Careful With Your Dog’s Paws This Winter

With an icy winter day here predicted in Cincinnati, I have a winter weather safety tip for your dog. In snowy weather, please remember salt and chemicals are unhealthy for your pet and should be wiped off as soon as he/she comes inside. Also, be aware of ice balls that can form between the pads and toes if your dog has a lot of fur on his/her feet which can add to the problem of retaining chemicals.

winter safety tip for dogs by certified dog trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA



Can I be of help to you and your dog? Please click here and reach out!

Prevent Dog Bites

Parents, please remember, you have an important role to play in helping your children and your dog succeed…including preventing dog bites.

children and dogs: dog bite prevention. Do you know what this dog's body language is saying?


Please click here to ready my post: Supervising dogs and kids is not enough.

To learn more about dog body language, please click here:  dog body language

Please watch this video below of how two girls practiced teaching their puppy recall.


Should You Avoid Dog Parks?

When dog caregivers think about socialization and exercise, often two words come to their mind – dog park. Not only are those places enclosed areas for dogs to run and play, they are places where people meet other people who share a love for their pets.

However, while, yes, those are some of the benefits to bringing your dog or puppy to a dog park, there are also many considerations to think about before unleashing your pet inside one of those fences.

Should you take your dog to a dog park? Cincinnati certified dog trainer has some consideration.Michael Shikashio, CDBC, dog trainer with Complete Canines LLC and president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, shared this analogy between dog parks and bars.

“Dog parks are like bars. Having a good time and socializing are their intentions. There are many that enjoy them and do just fine in that type of atmosphere. However, sometimes:

– A fight breaks out — some much worse than others.

– There’s often some really questionable behavior going on, so they’re definitely not suited for youngsters. Gratuitous, unwanted humping comes to mind…

– Mobbing and bullying happen with people…and dogs.

– You might leave with a communicable disease, so you better use protection…I mean be up-to-date on your shots.

It takes just the right “type” to be able to handle what can happen in that environment sometimes.

So if you’re not up for the bar scene, it might be best to find an alternative.”
Let’s break this down a little bit more. Here are a few more considerations.

If your dog does not have rock solid foundation obedience behaviors learned, a dog park is NOT the place to teach.

Talk about distractions, oh my!  Remember, to effectively teach your pet behavior, you need to begin in an environment where you know you can succeed (where your dog AND you can focus on learning) and only add criteria as you are seeing success. If you have not worked through your training well enough, the competing reinforcers will be far too great. And, every practice you have with your dog of asking for a behavior after which your dog does anything BUT that behavior, you are working to immensely weaken the cue and even teach your dog to ignore the cue altogether.

Dogs who do not feel ‘safe’ in that environment, can learn more fears and learn they cannot rely on their human to get them out of harms way.

A quick way to teach your dog not to trust you is to keep ignoring your dog trying to tell you through body language that it is not feeling safe. If it is cowering with its tail low, becoming hyper vigilant, or exhibiting other language, and you fail to take it away from its source of stress you may be strengthening your dog’s emotional response rather than teaching it how to feel better about being near other dogs or people. A dog that is bullied or chased in a dog park may very likely learn that dogs are bad news.

Your dog can practice over arousal, resource guarding and even aggression.

Over arousal can begin from the moment you leave your car as your dog pulls on its leash in excitement. You may react by pulling back or yanking on the leash, and the closer you get to the park, the more that arousal will have built up in your dog. By the time you actually unleash your dog, that arousal can lead to other unwanted behaviors, even aggression. Resource guarding can also occur as dogs may guard their toys.

If you are bringing your dog to a park so that it can play while you sit and read a book or socialize, please reconsider.

If there are other dogs around, especially dogs you do not know, this is not the time to be turning your attention away from your dog. If your dog is bullying or doing other inappropriate behavior to other dogs, it is your responsibility to redirect or remove your dog from that situation. And if your dog is in a situation where it does not feel safe, it is also your responsibility to get it out of harms way. Before you visit a dog park, it is a great idea to understand dog body language so that you can intercede.

These are just a few considerations. There are many.

To exercise your dog, some alternatives to dog parks are:

Walks, positive training, and games with you.

