What do you want from your dog?

One of my favorite questions to ask clients is, “what do you want from your dog?” This seems like an easy question to answer, but most people have a hard time with it. It may take them a few minutes to actually sit back and think about what it is they really want from their furry family member.

Do you know what you want from your dog? Do you want a calm relaxed pup, or a pup that is always on the go? Do you want a dog that chases squirrels and cats, or one that can watch curiously, yet still keep walking past them? Do you want a dog that is polite with other dogs, or a dog that rushes up and assaults or mounts every dog he or she sees?

I think it is obvious what most people want. Most clients want a calm, socially acceptable, and focused dog. Is it impossible? Well, if we follow the typical rules/fads/suggestions surrounding dogs and their training, then yes, it really is impossible. Our society sets dogs up to fail by conditioning them to do the exact opposite of what we would like them to do.

So, is that all I can say to people? That they will never achieve the goal of having a calm dog? No, of course not. I have an entire pack of “high-energy” breeds that are calm, socially acceptable, and focused. This is not because I am a magician. I do not have fairy dust to sprinkle on them. I simply condition my dogs to be the way I want them to be.

For the last 10 years, I have been teaching people how to keep dogs calm. I am happy to see that this is now becoming a “thing.” However, please keep in mind you must not confuse your pups. You must stay consistent in all areas, meaning, if you really want them to be calm, teach them to be calm with all dogs. If you want them to “shut-off” in public, practice at home, etc.

So let’s talk about some of the confusing messages we send to our dogs every day:

  1. Chase/Prey drive…..all dogs have it; some can’t control it, others we condition to increase their prey drive by our daily routines.  If you do not want your dogs to chase squirrels or cats, please do not play “Where’s the squirrel? Where’s the Cat?” game with them. Of course they are going to chase those little furry critters if they think you are ok with it! Oh, and they may even try to chase “Fluffy,” the little poodle up the road, because you said it was ok to chase little furry creatures.
  2. Hunt/kill….why?? Here is the real thought behind this: “lets teach a dog to chase a little furry thing at the end of a line back and forth, until their pupils are so huge they can’t even see straight, all in the name of….exercise?” Please go walk your dog in a calm and working manner. Don’t teach your dogs to chase and kill. We play with CATS this way to teach cats to catch and kill small animals. It enhances their ability to hunt. Do our domestic dogs really need this? No. True exercise=walking your dog.
  3. Improper play/dog parks and daycare…. There are very, very few dog parks and doggy day cares I will recommend. Why? Because dog parks and daycares have become an excuse to exercise dogs instead of walking them. A large percentage of dog owners now head to the dog park so they can let their dogs run loose and beat up on other dogs just to get “exercise.” Dog parks without monitoring are one of the main reasons we see an increase of reactive dogs. Honestly the Dog House Drinkery is the ONLY place in Central Texas (that I have witnessed), that truly monitors for proper dog play in their dog park. They do not allow biting, crazy chasing, mounting, etc. They strive for proper social skills, calm interactions and maybe an occasional quick chase. If you are going to a dog park or sending your dog to a doggy daycare for “exercise,” don’t! Instead, go walk your dog!  You will get much more positive behavior out of your dog this way. If you allow your dog to beat the living daylights out of other dogs in order to tire them out, you will never achieve the socially acceptable dog you are looking for. Each time they see other dogs, they will walk on two legs until they get to mount, bite or assault the other dogs they see. And no, it is not really cute to the fearful or well-behaved pup you come across. It is pressure and causes dog reactivity. Even if your dog is “friendly,” it’s not appropriate for him/her to rush up on another dog to say “hello.” To put it in human terms, the happy “loving” drunk you see coming out of a bar that just wants to show you “love” by rushing happily up in your face and wanting to hug you, is probably not going to get a hug from you, right?? Even if they are happy, friendly and loving, it is inappropriate. Don’t let your dog be seen as the happy, loving drunk.

So, then the question becomes, how do I tire my dogs out? If you have not guessed already, I tire them by slowly walking them…not running or biking them. You can run a dog for miles and after a brief power nap, they are ready for more. Why? You are training an athlete to run the marathons. I am literally walking my dogs at a slow pace with an occasional down command to just observe and admire the environment around us. I prefer my dogs to be calm, quiet, and peaceful, so I condition them that way. Do I play with my dogs? Of course I do! My play is fetch and down…fetch and down… tug, drop and down…high levels of excitement, lie down, etc. In return, my dogs, yes, you guessed it, lie down when they are excited.

