Training Tips

Introducing Your New Rescue to Your Children: 7 Simple Reminders to Keep Kids Safe


When you are rescuing a dog and there are kids present in the family, or even friends and relatives that plan to visit, there are several things you should consider as you introduce dogs and children. Additionally, there are several interactions you should discourage and curb when it comes to kids and their interaction with dogs. This is for the safety of children and dogs a like.

Many of these things may seem like a given, but for each and every dog owner and adopter there are always lessons that can be learned to reduce stress on a dog, and unwanted situations within the family. 

These 7 simply reminders can help keep kids safe and dogs comfortable in child/dog interactions:

1.     Children should not put their hands in a dog’s food bowl, or play in their food, nor tease a dog with food, bones, or toys.

2.     Pulling an item out of the mouth of a dog should be avoided. If they are chewing on something that is not there, try a drop it command, and if that is not working try using a higher value treat to distract the dog from the object it should not be chewing on and redirect to a more appropriate object.

3.     Close contact with a new rescue or unfamiliar dog should be monitored. Children and adults should not put faces up close into the face of dogs, pull or grab dogs’ ears or tails, or yank paws. 

4.     Climbing on or over dogs or laying on top of dogs can cause stress to the animal and stress reactions. Be gentle when petting dogs and approaching them.

5.     While dogs may look cuddly and like they want to be hugged, avoid hugging and pulling a dog tightly to you, it may cause the dog stress that makes it want to get away and the dog may react to let you know it is uncomfortable.

6.     Avoid yelling, screaming, and loud noises around a dog. The stress of yelling can cause a dog to react to your stress and anxiety. Commands do not have to be loud and angry to be effective.

7.     When teaching your dog commands, use a firm voice, but not a loud, angry, or pitchy scream to get a dog to behave. Treats and rewards will help your dog be at ease with learning commands. This should be practiced by adults, before having children mimic this. Make sure a dog is comfortable with commands before turning over the training to a child.

Please watch this dog bite prevention video – the perspective of your children and the dogs can be very different. It’s important to make sure to supervise interactions and look for signs a dog is giving that it is not enjoying certain types of attention.

In our next blog post we will talk more about signs of stress with dogs and toddlers

3 Ways to Combat Counter Surfing - Remove, Redirect, Reward

Photo by LucBrousseau/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by LucBrousseau/iStock / Getty Images


Counter surfing, this all too frequent dog behavior is actually quite natural.  In order to curb counter surfing it’s important to understand the potential reasons for the behavior as well as some ways to combat this unwanted circumstance or to reshape their behavior.

Why Does My Dog Counter Surf?

Counter surfing is a dog’s drive to cruise counters and tables for food items – not just objects. Objects would fall under the category of attention seeking, while food is a much more primal drive.

·      Seeking food is a primary instinct for dogs as well as other animals on the planet, so it’s no surprise that when a dog smells something yummy on top of the counter, it may be something that requires investigation.

·      Your dog has been successful before in finding food on a counter top or a table either because food was left on a counter and they found it, or you fed them scraps as you were cooking. This has now been established as a hunting ground.

·      It’s a high value reward, and thus something your dog is seeking. Let’s face it, your most food motivated dogs are the ones who become counter surfers.

How Can I Deal with This?

The main wait to combat counter surfing is simply to remove the temptation. This works 99.9% of the time, however it means we need to make a change in our own behavior. Even if a dog is taught to leave food on a table or during training on the floor, when left unsupervised, that training may only go so far. Why set your dog up for failure?

Remove – Control the environment. Why set your dog up for failure? It is up to us as dog owners to change our behavior.  If you have a habit of keeping bread, pastries, etc. on the counter tops move them to inaccessible locations. (This does not mean the back of the counter.)  Ideal locations are away in pantries, refrigerators – on top or inside – inside the microwave, the oven. Anywhere that will best remove the temptation. Do not feed scraps to your dog from the table or the counter top.

