Archive for the ‘Fun Seattle Dog Training Stuff’ Category

Your Dog Prefers to Work for Food. Here’s the Proof!

Rondo gets food from his Premier Twist 'n' Treat

Work to Eat: The Foundation of our Training

If you’re familiar with Service Dog Academy’s training program, you know we can’t express enough how much we love work-to-eat puzzles. For puppies and adult dogs, and even older dog training, Service Dog Academy’s work to eat program creates more than just a smarter dog, but a happy one, too! At our Seattle dog training classes, we preach the work-to-eat strategy for many good reasons, but one scientific study found that animals actually prefer to work for their food!

In the 1960’s Glen Jensen discovered that when given the choice between free food laid out in a dish, or performing a task to receive bits of food at a time, most animals chose the latter. Using 200 albino rats, Jensen gave the rats a regular feeding time for 10 straight days. On the 11th day, Jensen didn’t show up with food and the rats were ravenous.

When they paced their cages in a state of hunger and desperation, they accidentally bumped into a feeding tube. When this happened, food pellets came out. Over time, they learned that all they had to do was push a lever and would automatically get fed. When they got used to this process, they were given a choice. Both a cup of free food, and access to the lever. Contrary to what most might think about such small-brained animals, the rats chose the feeding lever!

Later experiments showed that this worked on most animals from fish, to gerbils, to monkeys. The only lazy ones in the bunch, Jensen found, were cats. You can read the full article here.

Manage your Dog’s Boredom, and Get a Smarter Pup

Service Dog Academy’s positive reinforcement training methods are set in creating an environment for your dog where nothing in life is free. Hold a sit for 5-seconds and get some food; shake on command, more food, and many other ways to create a real life work-to-eat strategy. Puzzles, and positive reinforcement training are a great way for your pup to manage his frustration tolerance, boredom, and create an improvisational dog, a thinking dog. Positive reinforcement training, and puzzles like the Premier “Linkable” or the Kong, are also the foundation to Service Dog Academy’s groundbreaking diabetic alert service dog training program. Follow the link to learn how to make a quick and easy toy that feeds your dog, and occupies his brain and nose at the same time, the Kongsicle!

Advice on Puppy Manners: Taking Treats Nicely

It’s not a Trick, Just Good Puppy Manners: How to Train your Puppy to Take Treats Nicely

Do you have “Jaws” in your home? When you reward your puppy or adult dog with kibble, do they tend to bite the fingers attached to it, too?

In this video, Maggie, our very special diabetic alert dog in training and Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, BGS show you how to get your puppy to lick your fingers to get to her treats instead of chomping at them. In order to promote the best manners in your puppy, you must feed your puppy kibble by hand, not from a bowl. Do this consistently, and your shark will turn back into the puppy you know and love.

Maggie, the Diabetic Alert Puppy

Maggie is training to be someone’s very special diabetic alert dog. At Service Dog Academy we offer several ways to obtain a diabetic alert dog, from training your own pet dog, board and train, or if you can’t take the time to train your pup the initial scent detection and alerting, we understand. That’s where Maggie comes in. For more information on Maggie and our already trained dog program click here.

Dog Obedience Classes in Seattle

You can get more tips and tricks on dog and puppy training like this one by enrolling in any of our pet dog training classes right here in West Seattle. We offer basic obedience for puppies and adult dogs, or have fun learning party tricks, or refine your dogs manners and make it official with the Canine Good Citizen certification. The small class sizes mean you can work closely with our trainers, and get one-on-one attention and personalized dog training advice whether you and Fido learn the basics, or are training to alert to your medical condition!

Pet Puppy Socialization: The Service Dog Way Pt. 2

How do you get a fearless dog? By great socialization training, of course! Socialization is a not only a key component of a well-behaved service dog, it’s important for pet dogs, too! In fact, the number one reason dogs end up in shelters is under socialization.

Socializing Puppies: The Service Dog Way

To show how awesome well-socialized puppies can be, watch how two of our board and train pups, Cooper and Daisy, handle themselves around emergency personnel during a critical stage in their development.

Mary McNeight, with the help of fireman Andy from Engine 32, and a bag of treats, proceeded to get Daisy and Cooper used to his big uniform and funny hat. They didn’t seem phased at all in part thanks to the positive reinforcement training and socialization they received in Service Dog Academy pet puppy classes.

