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  • Writer's pictureMcKenna Caskey

Bruno | Shepherd Mix | Los Angeles, CA | In-Training

Meet Bruno! He is an 8-month-old shepherd mix from Los Angeles, CA.

Bruno has joined OffLeash SoCal's One-Week Board & Train Program to learn fundamental and functional obedience training, as well as to work on reactivity issues. Bruno came to OLSC knowing sit but has a difficult time performing any other behaviors, particularly while in public. Bruno gets easily overwhelmed by distractions which causes him to have a hard time focusing. He also reacts by barking and lunging at all things with wheels— bikes, skateboards, strollers, etc.

Bruno is a sweet dog, but he is quite tentative towards new people, dogs, and environments. He is a young dog who needs a solid foundation with his training and guidance on appropriate behavior. His owner chose OLSC to help give Bruno a head start in his obedience and to help Bruno be the best dog he can be.

Stay tuned for his 7-day transformation!



Bruno & I spent a bit of time at Los Cerritos Park in Long Beach after his owner dropped him off. I wanted to see what cues Bruno was able to perform, how he dealt with distractions, and give him a bit of time to acclimate to his dad being gone. Bruno would only sit, and was too distracted and anxious to pay much attention to me or perform other cues. This is pretty typical for dogs, but it gave me a good idea on areas that need the most attention and a baseline on where to begin. He continued to bark and lunge at things with wheels. 

Bruno was good about jumping into my car and travel kennel, and was quiet during the ride home. We spent the afternoon introducing him to my house, yard, and the rest of my ‘pack’. Bruno was nervous meeting my 100lb German shepherd, Krüger, but the two of them became quick friends doing zoomies around the yard and wrestling within a matter of minutes. After socializing with Krüger, Bruno seemed much more confident and comfortable in his temporary home. Bruno was then introduced to my GSD puppy, Minnie, and enjoys playing with him as well! Boarding-dog Kona prefers to keep to herself, and Bruno is considerate of her wishes. 

While acclimating to the home, Bruno was introduced to Door Manners. This behavior requires Bruno to wait patiently, preferably in a sit or down, before crossing a threshold. I will continually body-block at the threshold each time Bruno tries to run through uninvited. Once Bruno is waiting and makes eye-contact with me, I will allow him to pass by giving him the release-word ‘break!’. This cue tells Bruno that the cue/exercise is over. We are in the preliminary phase of manners, however they will be practiced when opportunities present themselves, and tackled with more purpose during later sessions. 

Bruno was also introduced to extended-sit. Bruno knows the command ‘sit’, however he has a tendency to pop right back up and leave (if he has the ability) very shortly after. Extended positions are synonymous with ‘stay’. We do not teach the command ‘stay’ to our dogs, as this will be implied whenever we ask for sit/down/place. We want the dogs to learn that when they are given a cue, they must maintain that specific cue until instructed otherwise. I would cue Bruno to sit, mark with ‘yes’ (marker words tell the dog what they did was correct immediately after the behavior is performed), and then give him a reinforcement (verbal praise, affection, food rewards). I would then wait 1-2 seconds before providing an additional marker-word and reinforcement, add another 1-2 seconds, and repeat the process. If Bruno broke cue, I would use the corrective-marker ‘ah-ah!’ to let him know that wasn’t the desired behavior, and then re-cue for sit using visual/verbal cues or leash-pressure. Similar to what his owner saw during drop-off, when leash-pressure is applied upwards, the pup’s bottom goes down into a sit. Leash pressure is necessary if Bruno is too distracted to focus, or doesn’t feel like listening. 

Later in the day, Bruno and I went for a walk around my neighborhood to introduce ‘heel’. During heel, Bruno will be taught to walk on his handler’s left-side and maintain position & pace parallel to them with his head in-line with their left knee. I used a prong-collar to help facilitate the process, since Bruno pulls a lot on the leash and doesn’t pay much attention to me. If Bruno pulled ahead or to the side, I would abruptly change directions opposite of where he wanted to go. I would also implement these direction changes during random times to encourage Bruno to pay attention to what I was doing and where I was going. Upon reaching the end of the leash, Bruno would self-correct himself.  Within the single walk, Bruno’s heel has improved considerably. He is definitely sensitive to noises and distractions, and breaks position frequently, but is better about staying with me and correcting the behavior. 



Bruno and I went to City Terrace Park in Los Angeles to work on his obedience training. We practiced heel and extended sit after giving him some time to sniff around and go potty. I prefer to give the dogs the opportunity to check out the new environment before diving into work. 

Bruno struggled with maintaining heel initially, and needed some direction changes and leash pressure to help correct him and guide him. Bruno is still very easily distracted, even by stimuli far away from us, but was much better about working through it and maintaining cues. He was fearful of a male OLSC trainer, but I gave him some high-value treats to offer Bruno (which he happily accepted). 

