Benefits Of Stationing

A young dog perches on a coil of wire at a hardware store.


Stationing is when we ask our dog to get onto a thing and stay there for a period of time. Typically we ask for four paws up, but this can be done with two paws up, a down, a sit, or whatever is most useful for you and your dog.  We use this a lot for dogs who need help being calm, confident, or focused while out in the world or when a lot is going on around them.

Teach it at home first. As your dog to climb onto as many surfaces as you can think of: a pillow, a couch cushion, a coffee table, an upside down pot, an upside down laundry basket, a planter.. you get the idea.  You can lure your dog with cookies or shape it if you prefer to train that way.  It is important that you don’t pull, push, or place your dog on the item though – the whole point of this game is for them to learn to climb on themselves. Pay them well! (Many Cookies)



Riker and Jubilee are both anxious in new buildings. Riker is a nervous guy all around and Jubilee, well I’m fairly sure she is worried that every inside place is another vet’s office. Unfortunately she has had way too many vet visits and is very anxious about the handling that occurs there.  For these two dogs, we practice stationing, a strongly reinforced (lots of cookies) and predictable behaviour, in many different situations. 

A go-to behaviour with a high rate of reinforcement takes their minds off of the ‘what ifs’ and teaches them that these uncertain areas predict fun things happening.

With enough practice, they will hopefully learn to look forward to heading to unfamiliar places as, more often than not, fun things happen there.

Multi-Dog Home

In a multi-dog home, stationing is a great skill to have to help dogs learn how to take turns, to help address resource guarding, to calm dogs who may want to wrestle when you have company over, to train manners around mealtimes and doorways, and for many other skills.

Look for different surfaces and textures. Frankie is practicing on rounded metal pipes!

Different Rules For Different Dogs

Nope, you don’t have to be ‘fair’ by having the same rules for everyone. In truth, it can be unfair to have the same rules for all of the dogs in your home.

Each of our dogs is an individual and has their own set of needs and wants. Of course, if you have two dogs of the same breed and similar age, they will likely have similar needs. It is easy to get caught up in trying to treat our dogs the same. Rather than thinking about being fair, think about meeting needs.

Anxious dogs, old dogs, young dogs, lower/higher energy dogs – they all have different needs.

  • A livestock guardian will likely need to sit outside to watch over their domain. Leaving a 3lb yorkie outside alone might scare them and put the dog at risk.
  • Anxious dogs and puppies often struggle to rest and nap properly in a multi-dog home. These dogs might need extra crate time or time locked in the bedroom to nap.
  • A young puppy will need many things to chew on, likely eating their meals in frozen Toppls or other food puzzles. A very old dog might find this same routine exhausting and frustrating.
  • A dog who is anxious about being bumped might be allowed on furniture to feel safe, while the other dogs are not allowed up.
  • A young or energetic dog will need more walks than an old, anxious, or lower energy dog.
Riker enjoying the couch by himself.

Consider your routines and rules for each individual in your home to be sure that they are each having their needs met. Respecting who they are and what they need in life is one of the kindest things we can do for them.


Agency is very important for anxious dogs. Giving them a choice in the activities they participate in, where and when they rest, and how they interact in the world is one of the key building blocks to support resilience. Agency means giving your dog choices whenever possible.

Riker, my little spitz, is afraid of larger fast moving dogs and so he has chosen not to accompany us on group hikes. I have allowed that and I have spent the last two years walking him separately, finding him some slower paced, small dog friends. It is OK to have separate rules, separate activities, and separate outings for dogs in a multi-dog home.

Guess what happened today? He jumped in the car when I loaded up the big dogs for a hike! So he joined us. I don’t typically bring many treats with me on hikes, but I brought a lot with us so that I could support him if he was anxious, reinforce him for checking in, staying close, and coming when called. He had a blast =)

4 dogs posing for a picture, brush and a mountain in the background.

Other ways I give Riker Agency include:

  • Allowing him spend time on the deck instead of inside with the pack. He needs more quiet time than the group dynamic allows.
  • Allowing him to choose to participate in group training sessions, or not. The other dogs are stationed on dog beds while waiting for their turn, but Riker can come and go as he pleases. When he is feeling brave, he participates. When he is feeling anxious, he might watch from a distance or go out to the deck.
  • Allowing him to decide if I or anyone else is allowed to touch him. For the most part, he loves cuddles from me, but he can be afraid of strangers, and if he is overtired, he may not want me to touch him either.

One of the best things we can do is to allow our anxious dogs choices in life whenever possible. Once they have choices, you’ll be surprised at how many times they chose to participate!

4 dogs hiking on an old logging road.

Dogs and Halloween

Many of us love Halloween – the costumes, the candy, the parties, the fireworks. Some of us dress up our dogs for photo shoots and some of us might even have matching costumes.

However, for many dogs, Halloween is a frightful month, full of scary looking monsters, way too many people knocking on the door, and non-stop very loud banging in the sky .. fireworks.

Below are some tips to help your dog make it through this scary season.