Please think about the behavior you want from your dog in all areas (home, public, with guests, etc.). Then you and your will be successful as long as you stay consistent with conditioning for the outcome you desire.

If you need help teaching dogs to behave around other dogs, hire a trainer that does not believe in letting them beat the daylights out of each other. Proper adult canine behavior is calm and not pressured. 

Interested in more information? Please email us at k9workingmind@gmail.com, we have classes for Proper Play between Puppies and Proper Play between Adult Dogs.

Stay calm and protect first!

Tara and the pack.


NEW Seminar’s on the schedule!

New school year means it is time for Tara’s seminars again! All our Seminars require registration/payment prior to day/time. Please email us at k9workingmind@gmail.com  to reserve your space.


Fostering with Confidence: Saturday December 5th at 12:30pm

Learn how to foster and save a life confidently. You can help your local rescue or shelter and do so peacefully in your home.

$50 per person,  $35 per person with group of 3 or more.

Humans only, 2 hour seminar. Snacks and drinks provided.

Body Language Seminar: Saturday December 12th at 12:30pm

Your dog’s language translated for you in a 2 hour workshop, real photos and videos- no illustrations.

$50 per person, $35 per person with group of 3 or more.

Humans only seminar. Snacks and drinks provided.



Introducing Dogs properly: Saturday December 19th at 11:30am

Learn how to introduce dogs confidently and avoid pressure play between them at the same time. Calm introductions lead to long term benefits for your dogs, no pressure at the introduction, means no anxiety later.

3 hour seminar, snacks and drinks provided.

$75 per person ($100 for working team – limited to 4 teams)

Group discount of $50 per person with groups of 3 or more. Advanced reservations needed.

Please email k9workingmind@gmail.com to reserve a space in any of the above seminars.

New 6 week Classes on the schedule!

It is that time again! We have many new classes on the schedule for fall! We hope you all had a great summer, here is our line up to help get your dogs ready for the fall events in Austin.

We do not allow shock or prong collars in our classes, we teach without force! Email us at k9workingmind@gmail.com to reserve a space in any of the following:

Reactive Walkers

This course is 6 weeks and I personally designed 4 years ago. In this class I help clients gain confidence in handling their reactive dogs in public. We see huge success in this class because we teach our owners how to protect their dogs instead of correcting them constantly. Nothing is “forced”, your dog learns that you can be the calm confident and fair protector so they do not need to be concerned with protecting themselves. We teach you how to stop your dog from lunging, we teach your dog how to show avoidance, we show you how to protect yourself and your dog from aggressive dogs, and we teach you and your dog that sharing affection and high value items is possible. The course is an outdoor class that is limited to 4-6 dogs and the cost is $200 per team.  Pre-requiste for this class is a leadership session or basic obedience class through our company. 

When:  Saturday 10/31 at 10:30am    Trainer: Tara

Reactive 1 greeting other dogs

This class is a 6 week up close and personal greeting class between your dog and my pack. We teach you how to control greets and protect your dog from rude dogs and pressure. It is an outdoor class and limit 4 teams. $200 per team. Pre-requiste for this class is a leadership session or basic obedience class through our company. 

When: Saturday October 3rd at 12pm        Trainer: Tara


Basic obedience

By far our most sought after class due to the number of commands we teach! 23 commands are taught in 6 weeks. This course pretty much teaches you the basics plus extras to keep your dog constantly working and challenged. Class is limited to 4 dogs, it is held inside with AC and the cost is $180.


Saturday 10/3 at 1pm with Nicole

Sunday 10/4 at 11am with Lisa

Tuesday 10/13 at 10:30am with Tara


Intermediate obedience

This class is held indoors with a 4 dog limit and the cost is $180. This class is based on self control and focus. Our graduation test is your dog off leash, and you recall them from an out of sight position, past a plate of food and the other class dogs. Yes, this is achieved every class!

When:           Saturday 10/17 at 10am with Nicole


Triebball Basics

One of our favorite classes! Triebball is basically canine soccer and herding all in one fun sport! This can be done in your backyard or even inside with just a smaller ball! We have used this class to help owners overcome reactiveness, lack of focus, and for those high energy dogs that need to be mentally worn out. This is the secret to Tara’s herding dogs calmness. Shhh don’t tell anyone. 🙂 This is an outdoor class and costs $180

When:        Tuesday 9/29 at 9am or Saturday 10/10 at 9am with Tara

We look forward to seeing you! Remember, protect first!

