Maisie, Acme Canine Dog of Month January 2017

Maisie, a crooked-eared mix, is the recipient of January’s Acme Canine dog of the month award for 2017.

Our first contact with her was in February of 2016 when Acme Canine approved trainer, Laura Pakis, came to her home for a canine evaluation.  Maisie  had just turned one and was a wild child.  She recognized her name and “sit” and “down” but mostly she would sniff and not respond to command.  Her owners wanted a a more controlled and obedient dog who could be a part of their family and not chase deer.  They decided on a residency at Acme Canine.

During the 10 days Maisie was at Acme, Laura immersed her in training.  Laura taught Maisie self control and command reliability using a balanced method of training.  She proofed Maisie’s commands using varying degrees of distractions and taught her the tools to be a well mannered dog.

Maisie learned quickly.  She enjoyed the challenges presented by Laura and proudly showed her owners what she learned at her take home session.  She continued to improve as her owners applied the commands to everyday life and followed through on obedience.

Maisie now joins us for boarding several times during the year and is always a joy to have at Acme.

Congratulations to Maisie and the Lyons for all their support and follow through.

What is Puppy Socialization Anyway?

When people talk about puppy socialization they are generally referring to the first 16 weeks of a dog’s life. This is the window of time in our puppy’s lives that determines who they will become as adult dogs. The temperament, character and behavior habits of your puppy are developed during this socialization period – and will last a lifetime.  It affects how your puppy will relate to his family, strangers, animals and the environment in which he lives.

Puppy socialization stimulates the five senses of your young dog. It is the introduction, exposure and desensitization to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of everyday life. The socialization period conditions your puppy to the many different situations he needs to be familiar with and comfortable around. It also prepares him to deal with the new experiences and challenges which inevitably arise throughout life in an appropriate manner.

Puppy socialization is the crucial stage where you begin to build the close bond you share with your dog, one that will last forever. It’s up to you – any puppy can become a well adjusted and trusted member of society through proper socialization.

We owe it to our puppies to provide them with thorough socialization and training – all dogs need to be socialized regardless of breed type, where you bought the puppy from or anything else you may think of.

There are two main types of puppy socialization:

 Active – Things we purposely introduce to our dogs like obedience training, visiting new people and rides in the car.

Passive – What your puppy comes across on her own such as exploring the plants in the back yard.


Exercising Self Control – It’s not a Metaphor

By Janeen McMurtrie

Self control is the measure of an animal’s ability to control its emotions and desires, the ability to override impulse to obtain a delayed reward. Self control is important in social interactions because it allows animals to alter their behavior to follow rules, maintain social bonds and cooperate with others.

The strength model of self control1 states that:
• Self control is a limited resource. As you use it, you deplete your resources.
• When your stockpile of self control is depleted, your ability to exercise it decreases.
• Self control can be restored by rest, nutrition and positive emotions.
• Like a muscle, if you use it regularly and well, your self control gets stronger over time.
• Other high level mental functions use the same set of resources that self control relies on.

So what does this have to do with dog training? Everything! Exercising self control is the basis of good social behavior, and most problem dog behavior is rooted in a lack of it.

How do you help a dog learn to exercise his self control? First, remember that it’s a limited resource. If it’s late in the day and the dog is tired, stressed out, or has already had a lot of mental exercise, give him a break. He’s operating on a short fuse. Don’t tempt fate by lighting it.

Second, make sure he gets regular mental exercise. Letting a dog do whatever he wants whenever he wants allows his self control to atrophy. It turns him into a mental couch potato. To keep a dog’s self control strong, you need to work with him every day.

Third, give your dog plenty of rest and good nutrition. A weak, thirsty or hungry dog is a stressed dog—and stress depletes vital mental resources. If your home is loud and chaotic, give the dog a quiet place to rest and recuperate. Feed him the right amount of good quality food. Make sure he has plenty of clean, fresh water.

Fourth, remember that other mental functions draw on the same reserves needed for self-control. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to maintain a consistent set of rules and boundaries. Once following these rules becomes a habit, they draw far less on his reserves.

