark Stops Here, by Terry Ryan. Available for online purchase here.
  • Help! I’m Barking and I Can’t Be Quiet: A Pet Parenting Guide, by Daniel Estep and Suzanne Hetts. Available for online purhase here.


The Power of Positive Dog-Dog Play

As we move toward summer, we may find ourselves in a more playful state of mind.

Just as play is important for us, so too is it for our dogs! In fact, the opportunity to play is critical to your dog’s wellbeing. Dogs are hard-wired to play. For puppies, it’s their job description. For older dogs, it tremendously enhances their quality of life. Play helps to:

  • Burn physical energy
  • Provide mental stimulation
  • Teach puppies about canine communication
  • Teach puppies to inhibit their bite
  • Teach dogs that other dogs are fun!
This beagle brigade enjoys a game o f chase. Note the happy expression of the chasee.

This beagle brigade enjoys a game
o f chase. Note the happy expression
of the chasee.

Just as people tend to fall into groups that like different kinds of play (some like team sports and some like individual sports; some like competition, and others don’t), so too do dogs have different play styles. Oftentimes, dogs play best with other dogs that share their play style. Here are some types to consider. Some dogs have combinations of these.

The Taggers. Some dogs just love to chase and be chased. For these dogs, the opportunity to play tag is as good as it gets! If these dogs were people, they’d probably be sprinters, always trying to outrun those behind or catch those ahead.

The Tuggers. Some dogs just love to play tug with other dogs. It’s fun to watch because they usually play it cooperatively, with one dog engaging the other. If these dogs were people, they’d probably be tennis players, keeping their opponent engaged in play, with the toy (the ball) between them.

The Wrestlers. Other dogs like a “wrestling” style of play. These dogs like to throw their weight behind their play style. They may spend as much time on the ground, as upright. If these dogs were people, they really would be wrestlers.

The Herders. Herding (no surprise) dogs are notorious for this. Herders don’t like a lot of physical contact. Instead, the game is tactical – there’s always ready for the next move to occur. If these dogs were people, they’d probably be playing a game of chess.


Puppies learn to inhibit their bite by mouthing in play. Note the bent elbow, indicative of a play bow, and the happy face.

Puppies learn to inhibit their bite by
mouthing in play. Note the bent elbow,
indicative of a play bow, and the
happy face.

Play between unfamiliar dogs, or dogs of different sizes and temperaments, should be carefully monitored. Just as you would not send a group of school children out for recess unsupervised, so too should play be supervised. Please click here to learn more about the potential perils of play between big and little dogs. Here are characteristics of healthy, happy play:

Reciprocity. This means that roles will be constantly traded off. For example, the chaser will become the chasee. The top dog wrestlers will become the underdog. The herder will allow himself to be the herdee. If you are not sure if your dog is enjoying play, separate him from his playmate. While restraining the playmate (so your dog has a chance), see if your dog will initiate play.

Play bows. Play bows are an invitation to play. They’re a dog’s way of saying “wanna have some fun?”

Big bouncy movements. When playing, dogs will be inefficient in their movements. Sometimes it will seem like they go up and down more often than they go straight ahead. Even runners will be bouncy in their movements.

Happy face. Dogs oftentimes appear to be smiling when they’re playing. They will sometimes growl too. Learn to recognize the difference between a play growl and a warning growl. It’s important to assessing healthy play.

Take a break. Healthy play will often involve dog-imposed breaks, when dogs “paws” for a moment or more.

These beagles choose to take a play break and do what beagles do best.

These beagles choose to take a play
break and do what beagles do best.

Here are signs of unhealthy play.

  • A dog that is constantly being cornered, actively seeks cover and won’t re-engage
  • A dog with his tail between his legs, his ears back, and his body in retreat mode
  • A dog that is constantly being body slammed and never has a chance to get away
  • A dog that is snarling, snapping, or retreating as a way of trying to communicate it wants other dogs to go away
  • A dog that is obviously trying to hurt another dog
  • A dog that relentlessly goes after one dog, even in a group
  • A dog that does not let up on another dog, even when the other dog submits (rolls on side or back, averts eyes)

What to do if good play goes bad?

All play should be carefully monitored. It is wise to give dogs periodic breaks so that the intensity of play does not escalate. If one dog is creating unhealthy play, issue a “time out” cue to let the dog know the moment his play has gone too far, and remove the dog. He’ll quickly learn that appropriate play can continue, but inappropriate play means the game is over.

Play should NOT be considered a way to help reactive or aggressive dogs “get over it”. Play should be a positive experience for dogs — yours and his playmates — so be a playground monitor. Play an active role in assessing, monitoring, and managing play.

Many thanks to Jean Donaldson, author of “Culture Clash” and Director of the San Francisco Dog Trainers Academy for pioneering an understanding of dog play.


Five Foundations of Good Behavior

Lenny-and-Sarah-heeling-1I’m a big believer that training your dog is a way of living with your dog. Here are five everyday things you can do to build and maintain your dog’s good behavior:

1. Start and maintain a training fitness program. I am often asked “When will I be finished training my dog?” The answer is NEVER! You have to exercise your dog’s training muscle by practicing good manners and skills to keep it toned. Here’s the good news. More frequent short training sessions (a few minutes a day is fine for many behaviors) is better than fewer longer training sessions, so resolve to make training a part of daily life.

2. Exercise! There’s an old saying “a well-behaved dog is a tired dog”. Think of your dog as an exercise machine with fur, and resolve to take a daily walk with your dog.

3. Play with your dog! How often have you laughed and lost a sense of time and worries when playing with your dog? Play is essential to the human and canine spirit, so resolve to unleash the power of play with your dog. Two of my favorite games are hide-and-seek (helps build a great come-when-called) and fetch, which can be easily taught to most dogs.

4. Teach your dog to say “Please”. Start waiting for your dog to sit before he or she gets anything he wants – food, toys, attention, access to places he wants to go (like out the back door). Making this simple lifestyle change is the fastest way to teach your dog to be attentive, self-restrained, and respectful of your leadership.

5. Focus on “Do” instead of “Don’t”. I am often asked “How can I get my dog to stop jumping/barking/stealing/digging/etc.?” The truth is it is much easier to teach your dog to do something than to teach your dog not to do something. For example, instead of focusing on teaching your dog not to jump for attention, put the focus on teaching your dog to sit for attention instead.


You’ll love our new, informative and entertaining newsletters! Send them to your friends. It’s great reading for you and great info for your dogs.


Dog Books and Videos