Category Archives: C.H.A.C.O. News

Are you paying attention?

I am not much of a sport fan which means I do not watch the Super Bowl so I miss out on all the flashy ads and the mid-point entertainment. However, one of my brothers did send me a jaw-dropping performance of

Border collies doing a disc (Frisbee) routine.  Wow, I thought, how can they do that?  As a professional trainer, my mind oscillates between the actual performance (the chain of behaviors) and how exactly the dog was taught to do it. While I love to see, dogs having fun and excelling at difficult tasks, I am much more interested in the how.

The same could be said about pretty much any sort of training.  But here I want to focus on sports training.

Dog sports are here to stay and they are ever so popular.  What makes them so popular?  I think there are many reasons why people like to engage in them. Here are some:

1. People enjoy “hanging out” with their dog, and dog sports give them an opportunity to do so

2. The challenge of teaching the dog to do “x” or “y”.  Again, for me the most interesting one

3. EGO!! Yes, pure and simple.  No, not the ego of the dog for sure, but the ego of the handler.  For many folks -unfortunately, their dog’s success is perceived as equivalent to their own or the success of their “child”.  Believe me, us trainers see a lot of this transference when we are working with clients over anything, even simple stuff.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 7.55.12 PMDon’t get me wrong, I think competition in sports have their purpose.  Not only do we have a clear goal in sight, but can really up our game because we have a very compelling motivation to practice hard.

Competitions can also be a very valuable and well-earned reinforcers for the time and effort put into the endeavor. Again, all good stuff!  However, things really take a turn for the worse when the ego of the handler/owner is in the mix.

Now there is no paying attention.  The handlers do not care if the dog is having a good time while engaging in practice or competition.  Think about it, a lot of these dogs are truly being asked to perform at a similar level that our human Olympics are asked to. The difference though is how little care and understanding there is about dog physiology such as developing of the muscles to prevent injury or imbalances that can lead to pain or injuries later on.  Developmental markers as to how much should a dog of a certain age be doing and let’s not forget the dog’s emotional ability to withstand the rigorous practice and pressure of performance.  Yes, dogs can suffer from performance anxiety- just like people.

Dogs can become athletes but athleticism in dogs is something not to take lightly.

I am chatting with another fellow trainer who has participated with her Border collie in sheepherding trials.  If you have never done this, it is easy not to realize how difficult it is. My colleague is not having a good day with her collie at the trial.  And as she explains to me, after the trial the expectation from fellow participants was one of being incredulous a the bad “run” they both just had.  “But, they claim, you ARE a professional trainer.” How is it possible that your pup was not able to perform better?

Ah, expectations!  They will come and bite us in the butt IF we are not paying attention. Here the expectation is that my pro friend should be able to always earn the highest marks, after all she is a pro. But what about people and dogs having less than stellar days?  Has that ever happened to you?  Not only in competition but just in day-to-day life?

Expectations can be very dangerous traps when they are not referenced in reality. The undue burden can really mess thing up for dogs.

The world of dog training unfortunately is not immune to the “shoulds” so abundant in rearing kids and professional performance. My dog should be able to do this or that… my dog should know better (an old time “favorite” of mine….)

I have come across this should and “want” also in respect with my agility courses. From the get go my goal was to teach agility by following a program that would take both novice dogs and handlers from a true foundation, which once learned, would allow dogs and people to happily and successfully engage in the “flashy” stuff of agility. That is: the speed of a dog turning, the precision to follow the course by correctly reading the body language of the handler, because the handler has learned how to do this also, and on and on.

While my clients have really worked hard in learning the basics, they are perhaps taken aback as to how arduous the training can be.  But, what about the tunnel, the weave poles? When can I work with those? They often ask.  And the answer remains the same: Not until you and your pup have mastered the foundation.

Linked to the above is that in training we must have the ability to look into the future- our goal while remain process orientate.  We must know what the final goal/behaviors look like so that we can have a sort of road map to follow, but we must never lose sight into the how we need to get there.