Redirect – The truth is, if you are cooking and a dog smells those amazing smells we have all likely experienced dogs under foot. Redirecting their actions and activity to another diversion is key in safely cooking without a dog in your cooking space, or worse…on a counter. Teaching a dog to go to their bed, their place, or to play in another room can be done through effort and household cooperation.

Reward – As you are teaching your dog to utilize a different behavior such as going to their place, make sure you reward them with high value treats (not from your counter tops) for complying with your training. Reinforce this with clicker training, and soon you will be able to redirect your dog out of the kitchen while you are preparing food.

Can I Train the Dog Not to Counter Surf?

Well, again, short of removing the temptations training is a difficult thing. There are 4 phases when a dog counter surfs. When the spot the food, when they put their paws up on the counter to investigate the food, when the dog grabs the food, and when they eat the food.

If you are not catching the dog in the early phases and using positive ways to redirect them, your corrections will be frustrating and ineffective. Yelling at a dog once they have jumped on the counter, pulled the food down, or eaten it, won’t compute to your pup.

You need to find ways to positively redirect the dog when it discovers there is food on the counter. If you see the dog move to the counter, or jump on the counter, plug a dog treat into his nose and lure him off or away from the counter. When his feet hit the ground say yes or click and give him the treat. After much practice incorporate the command off.

But let’s face it, we don’t want to entice our dog to jump on the counter in order to train the off command. In reality we don’t often see when our dogs jump on the counter because it is a crime of opportunity. Rather than driving yourself insane with this behavior. Remove the temptation, redirect them to their place when you are cooking, and reward their good behavior.

On a side note, sometimes rescue dogs are persistent counter surfers because they had to scavenge for food. Who knows how long they may have been strays. Or under fed because they were not well treated in their previous circumstances. But over time, as they realize they have a consistent food source, with a loving family, and no longer have to forage – you may see their behavior dissipate. But it can take months and months or even years.

Should Your Dog Be a Therapy Dog?

Photo by monkeybusinessimages/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by monkeybusinessimages/iStock / Getty Images

In our last blog post we talked about the difference between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support dogs. In this segment we are going to talk more about Therapy Dogs – the pros and cons of certification, and whether or not your dog should be a therapy dog.

Therapy dogs are not registered service dogs, and do not enjoy the same benefits on a personal level of helping their handlers but rather are trained and used to help others in a variety of situation. Therapy dog’s may be found in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice situations, schools, disaster areas – just about anywhere comfort is needed. Recently you may have seen a picture of the therapy dogs greeting the survivors in the wake of the Parkland, FL school shooting.


Does My Dog Have the Ability to Become a Therapy Dog?

It takes a certain dog to really be a therapy dog.

We all think our dogs are the sweetest angels on the planet, but when it comes to control and personality there are several things to consider and weigh when deciding whether or not to pursue therapy dog activities.

Therapy dogs typically have gentle, friendly, confident dispositions. They are tolerant, and well behaved in a variety of situations. They don’t startle, and they do not exhibit behaviors such as jumping, nipping, or shying away from touch. Their primary purpose is to make contact in therapeutic situations. To this end they must be comfortable with strangers, clumsy petting, and responsive to commands given by their handlers/owners.

A Lu's Lab Alumni, Svamal Machang, who has taken his Lu's Lab Ollie through the PAL's Program (See below) Says, "I think it comes down to trusting and knowing your dog. Is this something they would enjoy, and do you know your dog well enough to gauge how they’ll react in unpredictable situations."

Is There Required Training?

There are a variety of organizations out there that “certify” dogs as therapy dogs. For the most part, there is no set training program that is required. Nor a set of standards by which a dog must be trained before being certified. However, the best certification agencies do require dog and handler to go through a rigorous test of temperament and behavior. 

"Turns out, there’s no legal definition or status called therapy dog," says Machang, "It’s mostly about being under the umbrella of a group that can take care of the paperwork and insurance."

What kind of Registration is Required?