These other mental functions are also important because they give us opportunities to cross train a dog’s powers of self control. Studies have shown that when human beings make efforts to control themselves in one part of their lives—even simple ones like maintaining good posture, using proper grammar or using a non-dominant hand to do simple exercises—their ability to exercise self control in difficult situations increases in a measureable way.

It isn’t unusual for clients to tell me that they don’t want to bother teaching their dog those pointlessly complicated, time-consuming formal obedience exercises. They just want Fifi to quit attacking the mailman. But research shows that this kind of work is important. Training Fifi to sit and heel accurately, come to a straight front, wait to be released at the door, navigate obstacles and other seemingly unrelated tasks helps her build up the self control resources she needs to resist the lure of the mailman’s oh-so-tempting ankles.

Research also shows that the mental processes involved in making choices uses the same resources as those that control our powers of self-control.2 Physical exercise has also been documented to improve high level mental processes like those involved in exercising self-control.3

This points to one of the great, and I think previously unrecognized, strengths of the “Nothing in Life is Free” or NILIF programs—because when we implement them properly, we take away many of the dog’s opportunities to make choices, leaving more resources available for executing self control. Think of NILIF as a self control savings account.

So, science shows us that a combination of regular physical and mental exercise and consistent practice of self-discipline combined with rest and good nutrition can help make you—and your dog—more cooperative, less reactive and better able to resist temptation. And based on my experience—it works.

Last fall foster dog Charlie arrived at our place. The first time I met Charlie, he shrank back and gave me the evil eye. The first time he met my husband, he threw a tantrum. The first time I tried to leash him up and take him out of his kennel, he tried to bite me. Charlie snarked and snarled at any dog that came near him and he went ballistic if you tried to groom him. He also had stunningly creative eliminatory habits.

I put Charlie on a strict NILIF program. The boy worked to earn every crumb of food he ate, every bit of a walk, every toss of a ball and every iota of attention he got. He had to navigate mental and physical obstacles in structured exercises every day. He ate high quality dog food and there was always clean water in his kennel. He got plenty of rest and exercise and I made sure I didn’t overtax his resources.

Today Charlie lives in the house. He runs loose with our dogs, our chickens and our guests. He cheerfully lets us brush him, trim his nails, clean his ears and brush his teeth. He’s gone from being a horrid little dog to being a very likable pet, and I didn’t need a magic wand or behavior modifying drugs to get him there.

Increasing a dog’s ability to exercise self-control is the key to solving many behavior problems. Current research supports the old-fashioned idea that a combination of NILIF, obedience training and proper rest, nutrition and physical exercise is the key to improving a dog’s ability to use this vital resource.

Janeen McMurtrie is the owner of Smart Dogs Training Center in Red Wing, MN and is a Professional member of IACP. Read more from Janeen at

1 Baumeister, Roy F., Vohs, Kathleen D., and Tice, Dianne M. (2007), “The Strength Model of Self Control”, Current Directions in Psychological Science.
2 Baumeister, Roy F., Sparks, Erin A., Stillman, Tyler F. and Vohs, Kathleen D. (2007), “Free will in consumer behavior: Self-control, ego depletion, and choice”, Journal of Consumer Psychology.
3 Aamodt, Sandra and Wang, Sam (November 8, 2007), “Exercise on the Brain”, The New York Times.

Food and fitness in dogs

What you feed your dog and how much of it you feed will impact the dog’s level of fitness.  Simply stated, do not allow your dog to become overweight.  You must fight the urge to choose your dog’s food based solely upon price and instead base the decision on a food’s quality in conjunction with what you can afford to sustain.  If you do nothing else to improve your dog’s fitness, choose a high quality, meat-based food and avoid feeding your dog too much.  You have total control over what your dog eats; that’s a big responsibility and it impacts the dog’s physical fitness every single day.