Next, we visited the Southwest Precinct of the Seattle Police Department, and gave officers Andy Bass and Buzzy the same opportunity to greet and treat the pups. Hopefully, as Cooper and Daisy grow up to be reliable diabetic alert service dogs they wont have to meet again, but just in case emergency personnel do show up in response to their owners’ medical issue, Cooper and Daisy will have had a positive association with these men in uniform.

Do you want your puppy to be as well-socialized as a service dog? Don’t have the time or energy to make sure your puppy gets the exercise he or she needs? Then, Puppy Day Camp is your answer!

Service Dog Academy will soon open its studio space for your puppy to get the ultimate socialization and training experience. Puppy Day Camp will run from 7:30am-11:30am Monday through Thursday. Drop off your pup in the morning, run some errands, go to work, or just sit back and relax while our professional dog trainers on staff work on basic obedience and supervise play sessions with a small group of pups. Come back a few hours later to a worn-out, happy, better socialized puppy! The cost is $269 for four days of camp. Email for more information and keep checking the website for official start dates!

Service dogs as well as pet dogs should never display traits of fear, aggression, or reactivity, so to avoid this, it’s crucial for puppies between the ages for 7 weeks and 3 months to be socialized to many different situations and people. The Service Dog Academy also offers pet puppy classes that are designed for setting a foundation for socialization during this critical time, whether training your puppy good manners, or the American Diabetes Association recognized diabetic alert, migraine alert, seizures, or another type of service work. Service Dog Academy classes also cater to adult dog basic obedience, and advanced dog training classes at the dog training studio located in West Seattle.

With so many options to choose from for your pet puppy, you’ll have a fearless, happy dog, in no time!

Liame Recognized as ‘Hero’ by PAWS

Best Award Winning Dog Training Classes in Seattle

Liame and Mary McNeight with the other PAWS award winners.

Liame’s hard work over the years has paid off! On May 19th, professional positive reinforcement dog trainer Mary McNeight’s 4-year old yellow Lab walked the red carpet to receive a plaque for his outstanding service to the community at the annual PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap Spotlight on Community Hero Pets ‘Hero Dog Awards!

Liame’s very existence fueled Mary’s passion for dog training, and inspired the creation of the Service Dog Academy. The all-positive reinforcement pet puppy, pet dog, and service dog training studio has helped more than 525 dogs be well-mannered, well-behaved and even lifesaving medical alert dogs. Thanks to Liame, more people with disabilities in the Pacific Northwest, and Seattle area are empowered to live more independent lives through the use of a service dog. Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, BGS spent countless hours working toward getting her Canine Studies Degree, and went to six hours of puppy classes per week with Liame in order to become a certified professional dog trainer, and the Northwest’s leading resource for diabetic alert dog training for type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and hypoglycemia.

Through Mary’s positive reinforcement dog training methods, Liame is also a very persistent diabetic alert dog. His powerful nose has detected low blood sugar in people who didn’t even know they were hypoglycemic! His success in alerting has paved the way to make Service Dog Academy a reliable source for anyone who wants to train their own dogs for diabetic alert, seizure alert, migraine alert, and now because of Liame and Mary’s dedication to medical alert training, the world’s first narcolepsy alert program!

The theme of the the Spotlight on PAWS benefit and dinner auction at the lovely Wing Point Golf and Country Club on Bainbridge Island was “People Helping Pets and Pets Helping People.” We couldn’t agree more! Surrounded by a beautiful landscape, guests at the event had the opportunity to bid on a myriad of donated goodies from local businesses and artists, and meet the six amazing animals who, like Liame in the “service animal” category, demonstrated the strong bond of companionship between animals and their humans.

Among the winners of each category was Amber, a drug and arson detection dog who was responsible for the seizure of over 60 pieces of drug paraphernalia, and more than 1300 grams of marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine combined. Kitty, a dog who averages more than 20 hours per week visiting hospitals, prisons, troubled high school students, and the elderly, providing therapy and comfort, Romeo a search and rescue Schnauzer who helped local police track down a missing Alzheimer’s patient, and even a cat named Cheeto who acts as a decoy cat to help train search and rescue dogs to find missing find cats for the Missing Pet Partnership!

We were surrounded by animal lovers, as the event was in support of the PAWS that without any government funding advocates, educates, and provides services for the health and well-being of pets and the companionship with their people. They offer adoptions, spay/neuter assistance, lost and found, financial assistance for veterinary care, and operate programs like Pets and Loving Pals, and the Buddy Brigade.