After all, we owe it to our dogs. Who should not be silent participants struggling with our ego and demands but must be joyful and prepared participants of which ever crazy sport we choose to engage in.

If you are interested in the interesting and super, fun challenge of agility taught from the foundation with an emphasis in teaching the dog voluntary participation, to work independently from you, and you both really learning about each other, please give this class a try. You can follow this link   to learn more about the class.  Once there, scroll down to find the listing for the six-week course: Agility from the ground up. (AG1).

Rethinking the use of crates

People choose to put their dogs in crates for a myriad of reasons. First there is the thinking that dogs “like dens” and as such they must like crates. Second, people crate their dogs as a lifestyle instead of managing their dog and teaching the dog how to “behave” in their home. Others have chosen to crate their dog when she or he has become destructive as a result of a thunder-phobia or separation distress.

Trainers can also be part of the problem when we advocate for crate training as a way to house train without really explaining that the dog must first learn to feel comfortable in the crate.

In other words, no dog should be forced into the crate. Period! Just imagine if you were forced to go into a tiny room with no windows. With little room to move and worse you have no idea when you will be let out.

You are inside this tiny room without any control as to when you would be able to eliminate should you need to or just to stretch your limbs.

This is what we do to dogs. Unfortunately, the underline mentality of “teaching the dog whose boss” coupled with wanting dogs to “behave” at all times are some of the underlying reasons why folks crate their dogs without first teaching them to feel safe and comfortable in them.

Puppy in crateCrates can be wonderful resources for people and dogs alike but only when they are used humanely. A crate should never be a lifestyle choice but a tool initially to help teach a dog to not eliminate inside.

Notice that the containment element does not teach the dog not to eliminate inside, it just prevents the dog or puppy to wonder off and sneak a pee etc. because he has no access to the outside or he has still not been taught where he needs to go – outside.

The same goes for destructive behaviors. Your dog must be taught what is appropriate to chew on and what is off limits. Also, many dogs are destructive in the home because they are basically creating their own fun. Who can blame them.  Similar I would say to prisoners writing on their cells as a form of killing the boredom and perhaps even anxiety of depression embedded within their situation.

Solutions for typical dog “problems” or more accurately said: problems people have with their dogs must always take both parties well-being into consideration.

When it comes to a dog truly being anxious or fearful in the home, forcing the dog to remain in the crate will only make the problem worse.  Besides how cruel is this? Dogs who are forced to stay in crates when they have not been taught to feel safe and comfortable in them will hurt themselves in efforts to gain their freedom back.

Of course, some dogs really take to their crates and choose to spend time in them because they were taught to do so.  Because their crate is seen by them as a place where they can chill and take refuge when they need some downtime etc.  Take the case of Deuce, my border collie.  He adores spending time in his crate. At night, he has the choice as to where to sleep and he gravitates from his crate to Rio’s crate (almost identical) and his bed in our bedroom.  Now, when there is a storm and we are not around, he will run to his crate in search of some comfort as he is afraid of thunder.

The process of teaching dogs to love their crates can be an easy matter-of-fact event or an arduous one depending on how it is done and the dog’s previous experience or association with the crate.

One last thing:  Crates should be ample enough for the dog to be able to STAND up, lie down and turn around so that they truly have freedom of movement.

Below are some tips in helping your pup enjoy his crate.

WARNING: If you suspect your dog suffers from separation distress (separation anxiety) please do not crate your dog.  Most dogs with this type of emotional  profile become even more anxious in their crates.  The protocol for helping dogs that suffer from anxiety or noise phobia is a different one that may or may not include the use of the crate.

Your goal is to create only positive associations with the crate and your dog.

Begin by placing the crate in a high-traffic area so that your dog feels comfortable investigating it.

Feed your dog either next to the crate or just inside the crate- if he has not had a previous bad association with the crate.  Make sure the door is left open and your dog can go in and out.