It is best not to just assume a dog is in good condition or fit.  Have the dog checked out by your veterinarian to be sure the dog is healthy enough to participate in an exercise program.  Most experts feel that a 30-minute routine four times a week is sufficient for a dog of normal health, although daily is even better if you have that much time to give.  A few examples of these types of exercise are jogging, biking, hiking, roller-blading, cross-country skiing, playing fetch, plus many more.  The dog can run with the owner during some of these types of activities, but for safety reasons, keep in mind the need for leash restraint.

You have several options. You can either break your routine into two 15-minute sessions, or, if you and your pet are up to it, you can do the full 30 minutes all at once.

Simple exercise options that work:

Play a vigorous game of fetch.

Go for a long walk

Go for a jog.

Play a wild game of chase.

If you have a water-loving breed, such as a Retriever, go swimming. (Swimming is an excellent source of exercise as dogs grow older, as there is minimal impact on joints and consequently fewer aches and pains)

Other types of fitness activities:  Obedience training /agility exercises or competitions that are fun and provide mental and physical stimulation.  Even something as simple as a walk around the block every day will have a beneficial health impact on you and your dog.

The benefits you will experience for a regular exercise routine are endless:   Pets who have had their bodies and their minds stimulated by regular play tend to exhibit problem behaviors less frequently.

Your dog will be gaining social skills by interacting with you regularly.   The bond between you and your dog will be strengthened, creating an even happier home life for you both.   You will get exercise right alongside your pet.   Your dog’s health will be improved so that he/she can live a longer, healthier life.

Acme Canine December 2016 Dog of the Month

The December dog of the month award goes to an affectionate, congenial and playful Wheaten Terrier, Kaylee.  Our first contact with her was in February of 2010 when an Acme Canine approved trainer came to her home for a canine evaluation.  Wheatens are generally responsive to their owner’s wishes but they can be headstrong at times.  Kaylee was no exception.  The Byrnes sent her to Acme for intense training using our residency training program and learned to handle Kaylee at the take home and follow up sessions.  Kaylee’s abilities improved as the Byrnes gained the tools necessary to having a well-mannered dog.

The Byrnes continued their training with Kaylee, achieving the AKC Canine Good Citizen award and Acme Reading Dog.

Kaylee and Jayne have been regulars with the reading dog team participating in reading sessions at schools, Ohio State University and Half Price Books.

We’re so proud of the Byrnes for their dedication to working on Kaylee’s manners and for Kaylee for working so hard all the while being a joy to be with.

Kudos to the Byrnes and their sweet girl, Kaylee!

2016 Holiday Greeting

Chesapeakes posting by an open fire,
Jack Russells nipping at their toes!
Canine carols being howled by a Briar(d)
And, Chihuahuas dressed up like Eskimos!

Every reader knows a message full of friendly prose,
Helps to make this canine blog so bright!
Reading regs with their dogs in repose,
Shall kind-opine doggedly day or night.

We nose up canine fun all along our way!
We dig up lots of info to help you and we pray!
That every purebred, mutt and precious stray is gonna “Sit-Stay!”
To read what happening on Acme’s blog each day!

So, Laura is offering this simple phrase,
To readers from Ohio to Kalamazoo!
Although, it’s been barked, many times, many ways;


for more information, contact your favorite  dog blogger at 740-548-1717 or


With the holidays coming up many of us are planning on taking our dogs with us to visit friends and relatives.  Air travel may be a concern.  In accordance with the Safe Air Transport for Animals Act passed in June, commercial airlines in the United States are now required to report all incidents of family owned dogs that are injured, lost, or killed while flying in the cargo hold of domestic flights. This information is available to the public at the Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report site.

Federal regulations require that dogs be at least 8 weeks old and weaned at least 5 days before flying. Generally, a health certificate (which is not more than 10 days old) must be available before dogs will be permitted to fly. A valid rabies vaccination certificate will also be required.  Make sure you have all required paperwork and documentation in order, your dog’s tags are current and that you have current contact information on file with your vet or microchip vendor.