We know about trying to run an organization without government subsidies, so we were excited to be included with PAWS and the generous donors who support them. Service Dog Academy’s low-cost medical alert dog training program wouldn’t be possible without funding from our pert dog training. Pet puppy training, and adult dog basic obedience positive reinforcement training classes are a not just a great way to train your puppy or dog with service dog training techniques for the best-behaved dog in town, but it keeps Service Dog Academy’s groundbreaking service dog training program afloat! Liame may have been the “hero” on May 19th, but the real hero is each and every one of our students who come to train at Service Dog Academy!

If you would like to experience our award winning dog training classes please visit our classes page for more info.

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, has never been to the Service Dog Academy. Mary McNeight, owner and head trainer at the Service Dog Academy was about to start obedience in disguise, a.k.a. party tricks using positive reinforcement dog training methods when Guido, a 12-year old Jack Russell Terrier came through the door with his owner, Monica. His sweet, and sometimes saucy personality instantly captured our hearts during the training sessions at the West Seattle studio.

What we know of Guido starts when he was around two-years old when he was found wandering along the US/Canada border, and was brought to an animal shelter in Bellingham, Washington. Monica had been interested in adopting a Jack Russell, and when she got a tip from a friend about Guido, she high-tailed it north to meet him. It was love at first sight, even though he was in bad shape – his nose was raw from rubbing against his cage. “He was the sweetest dog I had met,” Monica said, and luckily that day was the first day he was available for adoption.

The instant bond between Monica and Guido was strengthened when shortly after the adoption, Guido was attacked by an off-leash Pit Bull. Hanging on for dear life, Guido spent several days at the emergency vet. “I think he learned I would always be there for him and would alway stake care of him,” Monica recalls.

Monica put effort into basic training from day one, and Guido was quick learner and seemed to enjoy training. Now, 12-years old, and still looking as handsome as ever, the trickster made us laugh and charmed everyone in party tricks at the Service Dog Academy. Some tricks were harder than others, but in 4-weeks he learned to jump over a leg, weave through legs, jump through a hoop, act ashamed, beg, open a refrigerator, spin, hide, say his prayers, hide his face in pillow, and give kisses. Our latest tricks class graduate proved to be a show-off who loves attention. Some of his favorite tricks, Monica says, is shake and crawl, but adds, “I think he loves doing all tricks.”

Final Positive Reinforcement Dog Training Flashmob Video

The first ever Positive Dog Training FLASH MOB!

Flash Mob: A group of people who appear from out of nowhere, to perform predetermined actions, designed to amuse and confuse surrounding people. The group performs these actions for a short amount of time before quickly dispersing. Flash mobs are often organized through email and/or newsgroup postings. (Source:

On Sunday January 16, 2001 just after 3:00 pm 14 dog/handler teams came together in the heart of downtown Seattle to form the first ever positive dog training flash mob! We’d seen Michael Jackson tributes and Glee reenactments, but never a dance celebrating the bond between dogs and their people, a bond that is strengthened and nurtured by positive reinforcement-based dog training.

Mary and Amanda met to choreograph the routine to “Walking the Dog” performed by Rufus Thomas. The idea was not to create an elaborate canine freestyle routine, but rather to demonstrate basic skills taught in most dog training classes. The final routine included nose targeting, shake, sit, down, stay, come, spin left and right and a trick of the handler’s choosing.

We spread the word via Facebook and several e-mail lists including Puget Sound Positive Trainers (PSPT). PSPT maintains a referral web site at and also keeps in close contact via the Yahoo! group seattlepositive. Our flash mob mission was to spread the word re: positive dog training and Train Your Dog Month in general vs. promoting any one business or person.

Participants were instructed to practice on their own after watching an instructional video (see link below), then attend a practice session the night before.

On the day of the flash mob, dogs and handlers milled about in front of Westlake Center, a popular shopping area in downtown Seattle. Upon hearing the opening notes to “Walking the Dog,” we fell in line and performed our routine. Over 150 unsuspecting spectators looked on with some taking photos and recording videos with their cameras and cell phones.

Participants ranged from professional dog trainers to pet dog owners to agility and rally obedience competitors.

“My Boxer, Tucker, and I participated in your canine flash mob and had the greatest time. It was something we had never done before, but it was so much fun we can’t wait to do it again! It was a blast to show off happy, trained dogs and get a chance to talk to the appreciative spectators,” said Janey Wilcox of Auburn, WA.

Louisa Beal, DVM of Fircrest, WA also participated with her Belgian Tervuren, Paxil. “The Seattle flash mob event was a fun activity that generated a lot of interest from the crowd. But the best part for me was to be able to meet some of the positive trainers in my area. It is so important to cooperate and share with others in our profession. And the icing on the cake was that it was a blast!”