Well this is where it gets tricky. There are lots of organizations out there that offer “Certification” from websites to actual training facilities. Some don’t require any training at all, you just have to pay your fee. It’s important that if you want to take this on and really have your dog become a therapy dog, that you research reputable programs and make sure your dog has the temperament and manners to behave in a variety of situations.

Of the program Machang went through, he says, "You basically need to show that both you and the dog are friendly, communicate well and get along with other dogs and people."

What are Some Resources to Start?

Therapy Dog’s United – A non-profit with its own certification and testing program as well as connections to a network of facilities that utilize volunteer certified therapy dogs.

AKC Therapy Dog Program – Both purebreds and mix breeds can go through AKC certification programs. This is mainly a title and recognition program for a dog that is already performing visits on site with an agency.

Therapy Dogs International – Founded in 1976 this is a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing, and registering therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers.

Local Resources

Alliance of Therapy Dogs -  This used to be called Therapy Dogs, Inc., or TD Inc.  Lu’s Labs, head of training Linda Deam, did Pet Therapy through this group with two of her dogs several years ago.  The dogs were tested prior to being accepted into the TD Inc. program.  She worked with a local group and they followed a strict set of rules.  TD Inc. set the rules and everyone paid a yearly fee to join.  TD Inc. provided insurance as well.

PAL -  This is the local group some of our Lu’s Labs alumni, including Machang have used. PAL’s certification process is 3 steps, one orientation and two on site evaluations, there is a $100 application fee.

Pet Partners - This is another well-known therapy dog program that is worth checking into.

Ultimately this is an activity that can bring dog owners (Handlers) and their dogs together in a rewarding activity. "Seeing the joy in children’s faces as they read to Ollie, and how they persevere through their difficulties to read to him. There’s no fear of judgement, just a kid reading to a dog," Says Machang.

Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Emotional Support Animals: What's The Difference?


Wouldn’t a world where we could take our pets anywhere with us be an amazing thing? From planes to restaurants, some of us want our pets to be a part of our everyday life. So much so that some try to side step the system. This can be harmful to those in true need.

In reality our pets don't cross over to the category of service dogs. There are 3 types of categories when it comes to dogs that “assist” us. Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals. Each category is important to understand especially if you are considering a dog for a specific need, a specific task, or a specific reason. Under the law they all have varying degrees of rights and they are not all equal.

Service Dogs

While not to diminish the role of therapy dogs and how they can be helpful to many people in a variety of situations, nor discount the role of emotional support animals and how they impact the lives of their owners - A service dog is the only animal of this group that is highly trained and afforded special access where other animals would not pass.

Service dogs are highly trained team members that work with their handler’s specific needs. They help mitigate their handler’s disability and afford them safety and independence that may otherwise hinder an individual’s daily life without a Service Animal. This is the only case where the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to bring their into otherwise forbidden places. It is also important to note that under the DOJ/HUD/FHA The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Fair Housing Act and Federal Rehabilitation Act, Service Animals cannot be barred from otherwise pet restricted housing. The DOT Air Carrier Access Act also provides accommodation for Service Animals.

It is not possible to simply send away for a certificate or pay a fee and have a dog certified as a service animal. Simply buying a vest doesn’t cut it either.

Therapy Dogs

While therapy dogs also receive special training, they are for completely different purposes than service dogs, and the training is much more broad and forgiving. Whereas Service Dogs work for their handlers to provide specific needs and tasks, therapy dogs are utilized to assist individuals other than their handler/owner. These dogs are often chosen for their easy-going personalities and steady temperaments. They are often utilized in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other locations to provide companionship and comfort for patience, residents, and students in need.

Therapy dogs have many benefits and have a variety of jobs, they are not afforded the same rights under the ADA, DOT, and DOJ/HUD as Service Dogs. Therapy dogs go through their own set of standardized training and certification depending on their purpose.  At the end of the day they do not have the same jobs or legal designation as Service Dogs.