Play dates with dogs you know, whose play styles are compatible with your dog.

Activity toys for your dog.

Dog Training Tips To Prevent Thanksgiving Begging

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is around the corner. It is my favorite holiday because it is the one time of year when my whole family is together.

I think it is our family dog, Sam’s, favorite holiday too – for the extra attention AND the leftovers.

There was a time when Sam was our super beggar during the Thanksgiving meal if we did not keep him away from the table. It got me thinking that there are a lot of other families who probably have skilled beggars living in their homes, especially during this meal.

dog training tips to prevent Thanksgiving beggingI thought I’d share a few dog training tips for Thanksgiving if you live with a dog beggar.

First of all, remember that if a behavior is reoccurring it is doing that because the behavior serves to get your dog something of value…in this case, the most probably reinforcer is tasty food and human attention. If you can reliably predict this scenario will play out in your home, the time to begin planning for a solution is now (actually before now, but if you really work on it between now and Thanksgiving, you’ll go a long way).

Let’s put our behavior analysis hat on to see what is going on in the environment to set the occasion for that begging. The antecedent (what occurs just before the behavior to set the occasion for the behavior) is ‘guests sitting at the table with unbelievably savory food on dishes in front of them.’ The behavior is your dog bumping or scratching guests in their seats. (We’ll call this ‘begging.’) The consequence is that eventually your dog may get either attention or turkey or jackpot – BOTH!

How can we change the environment to set your dog up for success? If you know in advance that this is highly predictable behavior, one solution is using antecedent strategies to give less value to the begging. Some ideas? Satiate your dog BEFORE you sit down by feeding him in advance, redirect his attention by giving him a tasty steak bone to chew on or a foraging toy that will keep his attention for awhile, take him for a long walk or run prior to the meal to increase the value of resting behavior, have him stay in a crate (that you have previously taught him to associate it as a positive resting place) with one of those toys, or separate him from the table with a baby gate.

Another option involves positive training. Remember, this needs to be done IN ADVANCE of your Thanksgiving Day meal. Teach your dog an acceptable, alternative behavior to pawing and scratching people that will have reinforcing consequences. Remember, as his teacher, his ability to learn is dependent on your reliability (and EVERYONE in your household) to quickly reinforce the behavior you want to see – and every time he does the behavior in the beginning.

Begin by teaching the alternative behavior (like sitting or laying down) and get it reliably on cue. Once on cue you can begin teaching him to hold that behavior for longer durations before delivering reinforcement. Then, you can cue him to do the behavior before you sit down at the table and heavily reinforce it. You can teach him to sit or lay down in a bed or on a mat as an alternative. (Please click here to read tips on teaching sit/down/stay.) Gradually then you can teach him to sit or lay down with more distance from you, then adding in teaching him the duration for his stay. And then add the difficulty of higher value food on your table.

If at any time he gets up and bets, you can simply push your plates into the center of the table and turn your back. Then wait until or cue him to sit or lay down and holds that position for 5 to 10 seconds before reinforcing him for that.


Dogs are pretty smart. If ‘you’ teach him that begging only gets people to turn away and push food aside but sitting or laying down gets a nifty treat, guess which choice he’ll make?

Now, for another issue. If you have a dog who is competing with our Sam for the title, World Champion Counter-Surfer, remember, often times the feat is carried out when your back is turned. (We know this from experience.) The simplest solution is eliminating access to the reinforcement that maintains the behavior. In other words, always be cognizant of being sure that tasty food is kept far enough from the counter edge that your dog can not reach it.


Can I be of more help to you and your pet? Please contact me!

July 4 Dog Safety Tips

July 4 is just around the corner. It is one of my favorite holidays…but definitely not one of Sam’s (our family dog). Fireworks can be an awfully scary experience dog safety tips for July 4 by Cincinnati dog trainer Lisa Desatnikfor our furry friends. I thought I’d take a moment to remind you of a few basic precautions to take to ensure a safe holiday for everyone.

During the day

While you are attending your community parade or other holiday event, if your dog can become over-stimulated or afraid around crowds, unfamiliar sounds and sights, the best place for him/her is at home. You will not be doing your dog a favor by forcing him into a stressful situation. Desensitizing your dog to stimulus should be done in a controlled environment, always with your dog under threshold. Please see the bottom of this post for more on systematic desensitization.