Kodiak dressed as a Cowboy and Border Collies dressed as sheep

Some dogs tolerate getting dressed up, and others might even like it if it gets them treats and attention. Only dress up dogs who enjoy the experience. We don’t want to make Halloween any harder for the anxious dogs!

If you have time, get your dog used to people wearing strange clothes and masks. Wear a few around the house, play with your dog, and give them lots of treats for being brave.

If you or your neighbours decorate for Halloween, head out in the morning with lots or time to stop and allow your dogs look at the decorations. Don’t pressure dogs to go close if they are worried. If you have one dog that is particularly anxious, reassure that one and let the others explore ahead of them. If one if your dogs is likely to get the others riled up, walk them separately so you can focus on helping the more anxious or excited dog.

Small White Dog Happily Sitting Amongst Life-Sized Metal Art

Preparing for Visitors

You might have many visitors on Halloween night. The Relaxation Protocol is a great exercise to practice ahead of time to help your dogs stay calm during the evening. Set up a baby gate or ex-pen and practice with the barrier in place to prevent your dogs from rushing the door. On the evening of Halloween, the barrier will keep everyone safe and we are best to introduce the concept ahead of time.

Safe Spaces

Think about where each of your dogs feel safest and calmest. One might be in a crate, another in a bedroom with a bone, and another on the couch with their favourite person. Have these areas set up and give your dogs treats and some time in the spaces ahead of the scary night.

Talk To Your Vet

No matter how much preparation you do, no matter how many treats and safe spaces you have set up, some dogs will still be terrified when it comes to fireworks, costumes, and constant door knocking. If you are at all concerned that one of your dogs will not be able to cope well, talk to your vet. Ask for prescription medication. Medication helps dogs in many ways and is a kindness we can give them for this terrifying evening.

Halloween Night

Halloween is fun and exciting for many people and even for some dogs. Always consider the individual dog to determine what will be best for them. Some dogs might like to help give out candy! Others would like to curl up in a safe space and wait for it all to be over. Be safe, be kind, and have fun, remembering this is a special day designed for people, not so much for our dogs.

Is It All In How You Raise Them?

How your raise your dog is important, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.  Dogs come with a set of built in characteristics based on their genetic history. Breed or type tendencies will of course vary from dog to dog, but due to the long history of breeding specifically for behaviour traits, there are behaviours that we are likely to see in each breed or type. No one is surprised to see a Golden Retriever who loves puddles and fetching tennis balls!

Check out Kim Brophey’s Book “Meet Your Dog” 

Multi-Dog Home

When we live with a number of dogs, having dogs that ‘speak the same language’ can help them get along. Dogs with very different natural inclinations and play styles may struggle to understand each other, mistaking play for aggression, or vice versa. Listen to our podcast episode that discusses this concept.

L.E.G.S model

Brophey’s L.E.G.S model explains that there are four components, or legs, to each dog, each just as important as the others.

‘L’earning – What is our dog’s learning history?

‘E’nvironment – What environment is our dog living in now?

‘G’enetics – What has our dog been bred to do? What feels intrinsically good to them?

‘S’elf – Who is this dog? What makes them unique?

Common characteristics in each of the 10 categories of dogs:

Food Toys and Puzzles

Food toys and puzzles come in many varieties and have different purposes. There are:

  • Snufflers
  • Bat ‘Em Arounders
  • Puzzlers
  • Chewers and Lickers


Snufflers are food toys such as snuffle mats/balls and are typically used with kibble or small dried treats. You can also use the grass in your yard as a natural snuffle mat. Food is accessed not by chewing or by hitting the toy around, but simply by sniffing it out. These options are excellent (perhaps the best?) choices for stressed or reactive dogs as well as for senior dogs.  You can buy snuffle mats on Amazon and at many pet supply stores. You can also make one yourself! I cut up an old fleece blanket to make one. It is a lot more work than you think to add enough fleece to achieve a dense mat.  They are generally machine washable which is a huge plus in my household.

Another great way to achieve a similar effect is to make a bug pile of cardboard and sprinkle the treats around in it.

Here’s a link on how to make one. I bought a cheaper kitchen sink liner for the base of mine.

Fill them with:

  • Kibble
  • Dried Berries/Fruits/Veggies
  • Dried Liver Bits
  • Sardine or Anchovy Bits
  • Any small dry treats

Bat ‘Em Arounders

These are toys that don’t require a lot of skill, just perseverance and enough confidence to hit a thing around making a lot of noise. You add treats or kibble, hand them to your dog, and listen as they smash them around hoping for food to fall out.

Great for:

  • Shy dogs – to build confidence providing the level of difficulty isn’t too high
  • Old or disabled dogs who cannot get out as much as we would like
  • Recovering dogs who need to expend energy

Too Difficult? Use smaller treats

Too Easy? Use larger treats

Dog Not That Interested? Add a big piece of chicken or steak

Be very cautious when these toys for dogs who are easily over stimulated. They encourage wildly hitting a thing without thinking, providing a very reinforcing intermittent rate of reinforcement. If you have a dog who is already prone to being crazy and not thoughtful, these might not be the best toys for you!   If you have a normally very active dog who isn’t able to get out, this can provide a bit of stress relief.. just be careful with how much you use them.