This event not only showcased basic training but also socialization; the urban environment was filled with sights and sounds and each of the dogs took it in stride. The flash mob demonstrated the true value of socialization and training and gave spectators an idea of what dogs and people can achieve when they work together in a cooperative and gentle way.

As soon as it was finished, participants wanted to know when we would do it again, and many people who were not able to participate this time wanted to be informed of future events. We have plans to coordinate a new routine to perform at Seattle Humane Society’s ( Walk for the Animals fundraiser in September. And Grisha Stewart, owner of Ahimsa Dog Training ( in Seattle, has already scheduled a bi-monthly practice. “I’m inspired by the flash mob. I think it’d be fun to do this as an ongoing thing. I’m going to start a drill team at Ahimsa that’s open to any positive folks.”

We believe the first ever positive dog training flash mob is most definitely the Most Creative Community Event organized to promote National Train Your Dog Month and the importance of training and socialization! It was a big success in the community and we plan to build on this first attempt to continue to spread the word about the power of positive training.

Seattle Positively Trained Dog Flash Mob

Join us for the first ever Positive Dog Training FLASH MOB!

Organized by Service Dog Academy in association with Sidekick Dog Training & Puget Sound Positive Training to promote APDT’s Train Your Dog Month.


  • Date: Sunday January 16th, 2011
  • Time: 3:00 pm (please arrive at least 15 minutes early)
  • Location: Westlake Park, Seattle, WA (across from Westlake Center)

Who can participate?

  • Any handler with a dog-friendly and people-friendly dog trained using positive reinforcement.

To get started:

  • To learn the routine, watch the video at and practice on your own. Detailed written instructions are also provided.
  • The end move is a freestyle trick or two. Have fun with it!

Then, join us for group practice:

If you plan to participate, RSVP to:

  • or 206-355-9033
  • RSVPs are important to get a head count and to contact you with “day of” details.

Additional Info:

  • Although the dogs in this video were off leash, all dogs must be ON leash. We will not condone anyone breaking the law. Leashes should be around 6 feet long. Dogs on flexi leashes will not be allowed to participate due to the fact that they are a tripping hazard for people with disabilities.
  • By participating in this event you agree that your dog is your responsibility. The Service Dog Academy, Sidekick Dog Training and Puget Sound Positive Trainers will not be held liable for anyone elses actions.
  • Since there will be service dogs in the crowd, all dogs should be up to date on all vaccinations recommend by their veterinarian.
  • Only positive reinforcement training tools are allowed. Dogs in prong collars, shock collars or choke collars will be asked to leave.
  • There might be hundreds of dogs present so you might want to bring the high value treats (if you need them) to keep your dog interested in you. High value treats are things like cheese, peanut butter, freeze dried liver and hot dogs.

And now, onto the dance….

Dance Instructions:
People are just mulling around the area until the music starts. Once they hear the cue, they start lining up. The first row should only contain 4 dogs to facilitate the dance wave and will have the two organizers dogs (Mary McNeight and Amanda Brothers) as the first two dogs.

1. Touch left hand
2. Touch right hand
3. Touch left hand
4. Touch right hand
5. Shake
6. Shake
7. Shake
8. Shake
9. Ask your dog to sit and then stay
10. Walk clockwise around your dog
11. Keeping dog in sit say, walk counter clockwise around the dog
12. 1st dog in 1st row goes down – all other dogs are still in a sit!
13. 2nd dog in 1st row goes down – all other dogs are still in a sit!
14. 3rd dog in 1st row goes down – all other dogs are still in a sit!
15. 4th dog in 1st row goes down – all other dogs are still in a sit!
16. 4th dog in 1st row goes sit – all other dogs are still in a sit!
17. 3rd dog in 1st row goes sit – all other dogs are still in a sit!
18. 2nd dog in 1st row goes sit – all other dogs are still in a sit!
19. 1st dog in 1st row goes sit – all other dogs are still in a sit!
20. All dogs spin clockwise
21. All dogs spin counter clockwise
22. All dogs spin clockwise
23. All dogs spin counter clockwise
24. Sit
25. Down
26. Sit
27. Down
28. Sit
29. Stay. Walk 4 steps away.
30. Come
31. Sit
32. Reward your dog and show us your dogs best trick!