Place some high value treats inside the crate and the door open for your dog to find them.  Do this several times for a few days.  Continue to feed the meal next to the crate or inside by moving the food bowl a little more towards the back of the crate.  Take it slow!  If you rush your dog might regress.

Once your dog is eating happily inside the crate with the food bowl all the way inside and the door open.

Begin to do the same but once your dog is eating close the door and remain nearby.

After he has finished his meal let him out without too much fanfare. Repeat.

Slowly you will add time to your dog remaining inside the crate with the door closed and you nearby.

Begin to present a really coveted bone or chewy inside the crate.

Ask your dog to go in and give the bone and close the crate. Stick around. You can praise your dog if you think this will help him relax.

If your dog is not excited about this prospect it means that either: You went to fast on the previous steps- so you need to go back to easy steps until your pup is successful or your pup is not interested in what you are presenting him at that time.  Try this and present him with something different and see how that goes.

Slowly you will have your dog stay inside the crate with a safe chewy- something you have seen him work on without eating at once or small pieces coming apart.  The best choice is a stuffed Kong.  If your dog has yet not learned how to extract food from a Kong you will have to teach him this first.  Remember, that when we skip steps or we push too hard the dog regresses.

If your pup is now happily and relaxed (most likely lying down) and enjoying the Kong, begin to exit the room or the home for a few minutes. Make sure to come back before your dog is done with his project.

Slowly continue to add 1 minute at a time (I know it sounds daunting but the minutes will add fast and your dog will be properly and humanely crated trained).

Continue to offer your dog a favorite safe chewy or a Kong before you exit the front door for a short amount of time.

As your dog continues to enjoy being in the crate because only good stuff happens for him while in the crate you can begin to leave him in there AFTER having him exercised, ready to take a snooze and with an empty bladder etc.

Humane Crate Times After Crate Training:

8-10 week old puppies: 1 hour

11-12 week old puppies: 2 hours

13-16 weeks old puppies: 3 hours

17-20+ weeks old puppies: 4 hours

Adults: 4-5 hours

This is especially important if your dog spends the night in the crate. Please remember that the use of crate is a tool and not a lifestyle for your dog.

I get a lot of pleasure of seeing both my dogs gravitate towards their crates, and you should too.

Your Dog Is Doing What? and Book Signing

Come learn how to help your dog become a “civilized” hound: One that does not chew your stuff, pees in the home, is mouthy, too energetic and is basically out of control. Learn how to resolve most dog problems.

The Details:
Held at Marty’s Meals
1107 Pen Rd, Santa Fe, NM
Saturday, November 12th 2016. Free
11-12 noon. Book signing following presentation
NOTE: While the book is for juveniles the lecture is
geared towards adults.




Fall Courses

C.H.A.C.O.’s Agility from the Ground Up 1& 2, Recall (Come When Called), and Kinder Pup 2 classes are starting up the Fall! Below are the details. If interested, sign up now as these tend to book fast.

**Agility From The Ground Up: Mini-Course 1 (AG1)
Welcome to Agility From the Ground Up, a series of classes beginning with the fundamentals. Or… think of it as a circle of enthusiasts who are committed to learning the many aspects of the sport while helping their dogs excel. The pressure is off and the fun is on!

All classes and instruction given are based on the science of animal learning. Behaviors are build step-by-step using reinforcement as well as the use of a marker (clicker).

Dates & Times: Saturdays – Sept 3rd, 10th, 17th 24th October 1st and 8th from 10-11am

More Info:…/agility-from-the-grou…/…

**Agility from the Ground Up Mini-Course 2 (AG2)
We will continue to move forward with some basic skills to make sure our dogs enjoy learning to be “team-players” and feel more comfortable with how they interact with their environment- both necessary skills for any dog participating in agility. AG2 covers strategies to get your dog “fired” and focused on the training, teaching dogs how to go around, between, over and under different pieces of “equipment” and building confidence around noise.

Dates & Times: Six Week Class: Tuesday – October 25th, Nov. 1st, 8th, 15th 22nd and 29th from 1 to 2pm.