If your dog is not crate trained, you should begin crate training as early as possible to ensure that your dog is comfortable in the kennel. Trying to escape and actually escaping from the kennel during the flight is the most common cause of injury for dogs that fly. Some dogs may take up to 6 months to become comfortable in a kennel, and some may never completely accept the kennel. If your dog does not become comfortable with the crate before the flight, you may want to reconsider flying your dog.

Take a picture of your dog. Tape one copy to the kennel, and keep one with you should your dog become lost.

Most airlines and veterinarians don’t recommend tranquilizers for your dog when you fly. Tranquilizers can adversely affect your dogs breathing and ability to regulate body temperature. Be sure to discuss tranquilizers with your vet before deciding to go this route.   In addition, honestly evaluate how you think your dog will react to the experience. If you feel that your dog might injure itself by attempting to escape from the kennel during shipment, you should look for other options in transporting your dog. Not every dog is a good candidate for air travel. You know you dog and are in the best position to make this decision.

Contact the airline well in advance for specific regulations and to secure your dog’s reservation. You will want to inform the airlines as early as possible as some limit the number of dogs on a flight.  Try to book a nonstop, midweek flight and avoid plane changes if possible.  If warm temperatures are a concern, book an early morning, evening, or overnight flight when the temperatures are cooler. If cold weather is an issue, book your flight for the middle of the day.  This will help reduce the stress on your dog.

Ask your veterinarian for specific feeding instructions. For your dog’s comfort, air travel on an almost empty stomach is usually recommended. The age and size of your dog, time and distance of the flight, and your dog’s regular dietary routine will be considered when feeding recommendations are made.

Call the airline a few days before your scheduled departure to make sure you have everything in order and there are no scheduling or other changes that may adversely affect your dog’s travel.

Arrive at the airport early, exercise your dog, personally place it in its crate, and pick up the animal promptly upon arrival. Do not take leashed animals on escalators.

With a little preparation and time you can minimize the chances of an unpleasant experience and all have a happy holiday season.


Sampson, Acme Canine’s November Dog of the Month

Sampson Champion  is this month’s extraordinary dog.  As a one-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, he arrived at Acme with plenty of aspects to improve. His owners were having difficulty getting him to stop barking, jumping,  pulling on the leash, etc.  They also had a strong fear of Sampson running out to their busy street.

Sampson and the Champions completed on-leash residency training with flying colors.  He did so well, in fact, that his family has been helping Acme by talking with possible clients about our training.

Congratulations go to Sampson and his owners, the Champion family, for earning Acme Canine’s top honor in November.

Acme Canine Resource Center is looking for dogs with responsible owners who have trained with Acme to be our featured Dog-of-the-Month. 

Interested? To enter, send a digital picture of your dog, a list of the training and services in which your dog has participated, and a brief paragraph describing you and your dog’s Acme experience. (Read more)

With Real Chicken – the truth behind marketing dog food

by Laura Pakis, Certified Dog Trainer and Professional Blogger

It is virtually impossible for consumers to know the health value of packaged pet foods by viewing or feeding them.  Judging merit by product advertising or marketing brochures can also be deceiving.  So it is important for dog owners to understand the ingredients to help make an informed decision on the quality of food they are feeding their dog.

Recently Beneful came out with a new recipe for their dog food.  It’s advertising promotes “with real chicken the first ingredient accented with apples, carrots & green beans”.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But marketing can fool you.

Chicken, whole grain corn, barley, rice, chicken by-product meal, whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, beef tallow preserved with mixed-tocopherols, soybean meal, oat meal, poultry by-product meal, glycerin, egg and chicken flavor, mono and dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, potassium chloride, poultry and pork digest, avocado, dried carrots, dried tomatoes, MINERALS [zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite], VITAMINS [Vitamin E supplement, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin D-3 supplement, riboflavin supplement (Vitamin B-2), menadione sodium bisulfite (Vitamin K), folic acid, biotin], choline chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2, garlic oil, Yellow 6.

Let’s look at the first 5 ingredients.