If you spend outdoor time with your dog during the day, remember your heat safety precautions be careful to prevent your dog from overheating. A few things to keep in mind – find shady places to relax, give him/her plenty of water, minimize time spent walking on black asphalt or other surfaces that absorb heat, if your dog enjoys water then hoses, sprinklers and baby pools can provide many opportunities for exercise, watch your dog for any signs of heat related stress.

If you are entertaining, remember to keep alcohol and other toxic food away from your dog. Always actively supervise children around your dog to redirect them if necessary. Hugging, kissing, straddling, poking, pulling on body parts (like a tail), and chasing should be prevented. If your dog has been known to do unwanted behavior around guests, some suggested things you may want to consider are – planning ahead to teach him/her alternative behaviors, make sure he/she has high value enrichment activity toys, and/or give him more exercise before your guests arrive.

This is a good time to double check that your dog has proper identification in case there is an unplanned escape outside a door. Still, make sure to secure your door including a doggie door or screen windows if you have them.

Provide your dog with plenty of mental and physical exercise before the fireworks.

Planning for the fireworks

Know that many dogs are afraid of the loud, sudden noise of fireworks and they may also be sensitive to the vibration caused by the noise. You may see your dog shiver, pant, pace, hide, or do destructive behavior. He/she may turn away from food. He could even try to escape out of your home or your yard which is why making sure your house is securely closed is so important.

Make sure that your dog has an accessible safe place (from his/her perspective – NOT yours). You more than likely have seen your dog retreat there on other occasions where something scary occurred – maybe it is underneath a desk, in a closet, or under a bed. If you are leaving your house, make sure your dog can get there. Some dogs, however, react by moving and being active. If possible, try to have your dog in an area away from windows with the shades drawn.

Also consider dissipating the sound of fireworks with calming music, a fan or a television where your dog will be.

If necessary consult your veterinarian for short term anxiety reducing medication.

About systematic desensitization

Systematic desensitization is a positive approach to not just overcoming fear, but also to teaching the animal to re-associate the fear-eliciting stimulus into a feel-good eliciting stimulus. (This process is called counter conditioning.) With systematic desensitization, you gradually expose the animal to what is scary to it and the criteria for advancing to the next step is your watching his calm behavior and only moving forward at a pace that does not elicit even the mildest of fear responses. The beauty of this is that the animal is always in total control. And empowerment builds confidence. If you need some guidance for doing this successfully, please seek professional help.

Please click here to read how I used desensitization and counter conditioning after our dog became afraid to go outside at dusk following July 4.



Pet Safety Tips For Halloween

We’re coming up on one of my favorite holidays. That’d be the night all of the little ghosts and goblins and football players and television characters show up at our door in search of good treats.

But when those creatures show up at my parents’ house, on the other side of the door is 40 pounds of love (not including the humans) with a deep, intimidating bark that by no means is an indication of his zest for life. Sam thinks everyone who visits is coming to, well, visit him and he greets them with a huge welcome that has the power to knock over or scratch a little Halloween Dog and Pet Safety Tipschild.

For other dogs (and other pets for that matter), Halloween can be downright scary. After all it is not every day when the door bell rings every few minutes only to have it open to strange looking creatures who are unfamiliar and pretty intimidating. Even a dog like our Sam who takes great pleasure in greeting new guests can be over stimulated by so much commotion.

And, if your dog is outside on a leash without opportunity to escape and is suddenly confronted with these sites – possibly when it is even dark outside, it may not take a whole lot to reach your dog’s breaking point.

Cats and parrots can become stressed and find themselves in unsafe situations also.

That being said, I like to err on the side of caution with my pets as I am always looking to set them up for success.

I’m including a list of some of my top tips for keeping pet dogs, cats and parrots safe from harm’s way this Halloween.

1.       Please keep jack-lanterns away from pets. While the pumpkin itself may be relatively nontoxic, in large doses it can cause problems. (Actually, that being said, if you have carved your pumpkin well in advance, it more than likely has grown lots of bacteria so it very well may be toxic but Halloween pumpkin safety tips for pet dogs and catsnote that I am not a veterinarian.) Not to mention the candle inside can be very dangerous if knocked over.

