Introduction

Congratulations on enrolling in A Better Best Friend!

So I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here.

I take my responsibility to you and your dog very seriously. I’m telling you right now, I can’t do this without your help. Believe me, it would make my life a hell of a lot easier if I could.

But it’s going to take some effort and commitment from you. I know you’re busy and have plenty of other shit going on. I want to make it as easy for you as possible. I’m not just going to recommend arbitrary tasks – whatever I recommend is because I think it is important for what you are trying to achieve. If you want to achieve it, you need to follow my directions as closely as possible.

If you can’t follow a particular instruction, don’t just let it slide – let me know so that I can try to give you an alternative.

Ok, ready to start? GOOD. Keep reading.

The Three Parts of A Better Best Friend

First let’s clarify a few terms.

A Better Best Friend is the name of the program you’ve enrolled you and your dog in. This is a program that teaches basis skills to dogs that are social.

The A Better Best Friend program consists of three parts:

1) School Days. You will drop your dog off with us twice a week for School Days. On School Days we work with your dog to improve their skills.

2) Group Classes. On Saturdays, you will attend Group Classes with your dog. During Group Classes we work with you to improve your skills. Group Classes are designed so that you can sign up for each class that you want to attend individually. The first class you will attend will be an Orientation Class.

3) Individual Practice. We can show you what to do in classes. But you’ve got to practice the stuff on your own time. It’s not the most complicated stuff in the world. You don’t need to commit hours a day. But spend a few minutes a day and you’ll master the techniques soon enough. Likewise, your dog is only spending a few days with us a week. The rest of time it’s up to you to reinforce what we are teaching so that it transfers to your real life. The best results will happen when both you and your dog’s skills improve.

Got it? School Days + Group Classes + Individual Practice = Day School.

Day School Package Options

A Day School Package must be purchased before dropping your dog off on the first day.

Day School can be purchased as either 8 or 24 School Day packages.

An 8 Day Package includes 4 Group Classes that can be used over a two month period. After the third 8 Day Package you purchase, you receive unlimited access to Group Classes for one year.

A 24 Day Package includes unlimited Group Classes for one year and a 10% discount.

All Day School packages include discounts to other services like Private Lessons, Workshops, and specialty Group Classes like agility.

Click here to purchase a package.

The software will encourage you do schedule your own School Days but ignore that. We will take care of getting you on the calendar. The only School Day you should schedule on your own is the first day.

Add-On Services

We have a few add-on services that can be extremely helpful for your dog’s progress, and are highly recommended.

Tandem Hikes ($35)

Tandem Hikes are trips to Mary Moore Searight park for “off-leash” hike simulations (they are actually on 25-30 foot long leashes).

Tandem Hikes are especially useful to do on the first day with dogs enrolled in the Socialization Program, and it may be required for some dogs.

To add Tandem Hikes to your package, please:

  • Go to the Sign Up Sheet here.
  • Read the terms at the top and enter your info into the spreadsheet, including how many hikes you’d like your dog to go on.
  • After the hike, you will be charged $35.
So when you sign up, you’re just giving us permission to take your dog on a certain number of hikes, knowing that you’ll be charged $35 if/when we do.
Unfortunately, not all dogs will be able to partake in hikes, even the ones that might benefit the most – it comes down to if I think we can do them safely. I’m the final judge on that. Don’t assume anything though – if you’d like your dog to go on hikes with us, sign up. I’ll let you know if I don’t think we can do it safely, or if there are any special considerations.
There’s no guarantee of when or even if we’ll do the number of hikes you ask for, and we might not be able to tell you beforehand, because sometimes it’s just a matter of how the day unfolds. Unfortunately, the dogs don’t care about our “plans” and neither does the weather!
The more important I think the hike is for a dog, the higher we’ll prioritize – so If I think your dog really really could use the hikes or if you’ve expressed a goal of off-leash hiking, we’ll make it happen, as long as I think we can do it safely!
“Real World” Training Trips ($30)

Dogs don’t generalize very well, so one of the obstacles of training is that you need to practice the skills they learn in new and different locations. We do our best to mix it up by taking your dogs to our immediate dog friendly neighbors like Lofty Dog and Moontower Saloon as part of your dog’s Day School program for not additional charge (when they are ready).

“Real World” Training Trips expand on this by offering you more choices for locations. Want us to practice with your dog at Petsmart? Home Depot? Your apartment complex? Your vet or favorite patio? We can do all of that, as long as the location is within a 10-15 minute drive from the Center.

To sign your dog up for a Real World Training Trip simply purchase from the online store and we will schedule the trip for one of your dog’s existing School Days. It will be added to the calendar and you’ll receive a confirmation. We want to make the trip a logical progression of the training and only take them when we think they can succeed.

Stuff You Need to Buy (if you don’t already own)

You will need the following before the first School Day:

  • Martingale style collar

We require that all dogs wear a Martingale collar while in Day School. This allows for safer handling. If you use an Easywalk, Freedom, Gentle Leader or any other no-pull style harness/head halter to walk your dog, please bring it in as well.

Amazon.com has a good selection of Martingale collars. This is the brand we use.

Our friends at Lofty Dog across the street also have a good selection of Martingale collars, and you will be able to try them on to make sure you get the right size.

Here are some tips for sizing and fitting a Martingale Collar.

Some Martingales use a chain instead of fabric – please do not get this type because they are more likely to get caught in another dog’s teeth during play.