Email us at k9workingmind@gmail.com to reserve your space!

Tara and the pack.

Dominance Theory training, No thank you!

For 26 years, I have consulted and worked with clients that own dogs that are either fearful, reactive, confident, resource or human aggressive. During our consultations, the owner generally states they are “alpha” to their dogs, or that they want to learn how to be an “alpha” to their dogs.

I listen to the concerns about their dogs behaviors, and generally they are similar: the dog reacts to strangers or other dogs, redirects on the owner in an excited state, guards it’s food or bones, hides under items, has severe anxiety, or shows fear aggression when corrected. After listening to the presenting problem, I normally ask, how they have become an “alpha”, or what they think an alpha truly is.

The response is usually the same, “I correct them if they don’t listen, I correct them for being ‘dominant” or I hear “An alpha is the ‘boss’ of the pack.”

My question is, when does society praise? Do we endure so much “correction” from others in our lives, that we too feel the need to correct our dogs in order to feel superior?

The corrections I have seen over the years range from physically rolling the dog, spanking the dog, using a prong or shock collar, and some tie a dog to an object and walk away. All of these so-called solutions are what we call dominance or “alpha” dog training.

Dominance or “alpha” dog training is purely based on fear and pain, with the use of prong collars, shock collars, “alpha rolls”, abandonment and physical punishment to get the behavior the human would like. The problem is, with pain and fear the behavior we would like is not really going to happen. You are going to achieve fear, anxiety, lack of trust, and a dog that needs to protect itself from you, or the variables that caused the corrections in the first place.

With pain and fear, you will be successful in making your dog an omega (the “punching bag” of the pack) in front of other dogs and people. This will make a dog try to display their strength even more to avoid being viewed as weak. You will also achieve increased reactiveness, and a dog with a high frustration level. This in turn results in a dog that shows extreme anxiety, and destruction of their surroundings (or sometimes themselves).

If you were to observe a natural pack of stray domestic dogs, there is no full mouth biting for corrections, they are not inflicting pain on each other while they are walking together, and they are not attacking each other when another dog comes into sight. They are working together to protect each other, period.

Spanking, prong collars, shock collars, rolling dogs, and thinking “a dog needs to understand you can take their life away” are not training techniques, they are fear and pain causing techniques used by humans that like to project their thoughts on canine behavior.

Most times, dominance or train with pain trainers will explain the dog is aggressive because they are “power hungry”; when in fact they are not fighting for rank, they are fighting to survive. Survival is achieved with a strong protector in charge, not an unstable, confrontational one.

Protective/positive based training, is all about teaching your dog that you can protect them, and that you recognize they did an awesome job. You show your dog his successes, repeat those successes, and build on his trust and confidence that you are a fair and understanding protector. This tells your dog you are not looking to make them an omega, you are not asking for “submission or fear”, but rather you welcome them to make mistakes, let them learn from them, and praise them for their success.

Protective/positive based training teaches your dog exactly what you are looking for; there is no guessing on their end, it is clear through praise and reward.

That reward can be anything, verbal praise, affection, playtime, massage, and yes treats. There is nothing wrong with using treats to pay a dog for doing a job well done. For those that feel treats should not be used, I ask you to work free of charge. You obviously do not need to be paid either, except with praise. Makes sense if this is what your belief is.

So, when someone asks you what an “alpha” would do, or how they should become an alpha, tell them; “they would protect their pack with loyalty and dignity”. Dominance training is human, not canine.


Protect first.


Tara Stermer and the pack


Caution, electric shock therapy ahead.

The last couple of months, I have been contacted by several new clients with human aggressive dogs. Now this is not that surprising because I specialize in aggression cases, but the cases are unfortunately leading back to improper handling from professionals in the canine behavior field. I will not name names, or businesses and the point of this article is to educate owners of the potential danger of some training techniques being used.
The following are real case files from owners that I have recently had. The only thing that was changed is the names, the rest of the material are the owners own encounters.

