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Leash Etiquette & Training Your Dog to be Calm on the Leash

Most dog to dog altercations occur on leash. Why is this?

  1. Owners generally have the leash taught, which changes the body language that the dog is giving off. This causes the initial greeting to be tense, or worse. A kind, natural greeting is in a wide, curve pattern that ends with their nose at the other dog’s butt. This very rarely happens with someone holding the leash.

  2. Owners often let their dogs try to “play on leash”, which usually ends up with one dog being clobbered and both dogs getting tied up, all the while with poor body language due to the leash. This eventually ends up going badly.

  3. Owners don’t always ask permission to allow their dog to greet another dog on leash. They often just allow their dog to approach, even if they don’t know if a dog is friendly or if the owner is ok with it.



My dog is crazy on leash, but we have been going to obedience classes for years!” Have you ever heard this?

If you allow your dog to approach people or dogs while pulling at the leash, they are going to learn that pulling gets them what they want. Plain and simple. If you demand that they sit and be calm (and praise them for that), AND if you do not allow them to be greeted or to greet on leash, they will learn that is how they are supposed to behave. They will learn that you are the most important person in the room and that the other people and dogs don’t matter that much. This is especially important to instill when your dog is a puppy.

MORAL: DO NOT ALLOW YOUR DOG TO GREET OTHER DOGS OR PEOPLE ON LEASH (if you want a calm dog that is focused on you).

How do I socialize my puppy then?

  1. Socialization does not necessarily mean physically interacting. Puppies under 5 months need to be exposed to different types of people, dogs, places, environments, sounds, smells, etc. If you teach them that the way they need to experience all of these things is by pulling on the leash, that is exactly what they will learn. If you teach them that we experience all of these things calmly, then that is what they will learn. They do not need to approach people or dogs to learn to be okay with them.

  2. Socialization to dogs, in the sense of continuing to learn play-styles and body language, can be done in a structured play setting–like inviting other well-behaved dogs over to play, or taking them to a puppy class where play is involved, or having them attend a conscientious daycare (like Dogwoods) or doing buddy times (one on one play) at Dogwoods. Trained professionals won’t let your puppy get overwhelmed/traumatized by dogs, which often happens when owners try to allow their puppies to play with the wrong dogs.


A Dog’s Anxiety

Just like humans, our canine companions experience anxiety for numerous reasons. With us being the owners of these animals it is our job to ensure that they live happy, stress-free lives. Causes such as trauma from past experiences, separation from their owners, improper socialization, or even having anxious owners are all factors that can contribute to a dog’s anxiety. Traumas such as abusive behavior from previous owners or abandonment can lead to future stress that the dog’s new owners will have to look out for.

The following are signs of a dog being anxious:

  • Panting
  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • Self destructive actions
  • Destructive to property
  • Urination in abnormal places like inside the home

The following are signs of a dog exhibiting fear:

  • Trembling
  • Tucked in tail
  • Flat ears
  • Hyper salvation
  • Cowering
  • Licking their lips
  • Frequent yawning
  • Attempts to hide

There are several solutions to aid in a dog’s anxiety, but not every solution will work for each individual dog. Some veterinarians may suggest a anxiety medication, Thundershirts, behavior modification techniques or even some calming treats. Separation anxiety has alternative solutions such as hiring a dog sitter, sending the dog to Daycamp for the day, or crate training while you are away.

If you need help overcoming these anxieties please contact our canine behavior specialist or our doggie guru at training@dogwoodslodge.com!

Schooling for a School Dog

Dog owner turns to Dogwoods Lodge Board ’n’ Train program to reform dog

Amy Ondler drove three hours one way to Dogwoods Lodge with Toby, her 8 month old, 70 pound goldendoodle in the car, being his normal obnoxious self.


At 2960 Southeast Grimes Boulevard, she opened the car door, and Toby yanked her into a reception area of pine paneling, an antler chandelier and a double-decker dog bed that rivaled the comfort of the sofa next to it. She pulled him to the counter, as he impishly bit at his leash and barked for attention.