Food puzzles come in many varieties and difficulty levels. I have 8 or 10 that I rotate in and out of my feeding routine.  The goal of a food puzzle is to teach your dog to THINK and to thoughtfully figure out how to access the food. IMO, many people use food puzzles incorrectly, treating them like Bat ‘Em Arounders. Puzzle toys will not stand up to being tossed around and pounced on and are not designed to be used this way.

Only give your dog a puzzle that they will likely to succeed at in 15 seconds or less. If you have a puppy or insecure dog, this should be 5 seconds or less.  If your dogs becomes frustrated or resorts to brute force, the puzzle you presented is too difficult.  Simplify it! Help your dog be successful and build on that.

Chewers and Lickers

These are great for many dogs in just about any circumstance. When I need a quiet morning to catch up on emails, I feed my dogs their breakfast in these. I always recommend people bring a couple of these to puppy class, or other classes if their dog will have trouble settling, and I bring a bunch of them for my dogs when I’m competing and they will spend much of the day in a crate or in the car.

Fill them with food and healthy snacks, pop them in the freezer and pop them out when you want to help your dog be calm.

Use them for:

Filled with Dog Food and Topped with Yogurt

  • Puppy Class
  • Road Trips
  • Quiet Time
  • Visitors in the Home

Stress Bucket Analogy

How Full Is Your Dog’s Bucket?

When a dog’s Stress Bucket overflows, they can have big reactions to seemingly little things.

As the saying goes, this is a case of ‘the straw that broke the camels back’. If the bucket is full, even a drop can cause it to spill. When their Stress Bucket spills, many dogs act out in loud or aggressive displays, but other dogs will shut down, go still, or hide. Dogs display stress in many different ways; if you are unsure, consult a professional trainer with credentials and education in the field.

If water keeps being added and no water is removed, eventually the bucket will overflow. This is when we see big reactions. If the water level is kept high, we see many reactions, seemingly to small triggers. Some dogs live with their Stress Bucket near full, other dogs have very small buckets. Some dogs have Stress Buckets that drain quickly, and others drain very slowly.

Filling The Bucket

Intuitively, we understand that stressful events add water to the bucket.  Examples:

  • Vet visits,
  • Scary visitors if your dog is afraid of people,
  • Seeing other dogs if your dog is afraid of dogs
  • Chronic health issues

There is good stress and bad stress. Sometimes we unintentionally add water to the bucket, thinking we are emptying it. Examples include activities that keep your dog in a highly aroused or adrenalized state.    Common activities that add water to the Stress bucket:

  • Doggy Day Care or play dates
  • Chuck-It or other high intensity sports
  • Agility Lessons
  • Going for a run on a short leash

Dogs with small buckets or buckets that fill quickly and drain slowly often can’t handle much stress before reacting. They require a lot of decompression to stay in a good mental state. Other dogs have large buckets and seem to be able to go with the flow, no matter what is happening around them.

Draining The Bucket

Activities that promote natural movement, sniffing, and chewing can help empty the Stress Bucket.  Examples:

  • Long hikes off leash or on a long line where your dog can move naturally over longer periods of time
  • Sniffy walks
  • Eating meals from Snuffle Mats, Stuffed Kongs or Toppls
  • Scent games
  • Scatter feeding in grass or brush

Two Examples

Enzo is an 8 year old Border Collie with a large bucket that drains slowly.  He needs A LOT of free movement exercise to decompress. He can handle incredible stresses that many dogs couldn’t, but he really needs those long walks with freedom of movement to be mentally well. If he is racy on the walks, I use a long line to help him relax.  He requires a lot more of this than even my 3 year old Border Collie.

Riker is a 7 year old American Eskimo.  He has a small bucket that fills up quickly.  Riker needs a lot of quiet time resting and free movement in order to be well. I limit his trips into town for city walks or training classes to once, maybe twice a week. Any more activities, and he can’t decompress enough to empty his bucket.

How Much Is Needed?

Your dog decides what they need. We can make some guesses based on breed, age, and history, but the only way to know is to adjust the activities for a few weeks then evaluate how your dog is doing. If you are struggling with behaviour issues, I suggest you journal your dog’s activities, training sessions, how they eat their meals, etc. Watch to see if there is a change when you increase or decrease various activities over a 2 or 3 week period.

Multi-Dog Home?

What extra considerations do we have in a multi-dog home? Some dogs can spend 24×7 together and all is well. Others need breaks from their furry siblings. Watch for signs of stress such as one dog hiding under furniture or not wanting to play. Other more overt signs of stress can include resource guarding or actual fighting between dogs. Be sure that older or less confident dogs have safe spaces and breaks from more exuberant house mates, and reach out for help if you feel some of your dogs need help learning how to get along.