I had been hired to help a gentleman with his dog “G”, a 10 pound 2.5 yr old mix breed. His presenting problem was constant barking and nipping at other dogs & at people.
The barking started at 1.5 yrs old and the owner sought obedience training to curb it. The barking did not stop, but instead the dog started nipping at people.
During the consult, each time the owner touched the dog it would show extreme signs of stress, yawning, lip licking, stress shakes/scratches. The tail would tuck with any touch.
The gentleman was not threatening, heavy handed or quick in his movements; he was very gentle and kind. The entire hour the dog reacted this way, so I questioned the owner if he showed these signs at home and he admitted that he did. The owner said he had been a very “chill, laid back” kind of dog until a year ago.
I continued the consult and asked him what commands the dog knows. There was a brief pause, and the owner looked down at his little friend and started petting him. He explained to me that he does not perform his commands very well, but his reaction looked like that of guilt not disappointment. So I asked how the commands were taught. He explained that they used an “e-collar” on him and he felt awful because the dog would scream and cry with every command given….
The owner now has a dog that used to be friendly and laid back, but with a little help from a professional, it is begun defending itself from humans and is even stressed by it’s own owners touch.
I am not quite sure why anyone would put an e-collar on a dog to teach it basic obedience, what is the human race thinking when we do these things? Don’t you think if a dog screams and cries, there may be a problem??
I have a large dog pack; with patience and training I have taught my dogs how to be off leash, and do distance commands, yes with patience and training- not shock therapy. I have deaf dogs, they recall without shock therapy as well. They use their noses, sad to think we lost our creativity and have become this lazy in the field of dog training.
Have we become so caught up in how fast we can do things, that we forget a little thing called compassion? I am appalled that someone could be this cruel and call him or herself a trainer.
The very same trainer thought it was a good idea to use an e collar on a defensive German Shepard that already had trust issues. Sadly the poor dog was wearing a muzzle and could not defend itself, although he tried. They had been out walking while the owner watched, after a few minutes the dog turned and tried to bite the trainer. What was said next gives me chills,
Trainer to owner: “Not sure why that one bothered him, I had already used the collar about 20 times.” Really? The dog had the patience for 20 tones (tones is what they want you to believe it is), and finally lost it on you and you are confused as to why? Really???
Ok let me give you the same scenario but with you, cause after all, if you think it is not going to hurt your dog in anyway, you should be fine with my little experiment.
For one full day please place the same e collar on your neck. Forget your thigh like so many trainers tell you. The collar is placed in the neck, where their jugular is. (Some trainers even tell you to “shave” the neck so they can feel it more).
Place it on your neck right over your jugular and fasten it so it is tight enough not to slip. Set it to the low setting and tell me the “tone” does not bother you.
Now with every step- hit the tone, but remind yourself how awesome you are for taking the tone. “Good human”.
Before you sit, tone yourself. Before you eat, tone yourself. If you are not happy with the tones at this point give yourself a better treat, maybe chocolate. There ya go all better right?
Now, if you speak out of turn, or how any frustration to another human- remember crank it up and tone yourself. If you tone yourself the amount of times you tone your dog, (which obviously you cannot do) and by the end of the day you feel no stress, no headache, no pain; call me. I would love to do it again but with me holding the remote. I may not be as nice as you though. Screaming and crying after all, is acceptable.

Up coming seminars

Up Coming Seminars- all seminars are people only please.

Body Language Seminar                                                                                                           November 17, 10:30am                              2.5 hour                       $50 

A large majority of people mistakenly read certain cues as affection or fear, and some warning signs often go unheeded. This typically leads to an injury to the human resulting in possible death for the dog. 

This seminar covers how a dog communicates, including the subtle signs that could lead to potentially dangerous situations. We break down different stances, eye contact, actions and myths with real photographs and dogs for easier understanding. 

Our goal is to reduce the number of bite incidents, and help our colleagues and dogs understand each other without frustration. 

*All the photos during the seminar have been taken from cases I have personally worked with or my own pack members.


Fostering Seminar                                                                                                                    December 1st,  10:30am                            1.5 hours                        $50 

  Thinking of fostering but not sure how to introduce a new dog? Maybe you already foster, but would like things to go a bit more smoothly. This seminar is designed to show you how it can be done!

Mutli-Dog Households                                                                                                              December 8th, 11am                                  1.5 hours                      $ 50

  Feeling overwhelmed? Maybe you are experiencing pack fights or scuffles? Let me show you how to have peace in your pack. All of my dogs came to me with aggression or reactiveness, and they all live peacefully together. It can be done.


Understanding Deaf, Blind and Deaf & Blind dogs: training, adopting and enjoying them.         December 15th, 11 am                                3 hours                         $75

 A seminar to teach you how to communicate with your disabled dog, this is based on my experience working with them. Real life pictures, and demo of how these amazing dogs live, love and learn, just like every other dog. They deserve a chance and I can show you how to rely on their other senses, regardless if they born this way or developed it at an older age.