The music in the video is Walking The Dog and is sung by Rufus Thomas and is Copyright Atlantic Recording Corp. Manufactured & Marketed by Warner Strategic Marketing. You can purchase this song on through the this link.

To view what this looks like with more than two people, watch the following video

How Dogs Learn – Seattle Style

In May, the Service Dog Academy attended a three day dog trainer seminar in Seattle conducted by Dr. Ian Dunbar, renowned veterinarian, animal behaviorist and writer.

Seattle is on the cutting-edge of dog training techniques and the Service Dog Academy is leading the pack.

The three day event covered all the basics in puppy and adult dog behavior problems as well as specialized training for competition dogs.

Regardless of whether you pet is just a beginner or ready for show, the predominant opinion of expert dog trainers, including the Service Dog Academy, is that too many dog owners still respond to their dog’s bad behavior with punishment.

Punishing a Bad Dog Does Not Make a Good Dog

Punishment and training are as different as night and day. If you are getting a poor response from the techniques you use to gain your dog’s cooperation, it’s time to re-evaluate your methods.

Your dog will not and cannot respond to training through reprimand for two simple reasons:

  1. Your dog has very limited language comprehension.
  2. Your goal as a handler is to know what your dog understands so he can perform the way you want and not get the blame for your poor communication skills.

  3. Your dog isn’t motivated by anger.

Despite his limited understanding, just like you your dog needs motivation to perform. You can probably agree that most humans need a pretty compelling reason to get off the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Your dog needs his reason too!

Consistent good behavior is all about motivating your dog to want to do exactly what you want him to do.

The Doggy Reward System

Initially, treats are the motivating factor. However, as you dog progresses in his skill level, praise becomes an equally compelling reward. Finally, with more advanced training, the accomplishment of the trained task becomes the reward.

Your dog will become self-motivated and internally rewarded each time he does something he was training to do. Although he will never out grow the need for a treat!

Learning correct dog training techniques can be the difference between a well behaved dog and one that is out of control. It can also be the difference between a well adjusted dog and a frustrated and unhappy dog owner.

Why Advanced Training Techniques Are Necessary

The Service Dog Academy practices the most advanced dog training methods in the country. In order to train service dogs, we must maintain the highest standards in the industry.

By constantly staying at the forefront of doggy psychology and training techniques, we can offer you, the average pet owner, a greater understanding of why your dog acts the way he does.

We will provide you with the skills necessary to motivate your dog and make learning not only possible but fun and rewarding for both you and your dog.

Contact us today for a free consultation and a better dog training experience.

Fox News Interview







The Service Dog Academy was recently featured on Fox’s National News Channel. Our head trainer was one of the dog teams shown during the program (see the above image) and is the dog trainer Dan Springer is referring to at the end of the story. There was a longer piece that included our head trainer working with a diabetic detection service dog but was cut from the story due to election news. We are excited about this opportunity for media exposure so that we can start helping even more people! If you would like more information about our services please use the above categories to navigate our website and enter your questions into the corresponding pages. If you saw the interview and would like to make comments about it, we have provided a forum for you to do so on this page.

Before you comment please be aware that we are not experts on animals other than DOGS. We are aware that other animals are able to provide life changing services to people with disabilities but like most of the american population are unsure what types of animals should and should not be considered.

Educational Advancements


Mary McNeight and her service dog Liame laughing with Dr. Ian Dunbar in one of his Seminars.

The Service Dog Academy is constantly keeping up on the advancements in the science of dog training! In May of 2010 we attend Dr. Ian Dunbar’s (the rock star of dog training) seminar on how to better teach our classes through the use of games. In January of 2010 we attended Clicker Expo in Portland Oregon and learned some great techniques to help us more efficiently train service dogs. Our staff also attended a class on how to train a Diabetic Alert Dogs (see the class photo located below) and the always educational APDT conference during the month of October 2009. We are excited to apply our new skills and techniques to help you accomplish your training goals faster and strengthen the bonds between you and your pup.


October 2009 – Mary McNeight and her service dog Liame on the final day of her Diabetic Alert Dog training class.

Additionally, in the near future our head trainer Mary McNeight will also be pursuing her CPDT distinction, a certified and highly recognized title only given to the most experienced and knowledgeable dog trainers in the United States.


January 2010 – Mary McNeight and her service dog Liame at Clicker Expo.

Donate To Support The Program That Saves Lives Hundreds Of Times Per Day

Mary McNeight and Service Dog Academy have been pillars of justice, advocacy and education in the medical alert dog community. If you would like to support this mission, you may do so using the paypal link below.