Many pet owners do seek out and successfully have their own pets certified as therapy dogs. We will explore this in more detail in our next blog post.

Emotional Support Dogs (Animals)

From Hamsters to Peacocks we’ve heard it all lately when it comes to emotional support animals, the truth of the matter is emotional support animals are far different from service dogs and therapy dogs.

Emotional support animals can be virtually any animal that its owner finds to be supportive for their emotional needs. There is no specialized training, required behavior, or certification necessary to be an emotional support animal. And no species classification. While not to diminish the role of an emotional support animal and the comfort they afford their disabled owners, there is very little oversight in designating an animal as emotionally supportive.

But in all seriousness, there are many scams out there providing quick certificates for animals claiming they are emotional support animals. A true emotional support animal is not a pet, but a companion animal to an individual with a verifiable mental or psychiatric disability. As such it is this type of animal that, while not afforded the rights under the ADA, they are given rights under the HUD and FHA – Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and landlords must make reasonable accommodation for such animals. And Emotional Support Animals are not required to have any kind of specialized training.

Emotional Assistance animals do not bypass rules for air travel or fall into the same category as Service Dogs. And with more and more people abusing this status airlines are cracking down on animals allowed on flights. On the lighter side of things for a good laugh, read this emotional support animal journey with The New Yorker contributing writer, Patricia Marx.

Since many people often wonder how to get their dogs certified as therapy dogs, we will explore the pros and cons of therapy dogs in our next blog post.


Guest Post: My Experience with Seperation Anxiety


The following blog post is from a Lu's Lab adopter and Volunteer, our very own Samme Menke Drake. This post may help anyone experiencing separation anxiety with some tips and tricks. This is no substitute for visiting with your vet, a trainer, or a behaviorist to come up with a plan that is specific to your dog. But it is good to know that you are not alone, and that with patience and love you can overcome hurtles and provide a loving home for a rescue dog in need.

"We adopted our dog through Lu’s Labs Rescue in the fall of 2015 and had learned through our adoption coordinator that Henry (then Cooper) had spent at least the last year, and possibly longer, living out his days in a crate on the back porch of his family’s home in Georgia.

We were happy that the family had decided they could no longer care for him so that we could give him a better life. When Henry came to live with us, we were on the 9th floor of a high-rise apartment and while we were providing him plenty of space and exercise, we quickly discovered his separation anxiety.

The first week we had him, we were working from home to ensure that he was bonding with us and learning to trust us. We were crating him overnight and whenever we left. He escaped the crate a few times when we left, so we used extra zip tie closures to completely secure the crate.

The next time we were gone for roughly one hour, he had a complete panic attack. When my husband came in from his doctor appointment, Henry couldn’t even see him he was so crazed – spitting, screaming and slamming his head into the crate until he bled. After that, we stopped crating him and left him out in the open. While he mostly behaved out on his own, he constantly tried to escape the apartment, including learning to open the door. It was also clear that he had been pacing around the door as his “happy tail” wound had opened back up and left blood marks all over our walls around the entrance.

The next time we left him alone, we decided to put him in our bedroom and close the door so that he wouldn’t accidentally let himself out of our apartment. We left him for 45 minutes and when we returned we learned that he had another panic attack and dug the carpet all the way to the subfloor trying to escape.

Finally, we decided to put him in the bathroom with our laptop computer to watch him from our couch to see how he would react in the room alone (note: we didn’t even need to leave the apartment). We gave him a frozen kong treat and shut the door. Within the first 30 seconds, he abandoned his kong. Began to cry and started pacing. He then tried to open the door and began to panic. He peed on the floor and laid down in it. Then paced again. We watched him for 12 minutes as he completely lost it – exhibiting pretty much every symptom of a panic attack except drooling. (Note: the key to most of these symptoms is two-fold. 1. He clearly focused on exit points of the home. It wasn’t general destruction – it was an attempt to escape. 2. He struggled with being in enclosed spaces – even just being in a room by himself.)