Alice, a red and white speckled cattledog, and Libby, a calf-high tan mutt, trotted out with wagging tails to greet the pair. Behind her followed Jessica Lohry, owner and trainer, with a smile on her face and her hand extended — to take Toby’s leash. With it, she took his fate…


Toby had been gifted to Seasons Center Behavioral Health for students with special needs as a young pup. However, he was not allowed to step paw into the facility, because of his constant frazzled naughtiness. Caretaker Ondler brought Toby to Dogwoods Lodge hoping he would be fit to come back with her after he finished the four-week-long Board ’n’ Train program.


“The story of Toby and the Board ’n’ Train is kind of a unique one. He was a goldendoodle gifted to a mental health agency that needed to transform into a well-mannered, not so hyper therapeutic dog. Before going to Board ’n’ Train Toby was nipping, jumping, barking and dominant over all things,” Ondler says.


Toby was nowhere near ready to spread his joy to the children at Seasons Center.
“Continuous unruliness is the best way to sum it up,” Lohry says. “He would bark, jump on everyone and the counters, bite at everyone’s hands and clothes, bite at his leash, talk back — the list goes on and on. If he were a human, I would call him an ADHD bully.”


Though Toby’s “rap sheet” included a long list of common problem areas (and a few not-so-common), Lohry was confident her program could rid him of the bad behaviors. Lohry has had plenty of experience with all types of problem behaviors and training challenges. Eight years ago, Lohry earned professional training certification, behavioral specialist certification and e-collar training certification, and she has practiced all disciplines since.


The Board ’n’ Train program was developed by Lohry from those years of experience and her training philosophy.


“Of all of the programs we offer, Board ’n’ Train is by far the best one for so many types of dogs. Fearful. Stubborn. Challenging. Bull-headed. The dog learns at an incredibly fast rate in the program compared to in the home. And the four-week time span away from their current way of life gives them enough time to get out of the bad habits and into the new good habits, which is key,” Lohry says.


After the first week, Jessica had trained Toby how to come, sit, stay, walk on the leash and other basic obedience. The second week, she continued his obedience training with distractions, like other dogs, squirrels, outdoor noises and other people. In the last two weeks, she solidified his training by walking around public venues and past a yard full of dogs. So Toby could play fetch with the children back at the school, which doesn’t have a fence, Lohry also remote-collar trained him with the “come” command.


Ondler returned four weeks after her first visit to pick up the dog. Toby tested his owner momentarily by jumping on her and refusing to listen to her commands. Lohry spent time with Ondler, training her on how to get Toby to mind. And within minutes, Toby was responding to Ondler as he would Lohry.


“After coming home from Board ’n’ Train, he is remote collar trained, is able to go to the office setting, relaxes with kids while they pet him and is an all-around great dog. Not only did he behaviorally benefit from the Board ’n’ Train program, he also learned how to interact, play with and enjoy other dogs, which has been a great benefit for him as now he loves doggy play time,” Ondler says.


Since the program, Toby visits the facility nearly every weekday. He lies in his bed calmly without needing constant attention. He greets the children without mauling them. He plays fetch off his leash without trying to run away. He puts smiles on the students’ faces.


“Four weeks sounds long to be away from your dog,” Lohry says. “But I like to remind owners that it’s a very short amount of time in the whole scheme of things, and it is so worth it in the end. People almost always ask, ‘Why didn’t I do it sooner?’.”





About Dogwoods Lodge

Jessica Lohry opened Dogwoods Lodge in 2013 with the belief that dogs and dog owners of Des Moines deserve better. The full-service dog facility offers lodging, daycamp, grooming and training, as well as additional amenities to make dogs’ stays safer, engaging and more enjoyable — so their owners can have peace-of-mind while they’re away. For more information, visit DogwoodsLodge.com.