We practiced extended sit intermittently throughout the session and, similarly to heel, he made notable improvement. I introduced Bruno to a longline (15ft leash) for our training so that we could increase distance in addition to duration for his cues. We increased distance and distraction for both sit and a new behavior— place. 

Place is where the dog is instructed to go to a definable object and remain there. A definable object can be a place cot, elevated surface, or even a post-it note on the ground. For the sake of learning, I prefer elevated platforms as they are unmistakably distinguished. A food-lure or leash pressure can be used to guide Bruno onto a new elevated object. Bruno got the swing of place super quickly, and would begin to read my body-language to anticipate when I would ask for the behavior. 

Bruno was also introduced to come-to-sit. This behavior is a bit tricky, as he must not only recall, but loop around behind me from my right-side before sitting in the ‘heel’ position on my left. Although this behavior can be accomplished using a  food-lure, leash-pressure tends to be a bit quicker in guiding the dogs through this complex cue. Come-to-sit still needs more attention and practice, but Bruno did well starting out. 

There was a group of people playing wheel-chair basketball about 30 feet from us during our session, but Bruno didn’t pay them much attention. He was very interested in small children, but I would give the cue “off!” whenever he seemed to fixate on something (stare intensely for move than a couple seconds). Bruno was thrown off a bit by a leaf blower (in the video), but was able to move into close proximity to it. We also worked on additional desensitization to noise and movement via an exercise where a colleague and I swung on the swing set. The swings were noisy, and the abrupt movement changes elicited reactivity. We started out with my colleague swinging so I could monitor and correct Bruno’s behavior— he barked and lunged at first, but then would scoot back. Reactivity may be a fear-response for him. Eventually he was able to be right next to us while we were swinging and maintain a sit. Exercises such as these will help Bruno learn to cope and overcome fears while building new pathways for different responses. 

Bruno was not happy about going into his kennel last night, and insisted on trying to sleep on the sofa when prompted for kennel-time but I was able to cajole him to the appropriate sleep-area. He was quiet once he settled down, and slept well through the night. 

Bruno is acclimating well to me and my home, and is beginning to understand our relationship. He was a bit aloof towards me yesterday and during the first half of our work today, but warmed up for affection. 



Bruno and I went to a local park to work on his obedience training and desensitization. In addition to practicing sit, place, heel & come to sit, he was introduced to the cue ‘down’ and extended down. He would not offer the behavior at first, despite knowing it at his home, so I used leash pressure paired with high-value treats to guide him through the behavior. When using leash pressure, gently going down helps Bruno understand where he should go.

Bruno practiced ‘place’ on new objects, including playground equipment and large rocks. Since he was performing well with this command yesterday, we decided to try more challenging platforms— Bruno did great! His heel is coming along nicely, however he still needs intermittent corrections. We practiced extended sit/down/place with increasing duration and distance, and I began to add in distractions by moving, adding noise, or in areas with increased distraction. Bruno is still having a bit of trouble around certain stimuli, and continues to get overwhelmed— particularly with noises and fast things.

Later in the day, Bruno and I practiced all of his obedience cues in the home. I wanted to minimize distractions during this important stage in his program— the introduction of the E-collar. The ecollar is used at a low level (where it is noticeable to Bruno, but to a degree it feels like a tingle or tickle… a slight annoyance). I would tap the ecollar remote whenever Bruno felt leash-pressure during heel and stop as soon as he moved in the direction of the pressure. Once he did, and the leash was loose, the ecollar pressure would stop as well. The same concept can be applied for other obedience cues. As soon as Bruno sits/downs/places, the ecollar pressure shuts off, just like the leash.

It took a bit of time for Bruno to adjust to ecollar stimulation, and he was a bit sensitive to it initially. After repetition and positive reinforcement, Bruno engaged with me and the training more. If Bruno had too much of a difficult time, we would take a couple steps back and I would go through the motions with him so he could understand. This early in the training it is important to show Bruno what we want.

Bruno is getting much better at come to sit, though positioning and consistency needs polishing, particularly when leash-pressure isn’t used. We have been working on down verbal-cue, but he still needs help with leash-pressure or visual cues sometimes. Bruno was asked to hold an extended-place on my cot for about 45 mins while I made and ate lunch. He got up a few times, but eventually stayed there for the remainder.



Bruno and I went to Huntington Beach Pier & Boardwalk for our training today, after practicing his obedience in the home during an earlier session. This is a high distraction environment with many wheeled objects along the boardwalk, including bikes, skateboards & strollers. Although it proved to be very challenging, Bruno needs exposure to increased stimuli. 

It took Bruno a bit of time to adjust to all the new sights, smells, and sounds. We first practiced in areas with less going on so that he wouldn’t be too overwhelmed. We started with heel and extended cues to warm up. I would set Bruno up for success to build his confidence and engagement with training by providing  positive reinforcement. 