More Info:…/agility-from-the-grou…/…

**Kinder Pup 2 (Basic Obedience)
Adolescence is a transitional period that varies from pup to pup. During this stage your puppy will begin to “test” new boundaries (and you) and become more interested in other dog friends and what the environment has to offer. Kinder Pup 2 is here to help you maintain your adolescent social-graces and give you the know-how so that you can continue to reinforce the behaviors that you want in your dog. The choice, of course, is yours: to bite the bullet now by continuing with the “education” of your adolescent dog or subject yourself to a life of rowdy behaviors and a not-so-fun life with a dog.

Dates & Time: Six week class – Thursday, Sept. 1st, 8th, 15th 22nd 29th and October 6th from 1:00-2:00 pm

More info:…

**RECALL – Come When Called Class is full
Some of the most fun reasons for having a dog in our lives is to watch them do what they do best: Run at full speed, chase balls or swim, play off leash with other dogs and having our dogs come to us when we need them to do so! In this semi-private course you will learn techniques that, when practiced with consistency, will teach your dog to mind you in all sorts of distracting environments. You will also learn how to use your dog’s natural behaviors to your advantage. Your dog will learn to “check in” with you more in new and fun environments and to be more responsive to your cues for attention and play.

Dates & Times: Tuesday, Sept. 13th, 20th and 29th from 12-1pm
More info:…/recall-rooooover-cooo…/…

Get ready and let us do the training, so that you can enjoy your dog!

About Almudena Ortiz Cue, M.A. CTC, CPDT-KA, Tellington TTouch Practitioner:

I am a graduate of the renowned San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, a national certified professional dog trainer (CPDT) by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and the owner of C.H.A.C.O. Dog Training & Behavior Consulting, LLC. located in the Santa Fe, NM area. I am also a certified Tellington TTouch® Practitioner for Companion Animals.

As a staff trainer for two years at the Tony La Russa Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in Walnut Creek, CA, I worked with under-socialized dogs who had experienced lengthy shelter stays or scored poorly on the SAFER test. I utilized training designed both to improve the lives of the dogs while at the shelter and to prepare them for successful adoptions. I also designed and implemented the shelter’s first Dog Training Internship Program (Dog TIP).

FOREWORD: Roja! The Crazy and Fun Adventures of a Smart Little Dog with Magical Powers and the Family who Adopted Her

Slide1I am so excited to share with you a new book: Roja! The Crazy and Fun Adventures of a Smart Little Dog with Magical Powers and the Family who Adopted Her (ages 8-12); a project that has been in the works for some time written in collaboration with Marcos Ortiz Cué and illustrated by Macarena Blanco Ortiz (my brother and niece!)

The book will be ready for pre-order later this year! Just in time for the holiday season. A thought-provoking gift for all the kids and grand-kids in your life. -No need to wait though! You can read the foreword below.


“This is a children’s story about dogs, about who dogs are, told through the lens of one dog and her new family.  While the story is charming and wonderfully told, and while the audience of this book is children, adults reading to their kids will have ah-ha moments on every page, and all will come away with a profound, felt-in-the-bones sense of what is going on inside dogs. First and foremost, Almudena is a gifted teacher. Her little protagonist, Rioja, is a completely realized dog. She gets bored, afraid (and goes into actual fight-flight), talks in accurate and nuanced dog body language – beautifully described – and invites the reader to connect the dots between the world and what we humans do and the impact it has on her, and, by extension the world of all dogs. Seeing things from the viewpoint of so real a dog is a lesson in empathy, delivered without preaching or finger-wagging, but through skillful and imaginative storytelling.  I can’t think of a greater gift to give children in this day and age.” ~

Jean Donaldson
Founder, The Academy for Dog Trainers
Author, The Culture Clash

To get on the list to pre-order, email

Free Presentation: Help For Your Thunder-Phobic Dog

Thunder phobia in a dog can produce mild anxiety to a full-blown anxiety response.
Since there are many factors that contribute to the thunder-phobic experience, and
most of them out of our control, we must at least learn to create protocols to help
our dogs better cope during a storm. When our dogs learn that relaxing is possible
in the presence of the storm-related stimuli they learn that a storm is “no-big” deal.