2.       Speaking in terms of food, please keep plastic wrap, chocolate and other candies out of reach. While I very much value our great veterinarians, I’m sure they would agree with me that they would rather have your pet safe and healthy than in their waiting room for an emergency visit the day after Trick-or-Treating.

3.       Please do not use fake spider webs (and ALL Halloween decorations for that matter) anywhere where pets can get to them. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if my birds got entangled in one.

4.         A note about costumes: If you dress your dog in an outfit, please make sure your dog is comfortable. Your dog will communicate that with his body.  Some signs of a happy dog are:  a relaxed body; fast, vigorous tail wag; loose lips or even open mouth with loose tongue; rhythmic panting.

If wearing an outfit causes your dog to feel stressed, he may be more likely to become reactive – especially when on a leash, in the dark, with so many strange sights and sounds and kids running around.

Watch your dog’s body language. Some signs that your dog is not comfortable include: his tail may be down, his body may be tight, he may have a tense mouth, you will see the whites on the sides of his eyes, his ears may be back, he may yawn or lick his chops. Please click here and here for more body language signs.

5.       Exercise your dog well BEFORE Trick-or-Treaters arrive to raise the value of rest and lower the value of excitable behaviors. And during Trick-or-Treating, offer your dog fun enrichment toys.

6.       Please do not leave your dog (or cat) outside even if in your back yard as the noises in the darkness still may cause him to become reactive. Instead, provide your dog with a safe, quiet place to be during the couple hours of Trick-or-Treating, and close the shades of that area. Birds should be kept inside their cages that are away from the door.

7.       Consider sitting outside with your treats instead of having guests ring your doorbell.

8.       Unless you know in advance that your dog will not be afraid of the sites and sounds of Halloween, please leave your dog at home.

9.       And even with all of these precautions, it is still a great time to be reminded to make sure your pet has proper ID in case there are any Halloween pet parrot safety tipsaccidents.

So, now that I’ve got that out of the way. I want to wish you the very best Halloween ever. Be safe…but go have some fun!


Lisa Desatnik Offers Free Bite Prevention Programs For Kids

bite prevention programs by Cincinnati dog trainer Lisa DesatnikEach year millions of visits to emergency rooms are due to dog bites, and often times children are the most likely to get bitten…frequently by their own or a neighbor’s dog. But bites do not happen out of the blue and they can be prevented.

I hope to help set kids and their pets up for success and prevent bites through a series of free educational programs this fall called ‘My Dog’s Super Hero.’

During the programs, I teach kids ages 6 to 10, in a fun and engaging way, what it means to be their dog’s super hero. Included in my presentation will be the basics on the do’s and don’ts of playing appropriately with their dog, how to show responsibility and respect to their dog, and how dogs tell us when they are happy or when they want to be left alone.

Parents are encouraged to stay during the presentation; however, dogs should be left at home (with the exception of the Blue Ash Paws in the Park event).

All programs are free to attend.

Tuesday, September 24
7:00 p.m.
Madeira branch of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Saturday, October 5
1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
City of Blue Ash Summit Park
(part of the Paws in the Park event)

Tuesday, November 12
7:00 p.m.
Blue Ash branch of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Saturday, November 16
10:30 am
Mariemont branch of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Wednesday, December 4
4:00 pm
Wyoming branch of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Me and My Dog’s Best Friend

For the second year, I am excited to be partnering with Cincinnati Parks Explore Nature! to present a fun two-hour program for kids ages 6 to 9.  I’ll be working with the children to teach them about pet responsibility and care, how to teach their dog, how dogs communicate, and how to approach a dog they do not know (and more). Plus, Cincinnati Parks is offering crafts and a fun outdoor activity. It will be held at Ault Park on Saturday morning, January 11 from 10 am to NOON. Cost is $8 per child and advance registration is required by calling 513-321-6070.

February Event To Teach Kids About Dog Ownership

little girl and a puppyI’m so excited to be partnering with the Cincinnati Parks on this fun and educational event for kids. Please register early as the spaces will fill up.