Bruno was reactive towards the wheeled objects in the beginning and would bark and lunge at them. I paired moderate ecollar stimulation with prong collar corrections with verbal cue “off!” to deter the behavior, and Bruno stopped surprisingly quickly after a few attempts. He was able to maintain an extended sit while they rode by in close proximity to him. 

Due to overstimulation, this session wasn’t a strong one, however I am proud of how Bruno did under the conditions! 



Bruno & I went to Santa Monica Pier to work on his obedience in a high distraction environment— and oh did it deliver! Droves of people, dogs, strollers, performers, bicycles, birds & much more. 

Bruno was a little overwhelmed in the beginning, so we found a nice shady spot to practice extended-down and take in the new environment. Once Bruno appeared bored and relaxed, we ventured further onto the pier to drum up a challenge. Midway through, we stopped on the portion where the waves broke so that Bruno could process the additional stimuli and cope before moving forward. If something seems like a big step for Bruno, you can break it up into smaller portions to help him adjust. He is still under-exposed to many things, and it’s important to keep his threshold in mind. 

Of all things, Bruno seemed most interested in smells, birds, and people walking closely behind him. Bruno still gets a bit defensive when things/people approach or stay where he cannot see them, which is typical during fear-reactivity. Although he displayed a piqued interest, Bruno did not react at all during our session on the pier, and is showing much improvement.

 Bruno was fine with strollers following closely next to us— it is fine if he shows a casual & glancing interest in them in order for him to process what’s going on. If Bruno looked for too long, I would verbal correct “ah-ah, off” paired with a slight ecollar stim at his current working level. Current working level is the amount of stimulation necessary for Bruno to marginally ‘feel’ the sensation but not overreact to it. This level may need to be adjusted depending on environment, distractions, and the mindset of the dog. Lower distraction environments require a lower level ecollar stim in order to ‘tap Bruno on the shoulder’ in efforts to get him to focus. 

Although we haven’t spent much time meeting other people, Bruno’s confidence for training is spilling over into other aspects of his life. Greeting manners isn’t typically offered in our one-week program, however Bruno performed beautifully when approached by two different people while practicing obedience. They asked to pet him, I instructed them that he must remain in a sit (this helps prevent people from ‘hovering’ which can make canines even more uneasy). Bruno welcomed them to pet him on the head and body while maintaining cue— without showing significant signs of anxiety like he did when meeting me for the first time. 



Bruno and I started our training off with routine door and food manners. Food manners has been something Bruno has been working on since his program began. This cue requires Bruno to sit/down patiently (I typically use a dog-bed or blanket as a place) before being allowed to eat. Once satisfied with the cue, I will ‘break’ Bruno to his food. To teach this, I initially used body-blocks paired with verbal correction “ah-ah!” when Bruno would attempt to go towards the bowl, and guide him back to ‘place’.

After breakfast, we went on a loose-leash walk around the neighborhood. Bruno does very well with walking, particularly in low distraction environments. We took the opportunity to practice obedience cues during our walk and polish up what seemed a bit rusty.

Later, we returned to HB Pier & Boardwalk to work on obedience with high distractions while on a longline. Since Bruno has been less reactive, I felt more comfortable giving him more leeway to practice distance during extended cues. Bruno did very well, however he did need some verbal/ecollar corrections for breaking position during heel, and broke cue on a few occasions during extended behaviors. Overall, Bruno performed much better than the last time we ventured to this location, and needed less time acclimating before feeling comfortable. His cues are coming along nicely.

Towards the tail-end of our session at HB, Bruno did react pretty heavily on two occasions. One instance was when a skateboard tried to do a trick (and failed miserably) very close to Bruno while behind him during heel, and the second happening occurred when an e-bike rider zig-zagged within a few inches of him while practicing extended down. Both would have even made me jump. The behavior was marked with the verbal correction phrase (ah-ah!!) and paired with a moderate ecollar stimulation (a corrective level). Bruno had done great with wheels during former portions of our training, so he may have hit his ‘wall’ in regards to coping.

At home, Bruno is doing great, and really enjoys playing with the other dogs during his “off time”.



Bruno and I went to a local park to work on his obedience training. We worked on all cues, and polished up any that have room for improvement— mainly extended distance-cues, come to sit positioning, and building engagement with me during heel. There weren’t very many distractions, so it was a great opportunity to fine-tune things. Bruno seems a bit tired today— probably from the back-to-back high-distraction environments we had gone to on previous days— so we took it a bit easy today.

Bruno was non-reactive towards anything while we were out, and has been much better regarding barking at things outside the fence in the yard.

We also worked on his home manners at the front door and with his food. Bruno did very well waiting patiently on the cot while I went in and out of the house with the front door open. Bruno also did well with his food manners, and didn’t try to go for the food without his release work and checking in with me first. 

Bruno is very excited to see his owner tomorrow and show him all the wonderful things he has been able to accomplish during his One Week Program!

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