  1.  Chicken: the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.  (Translation: Chicken meat, skin and bone)
  2. whole grain corn:   There is a saying which states, “corn is for hogs, not for dogs.”  Definitely true in this situation
  3. barley: Dogs don’t need corn. And they don’t need wheat, barley, rice or potatoes, either.  Yet surprisingly, carbs represent the dominant nutrient found in most dry dog foods.
  4. rice: same as 2 & 3
  5. Chicken by-product meal: the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.  (Translation: ground up necks, unborn eggs, feet and organs)

Although dogs enjoy eating Beneful, it is not a quality dog food.  Acme Canine gives it 2 paws for creating a better recipe than what was in Beneful before but still has a long way to go before it would be a dog food we would recommend for your dog.

Rewarding without Food

Reward is an integral part of training, and there are many ways in which a dog can be rewarded.  While food or treats may seem like the easiest way to reward your dog for good behavior, it may not always be the best or most effective way.  Food can have limitations as a reward.  Does the dog like the food?  Does he like it enough to do what you are asking?  Will he do the same task without food?  What about dogs that are not food motivated?

Rewarding your dog without the use of food can often be a much easier, convenient, and effective way to instill, capture, and encourage desired behavior.  It is important to understand how dogs learn, and what motivates them before deciding how to reward. A properly timed reward can boost your dog’s confidence, and increase his trust in you.

How Dogs Learn

Similar to humans, dogs learn in a variety of ways.  Dogs, however, do not speak in words; they do not understand any of the human languages.  So, we must find other ways to communicate with them.  How exactly do dogs learn?

  • Trial and Error – A dog learns from being successful and from failing. Dogs are always learning; they are always paying attention.  If they try jumping up and it gets them the attention they want (petting, rubbing, etc) then they learn that jumping works.  If, however, the result of the jump is a knee bump in the chest, or a pop on the leash they learn that jumping is not the best way to get your attention.
  • Mapping – Showing a dog what is required in small steps. Linking these small steps together gives the dog a mental map or sequence of what is required for any given command or task.  This behavior pattern comes from the practice and repetition of a particular routine on a regular basis.
  • Behavior Modeling – Dogs can also learn from other dogs. Dogs can learn a lot by watching other dogs and by being encouraged to join in.  Certain obedience commands, tricks, and even things like how to swim can be learned simply by watching others.  This can be a double edged sword, however, as dogs can also learn bad habits by watching others.
  • Reflection – Many trainers end their training sessions on a high note, and then allow the dog some time to rest and process the information. This gives the dog a good association with training, and makes it more desirable for the dog to want to repeat the last task.  Giving a dog time to process and reflect on what just happened can work with both obedience commands, and with bad habits.  Reprimanding a dog for a bad habit (if caught in the act) works the same way as giving praise for good behavior.

Encouragement, Motivation and Willingness to Learn

In order for your dog to learn, he has to want to learn.  In most cases, all dogs can be motivated and encouraged to learn; however, it is up to the trainer to discover what will motivate each particular dog.  Several things have to be taken into consideration when deciding on what type of reward to use:

  • Personality – Is the dog outgoing, shy, fearful, or aggressive? Each type of personality will need different types and amounts of reward.  The manner, frequency, and intensity of reward will vary based on the personality as well.
  • Temperament – How much energy does the dog have? Does the dog have any natural drives or abilities?  The reward will need to appeal to the dog.  Chasing a ball may not be much of a reward to a Mastiff with lower energy; just as a couple of pats on the head may not motivate a high energy Labrador retriever.
  • Breed – Knowing the breed history and what it was originally bred for can help determine the type of reward needed.
  • The particular task being taught – Are you trying to develop hunting or herding skills? Are you teaching basic obedience, or retrieval?  The reward should fit the task.  Allowing your dog to shake or “kill” and object may not be best suited to obedience, but may make sense for a hunting dog.