Saturday, February 16
at Cincinnati Parks’ The Bettman Center
4 Beech Lane (Hyde Park/O’Bryonville)
Cincinnati, OH 45208

Children ages 6-8 will have a great time learning how to be a good friend to their new puppy, or their current dog. I will be working with Cincinnati Parks staff to present a fun and educational program for kids on the do’s and don’ts of playing safe and caring for their dog; as well as important bite prevention information, such as learning about how dogs tell us when they are happy, or when to leave them alone, and how to approach other people’s dogs.

Special crafts  will add to the fun. And everyone will leave with “doggie bags”, filled with usefulCincinnati Parks resources.

Cost is only $5.00 for this wonderful program, limited to 20 children, accompanied by one parent. Please do not bring your dog with you as we will have a dog in the program.

Call 513-321-6070 to register today!
Visa and Mastercard accepted.

NOTE:  I will be doing future educational programs for kids. If you would like me to notify you when I have those scheduled, please contact me via the contact link on this site.



Watch our interview on WCPO talking about the event.

Watch our interview on FOX19 talking about the event.

Spring Safety Tips For Pets

It’s hard to believe but it’s finally spring! We can all go out and work in the yard or play. I bet your pet is also enjoying the longer days and nicer weather. With the season change, I thought it’d be a good time to devote another column to reminding you of some things to consider when it comes to your furry or feathered friend.

Whether you’re in a home or an apartment, this is the time of year when we all like to keep our windows open. Please check all of your window screens to make sure there are no large holes. You don’t want to take chances on any insects, particularly mosquitoes that could have west nile virus. Birds can chew through screens so make sure their cages are kept out of reach of open windows.

In the same thought, always make sure you know where your pets are when you’re opening doors. All it takes is a split moment for a flighted bird, dog or cat to be past you on their way outside.

When it comes to spring cleaning, always be aware that household cleaners and chemicals are toxic to pets. Air fresheners can even be deadly to birds so use them with caution.

Are all of your pets’ vaccinations current? If not, now is a good time to make a visit to the vet.

Before you let your dog romp around in your back yard, if it’s fenced, make sure there is no winter damage that will allow your pet to escape. Also, this is a great time to make sure you are current with your license and identification tag, you may even want to consider microchipping as a permanent means of identification. Avoid letting your dog play in areas that have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. If you suspect your dog has accidentally walked on treated lawns, call your veterinarian right away.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to know which plants in your garden may be toxic to your pet. Here is a sample of some plants to be careful of:  Azalea, Boxwood, Caladium, Chinaberry Tree, Daffodil bulbs, Elephant Ear, Foxglove, Holly berries, Hyacinth bulbs, Hydrangea, Lily of the Valley, Mushrooms, Philodendron, and Rhododendron. If you suspect your pet has eaten a poisonous plant, call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Always be mindful of conditions that could cause your pet to over heat. Heat stroke can be deadly but it’s so preventable. Never leave your pet inside an enclosed car in warm temperatures. Make sure your dog or cat has plenty of fresh, cool water and plenty of shade. Shaving your dog or cat can actually make it more susceptible to heat stroke because its fur was designed as an insulator.

If your pet is starting to overheat, one of the first warning signs is an increased and noisy panting rate. Other symptoms include thick saliva, red mucus membranes, hot skin, dazed look, vomiting and diarrhea, and an inability to move or get up. If you suspect your pet is overheating, offer small amounts of water or completely soak your pet with coot water. In extreme cases, contact your veterinarian immediately.

When it comes to traveling with your pet, make sure you call ahead. Airlines have policies on when they will and how they will allow pets to travel in cargo holds (due to safety issues with regard to the heat). If you take your dog to the beach, remember saltwater can cause vomiting or dehydration. It’s better to carry some extra water just in case. On boats, pets should always have life jackets. If you’re hiking, it’s best to avoid letting your dog drink from streams that could be contaminated with parasites and always carry a first aid kit for those unforeseen emergencies.

And, one last note. Be nice to your neighbors…clean-up after your pooch and please don’t leave a barking dog outside for hours.

Happy spring!

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