Susan Blatz / Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Susan blatz is the dog whisperer of White Rock Lake. She started her business, All Dogs All Day, about 14 years ago, sort of by accident after her dog-sitting clients realized she had a way with dogs that came naturally to her. She has five dogs of her own at home, and she also fosters dogs, usually ones with severe behavior problems, and readies them for adoption. The longtime Lakewood resident recently filled us in on her business and tips for training pups.

What kind of training do you offer, and are there any specific breeds in which you specialize?

I do obedience classes, behavior issues and basic training. I see a lot of puppies after Christmas, but I see every kind of dog.

Why do people hire you most often?

The most common issue, hands down, is potty training. The second one is basic manners — pulling on the leash, jumping up on people. Each dog is different. If you have a lab, you probably won’t be having potty issues. But if you have a Maltese, you are probably going to have a problem with potty. Smaller dogs have a harder time holding it, or they’re not as likely to let you know they need to go out.

So how do you teach potty training?

It’s training the owners. They have to learn to disengage and let their dog relax outside and just be about his business, but that’s the hardest thing to do sometimes. A lot of times what happens is the owner will go outside with the dog, and they come back inside, and the dog goes on the floor. And they think, “We were just outside!” but it’s because the dog got too distracted outside by a squirrel or a toy or anything else and didn’t do his business. So you don’t engage with them, you don’t look at them, and then you praise them after.

No treats?

No. I don’t do treats. My dogs do what I say because they’re doing it for me. They’re not doing it for a treat. Treats are OK sometimes, but I never do treats for potty training.

Dog training is expensive, right?

Yes, but it’s well worth it because you’re looking at your long-term life together. Obedience class is always a good idea. It’s an investment, absolutely. I can show people where a dog is limited that they don’t see. People will always tell me, “The dog won’t come,” but I notice, every time they want the dog to come, they’re grabbing, or they’re yelling, or they’re shoving them in the crate. If they think “come” means they’re going to be grabbed, they’re not going to do it. “Come” should always be a good experience because then you always have a dog thinking about “come” in a positive way. Same thing with “sit”. Dogs are always wondering what’s the next step. So if you make it positive, your dog is always going to be looking at you and not what is the next step. Praise is the best thing you can give your dog.

That sounds like the very basics of dog training.

Yes. It’s training the owner to train the dog. They need a gentle, compassionate touch, but they do need training. There’s a balance. Usually, it’s that they have to expect more of the dog. Dogs get attention for being bad, and that’s predictable attention. It’s really important to not give attention for bad behavior. You redirect to good behavior and praise them for that. I fix it so the dog can understand, and the people can understand, and the dog becomes more cooperative. There should be no yelling and no grabbing.

What is the biggest mistake people make with their dogs?

The biggest mistake is thinking that dogs are easy at all. People have a hard time because they’re coming home and taking care of children, and driving to soccer practice and making dinner and all sorts of things. But they have to take time for the dog, too. If you’re doing it right, it should be inconvenient. Dogs are, in a way, like children. They need direction and attention. You have to teach them to live in your home because they don’t know that innately. They don’t know it’s OK to get on the sofa in this room but not on the other sofa that’s nicer. People always say, “Well, he’s doing this, and he should know better.” Well, no, he doesn’t know better, or he wouldn’t do it. You have to teach, repeat and be patient. It’s hard to be the teacher, and dogs are harder than you think.

How did you get into this business?

I started a pet-sitting business, and some of my clients had dogs with bad manners. And I said, “No, you’re not going to jump on me. That’s not how we do things.” So I trained some of the dogs I was pet sitting. Dogs are happier when they think they are doing the right thing and getting attention. I didn’t mean to be the dog trainer, but people wanted it, and my clients started recommending me. It became too much to do both dog sitting and training, so eventually, I eased out of the pet sitting and started building on the dog behavior.

Can you give us any other tips for dog training?

Try taking an obedience course. That’s always a big help. Regular routines are huge. Dogs will count on that in a big way. Don’t use a retractable lead. People think it gives the dog more freedom, but it’s actually more dangerous because you have less control. I make it my mission in life to teach people it’s all about teamwork. Sometimes I see my former clients walking with [a retractable leash], and I will pull over and say something to them: “Uh, uh, uh! You shouldn’t be using that retractable leash.” I’m horrible. I’m obnoxious. I care too much.