Types of Reward

As discussed above, there are many types of rewards that can be given to a dog for a job well done.  Again, it is important to reward appropriately for the task you are teaching, and to use something that really motivates your dog.  While food is a requirement for all creatures, it may not be the best reward you can give your dog.  If your dog is working for food, you may find that his motivation is gone just as soon as the treat is.  Food can be a good way to introduce and encourage desired behaviors, but as your dog leaves the puppy stage it is important to use a form of reward that can help develop a bond between dog and owner. Rewards can take the form of:

  • Praise – Both verbal and physical – great for teaching obedience commands and general good behavior
  • Play – Chasing a ball or retrieving an object – great for retrieval hunting, or dogs with high retrieval drive
  • Hunting – Finding hidden objects – can be very rewarding for dogs that love to use their nose (hunting, tracking)
  • “Killing” or Shaking – Can be used for hunting dogs, or where a high prey drive is being established
  • Food – Can be useful for puppies or even trick training, but should not be relied upon for serious obedience or advanced training

Rewarding with Praise

A dog that is working for your praise is a dog that wants to please you.  Rewarding with praise will help increase the bond you already have with your dog.  Your dog wants your praise; he wants you to touch and pet him.  By using praise as a reward for a desired behavior you are more likely to increase the frequency and reliability of the particular behavior.

Verbal Praise

Using verbal praise is all about using enough emotion to convey to your dog that you are pleased with him.  Simply saying, “Good dog”, in a monotone voice won’t cut it.  Verbal praise should be upbeat and as full of emotion as you can muster.  A good rule of thumb for verbal praise:  Your dog’s tail should be wagging after being praised.  If it is not, then you may need to put a little more emotion and excitement into your praise.  Some guidelines to follow when using verbal praise include:

  • Use this when your dog is in a command – physical praise may cause your dog to break the command
  • Use a lot of emotion – you need to sound happy and convince your dog that you are pleased
  • Smile when praising – dogs are great are reading your facial features and can distinguish between smiles and scowls
  • Avoid too much direct eye contact – your dog is great at reading your face and too much eye contact can cause the dog to pop out of a sit or down and come to you
  • Avoid using your dog’s name – again, this is something that may cause your dog to come to you – instead say things like, “good [insert command here]”, or, “good job”, “good boy/girl”

Physical Praise

Using physical praise is a great way to improve your bond with your dog.  It can also be a highly desired reward to your dog.  Physical praise will take the form of petting, touching, and rubbing.  Sometimes it will be slow and soothing, other times it may be fast and invigorating.   Knowing when to use each type of touching is very important, and will also be based on the personality of the dog.  Some guidelines to using physical praise include:

  • Save this for after releasing your dog from a command – petting while in a command may cause him to break the command
  • Use this along with verbal praise
  • Avoid mindless petting – petting your dog simply because it exists can devalue the praising during training – make your dog work for this reward
  • Use slower, soothing praise with dogs that are timid, frightened, or over excited; faster, more enthusiastic praise can be used as the dog begins to open up, or with happy-go-lucky dogs
  • Be aware of any areas in which the dog is sensitive to touch – touching these areas may scare the dog, or cause it to even snap at you – if this happens you may need to work on desensitizing your dog to touching in these areas

Types of Physical Touch

When using physical praise there are several different forms that can be used; and every dog has certain types of touching they prefer.  Find what works best for your dog and the situation.

  • The Stroke – A common movement where the flat of the hand glides down with slight pressure over the dogs body
  • The Circular Rub – Using the flat of the hand on the front of the chest
  • The Pat – A drumming of the dog with the flat of the hand to various degrees of intensity on the dog’s body. Usually the best place to pat a dog is on its withers of side, and occasionally under the chest.  Never on top of the head.
  • The Scratch – Using the tips of your fingers under the chin, behind the ears, on the rear towards the tail, sometimes on the top of the head. A two handed “massage” up and down the length of the body can help release tension.
  • The Grip – A kneading motion where the hand takes gentle grip of hair, loose skin, and sometimes even muscle tissue. The shoulders, the chest, and even the base of the back respond to this movement.