Note: If your situation is far less intense, it could be a number of different things. Maybe your dog needs more exercise, more mental stimulation, is generally bored, or isn’t getting enough routine/discipline.

If your situation sounds similar, I highly recommend meeting with an experienced and licensed trainer to determine the method forward. Below is a description of what we went through and honestly, having someone to help us through it was the only way we would have been able to do it.

After this episode, we called a licensed trainer who specialized in this particular issue. After describing all of the above, she said it sounded very much like Separation Anxiety – not just a transitional issue, boredom or lack of exercise – it was much more than that.

Our trainer came to do an in-person evaluation and confirmed that this was indeed a Separation Anxiety issue, but he was also exhibiting some low-level anxiety symptoms in general (which she actually said was a positive thing because he may respond better to medication). We sought the advice of our vet and he was prescribed Fluoxetine (i.e. Prozac).  We were also given other ideas – such as a pheromone collar, Rescue calming drops, thunder shirts – some we tried, and some we didn’t. We didn’t really see any improvement with those.  

The method she recommended was incredibly intense and would definitely be a challenge, but she said if we put in the time and effort that he would end up being an amazing dog.

Devastated, but refusing to give up, we took on the challenge. Essentially, for six months we did not leave our dog alone (combination of daycare, babysitters and working from home made this possible).

We began with some easy training – teaching him the basics including sit, stay, down, etc. Our trainer emphasized that giving him these commands helped him to trust us and would teach him to be less impulsive. It helped him understand that we were in control and that we would take care of any of the “scary” things he might encounter when we are in the elevator, or walking outside.

Then, we taught him to “go to place,” which was essentially his bed that we would move around our apartment and practice sending him to it from various places – then slowly backing away or jumping up and down – the more focused he was and if he stayed in place, we would reward him with a treat. Then we gradually started moving out of his sight line.

Getting him to stay while we left the room was a major victory. Once we mastered that, we introduced a baby gate barrier. And again, started rewarding him for staying on his “place” for various time frames, or if we moved out of sight, etc. We aimed to spend about 30 minutes to an hour a day practicing these things.

Because Henry is very food motivated, we saw progress in him immediately – not with the Separation Anxiety because we still weren’t leaving him alone yet. After a few months, our trainer said it was time to start popping out of the apartment for less than 30 seconds a few times a day. We slowly built that time up from 30 seconds to minutes until we reached 20 minutes.

We invested in Nest cameras so that we could monitor him through the process. If he showed any signs of a panic attack coming on, we could come back in. We would go sit in the lobby and watch on our phones. After he was able to handle 20-30 minutes alone – that’s when we were able to start pushing the envelope further. Finally, we built up to a few hours and continued to see Henry improve. Our lives were back to normal.

Then we moved.

We were really concerned that the move would set him back, so before we moved in, we would take him over to our house to get a feel for it. We knew in the long-run the house (with a yard) would be better for him, but we didn’t want him relapsing. We let him warm up to the idea by leaving him alone for very short periods of time and watching him on our cameras.

We realized that the front door was a source of anxiety, so we stopped letting him near it when we left – basically putting the baby gate at the top of the stairs so he was forced to stay in the main living space with the comfort of his couch and a big window to look out of.

Aside from a few tiny bumps in the road, Henry has fully recovered from his Separation Anxiety. He is still on his medications, which we may consider weening him off eventually, but for now it’s working and he’s happy.

Overall, I definitely think the house environment is much more suited for him. Because he came from such a rural area, I think the constant interactions with people in the apartment building, as well as the construction noises and everything else he was adjusting to, exasperated his issue. He feels much more at home in our house."

As you can see, with love, patience, and time as well as the advice and intervention of experts it is possible to get through seemingly difficult behaviors with your dogs. Remember, whenever you adopt a dog from rescue their behaviors may take a while to come out, and they are not solvable overnight. You are helping save lives when you rescue and adopt. With it comes responsibility.