During this presentation, Almudena will address common triggers associated with
thunderstorms, how best to create a “safe” area for your dog as well as teaching
good associations with these common triggers by implementing well thought-out
protocols and the use of some interesting tools. In addition to this presentation,
Almudena will be teaching a class on this topic.

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016
Free & Open To Public
Marty’s Meals


Boutique Puppy and Dog Training Classes Starting in March 2014

We’re excited to inform you that C.H.A.C.O. Dog Training & Behavior Consulting, LLC., which is located in Tesuque – 15 min. North from Santa Fe, NM, has some wonderful upcoming dog training classes starting in March!

Here are some of the details for the upcoming classes:

3 Day Introductory Workshop to the Tellington TTouch® Method

Details: Tellington TTouch® is a method of working with animals that has proven effective in reducing stress, fear, aggression and anxiety; as well as modify behavior, increase flexibility and—when combined with veterinarian care—aid in recovery. The approach is gentle yet systematic and helps animals to better cope with different and novel situations. It improves confidence, focus and learning.

Dates & Times: 3 Sessions. Thursdays, March 13th, 20th and 27th from 3:00-4:00 p.m.


RECALL – Come When Called

Details: Some of the most fun reasons for having a dog in our lives is to watch them do what they do best: Run at full speed, chase balls, swim, play off leash with other dogs and …. having our dogs come to us when we need them to do so!

Dates & Times: Five-week class. Saturdays, March 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th from 10:00-11:00 a.m.


Agility From The Ground Up: Mini-Course 1 (AG1)

Details: Welcome to Agility From the Ground Up, a series of classes beginning with the fundamentals. Or… think of it as a circle of enthusiasts who are committed to learning the many aspects of the sport while helping their dogs excel. The pressure is off and the fun is on!

Dates & Times: Tuesdays – Feb. 25th, March 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th and April 1st from 12pm-1 p.m.


Interested in any of these classes??

Click on the link below to visit our Dog News & Events page where you will be able to learn more about C.H.A.C.O. Dog Training & Behavior Consulting, LLC. and book directly online.

New Classes Starting in January 2014!

C.H.A.C.O. Dog Training & Behavior Consulting, LLC is happy to inform you that we have some brand new classes coming up in January of 2014.

Here are the links to these classes:

Agility from the Ground Up Mini-Course 1 (AG1)

Agility from the Ground Up Mini-Course 2 (AG2)

Kinder Pup 1 (ongoing)

Kinder Pup 2

Upcoming Classes This Fall: Starting with Team Walking

Team-WalkingWith the summer coming to an end we’d like to share some good news so that you have something to look forward to. C.H.A.C.O. has some brand spanking new classes beginning early fall!

Our very first fall class is coming up on September 14th which is for Team Walking.

Here are the details on the Team Walking Class:

Do you have a dog that is a “nightmare” to walk on leash because he/she pulls when he/she sees other dogs, chases cars, and/or cannot stop sniffing? If you answer yes to any of the above, this workshop is for you and your pup!

In this three day workshop, you will learn to be a walking partner with your dog. Together we will explore different hands-on techniques to bring fun and relaxation back to your walks with your dog.

Dates & Times: Saturdays: September 14th, 21st & 28th 9:00a.m. – 10:00a.m.


Open Enrollment for Kinder Pup 1

Beginning on October 19th, 2013 Kinder Pup 1 will be offered as an open enrollment class! What this means for you is that you and your puppy won’t have to wait for the next class to begin to join in. You can enroll and attend at any given week for six weeks. Classes are held every Saturday from 8:30-9:30am (with an occasional Sat. with no class).
Now you don’t have to worry about finding the right class at the time when your puppy is in need of socialization – between the ages of 3 weeks to 12 weeks of age.