  • 4-6 Foot Long Leash

Not too picky about the brand or type, but I personally think lighter weight leashes are much easier to use. The main thing is NO RETRACTABLES because they are the devil.

You will need to own the following before your first Group Class

  • Treat Pouch

I don’t care what kind of pouch you use, but having treats easily accessible while keeping your hands free is important. I can’t have you fumbling around with a plastic baggie in one hand. It’s painful to watch.

  • Treats/food ranging from medium to high value

In situations where your dog is more distracted, it’s likely that you will need treats that are higher value than normal. For medium value treats we usually use Zuke’s Mini-bites or similar. For high value treats we usually use deli turkey, chicken, beef hot dogs, or cheese. That being said we cannot decide what is valuable to a dog in any given situation. Remember this. It’s not your decision. Our (and your) job is to figure out what is valuable to the dog at any given moment.

Preparing your dog for their first School Day

The main thing you can do to prepare your dog is to teach them how to expertly use a Classic or Extreme style Kong if they aren’t already experts.

Dogs spend rest periods comfortably crated indoors. It’s important for your dog to be able to relax during these rest times. Dogs who are already comfortable being crated generally have an advantage.

We use Classic (Red) or Extreme (Black) Kongs stuffed with food to help settle the dogs in during rest times. Dogs that already use these types of toys regularly are much more likely to use them when at Day School, which makes it easier to get them to relax.

Simply smear a little peanut butter or plain yogurt on the inside walls of the Kong, then top off with delicious treats. Hold the opening to your dog’s mouth. Once they start licking, give them the Kong. The goal is for them to instantly know what to do when they are given a stuffed Kong, and for them to work on it until virtually all the food is removed.

For dogs that are unable to relax quietly with a Kong while in rest time, alternative chew toys may be required, or we may suggest adding Hiking trips to your Day School plans. These cost additional fees, so avoid try to avoid them by teaching your dog how to use the Kong!

Kongs can be purchased from Amazon.com and most pet stores including our friends at Lofty Dog right across the street!

More dogs are unable to complete the Day School program because of their inability to settle during rest times than any other reason. Teaching them to expertly use the Kong will make it more likely that your dog will be able to complete the program.

School Day Drop Off/Pickup Procedures

On the first day, drop off is at 7am. Regular pick up hours are between 3 and 6pm. Late pickup is available up until 7pm for an additional fee ($10 per late pickup from 6- 6:30, $25 per late pickup between 6:30-7pm).

After the first day, we ask for 30 minute drop off and pick up windows.

Please select your windows using the form below.

  • Please enter your dog's name
  • Select the 30 minute window that you will typically be dropping off your dog for Day School after the first day. The 7:30-8am and 8-8:30am slots are recommended if possible for you.
  • Select the 30 minute window that you will typically be picking up your dog from Day School after the first day. The 4-4:30pm, 4:30-5pm, 5-5:30pm, and 5:30-6pm slots are recommended if possible for you.

Please do your best to stick to these windows as it helps us plan each dog’s training better. If you are unable to make it during your regularly scheduled window, simply let me know beforehand – text me at 512-436-3647 for same day changes or you’re going to be late or early. Arriving outside of these windows without advance notice could affect the amount of work we are able to do with your dog.

It’s rare, but we might occasionally ask you if you can change drop off/pick up on certain days to help accommodate your dog or another dog’s behavior.

When you arrive, follow the sign around the tree in front of Howl n’ Woof. There is a doorbell on the tree – press the doorbell and you should hear the bell ring. We will come out to you a soon as we can. Please wait by your car until we come out. Do not approach the fence with your dog if other dogs are out in the yard and do not enter the yard on your own.

Please allow yourself a few minutes when you arrive in case we have to put other dogs inside. Safety always comes first.

What a typical School Day looks like for your dog

Here is the typical School Day schedule:

7-10am: Structured Play Groups. We rotate dogs in groups with other dogs from the time they are dropped off. During rotations, we work on reinforcing appropriate social skills, teaching them to respond to our interruptions during play and practicing self-control skills.

10am: Dogs are put into their crates with stuffed Kongs.

10am-1pm: Each dog is taken out for individual training sessions on our Life Skills curriculum, and/or anything else we think your dog needs.

1-2pm: Rest time with Kongs

2-3pm: Structured Play Groups

3pm – pickup: Individual training sessions, cuddle time, etc. as needed.

Preparing for Group Classes

Please review the following videos and articles and begin practicing the techniques before attending Group Classes. These fundamental concepts and techniques are the bedrocks for virtually everything we teach. Absorb and understand them – let them become something you know as easy as 1 + 1. These alone will make everything you do with your dog SO much easier.

Finding the Golden Treat:

Hey Bartender! – Getting and keeping attention:

Social Media

We frequently post photos and videos from Day School on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m not a huge social media person so sometimes I post less frequently than I should. But I’m trying to do better. So “like us” or “follow us” or “whatever us”:

Facebook

Instagram: @debonodogbehavior

Twitter: @debonodogs

Communicating with us

The best way to contact us for general help, scheduling changes, etc, is through email at info@debonodogs.com.

If you need to discuss something with me privately, my email is steve@debonodogs.com.

For anything urgent or time-sensitive send me a text at 512-436-3647.

We’re happy to answer your questions at pickup/dropoff and before/after Group Classes when time permits.