About Us

Sara McLoudrey is the founder of ROOT Dog Training a successful training boutique that specializes in positive, Sara and Rizzoreward based, relationship focused dog training. In addition to ROOT’s Highwood, IL location Sara also offers in-home private lessons on a variety of behavioral issues. ROOT will help you with any dog training issue from puppy training to behavioral training to competition dog sport activities. Sara’s specialties for behavioral training are both reactive aggressive dogs and resource guarding. Both of these problems have effected Sara’s own dogs over the years and training them has helped Sara be the professional dog trainer she is today. Sara is proud to be a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA), Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI), TagTeach Level 2 trainer, and a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer.

Dog training, for Sara McLoudrey, started when she was nine years old and received her first dog Gus, a Schnoodle. Gus eventually became her 4-H obedience dog and was trained solely with the help of 4-H books, no classes or formal instruction. Thankfully, due to Gus’s wonderful temperament and their strong bond, they did well at the 4-H fair.

Her first introduction to higher-level training was through a service and therapy dog organization. She trained her Border Collie, Scout, to be a therapy dog with the organization and began puppy raising. Sadly, even though Scout was a great therapy dog and excellent trick dog, she started developing a number of fears and phobias. It was then that Sara decided to retire her. Sara realized that she had learned a valuable lesson about not stressing my dog for someone else’s benefit. Scout taught Sara many things over the years about breeds and behavior. She is always grateful to her for being kind and patient.

Sara also shared over seven years with her husband’s yellow Labrador, Bailey, who was a retired service dog. Bailey was trained by an organization using “traditional” obedience methods that relied heavily on force. During his training Bailey became extremely dog reactive, but was still placed as a working dog. Finally he was retired from public work, due to his escalating behavioral issues. Bailey’s reactive nature was minimized over the years with the help of positive training (under the initial guidance of Dr. Karen Overall) and various management techniques.

It was Bailey’s behavior and consults with Dr. Overall that led Sara to find a more compassionate way to train. She never again wanted to treat (or train) a dog the way that Bailey had been. Sara knew she had dogs because she loved them, enjoyed their companionship and partnership. She knew that she would never treat a friend like that so why treat her dog in that manner, there had to be a better way. It was the best path ever taken, and Sara is so glad to have found a more compassionate training method.

Sara believes you can always learn and grow as a dog trainer. So we try to attend as many seminars and lectures are possible. She also belongs to educational groups that promote positive dog training and her breeds of choice. (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers and American Water Spaniels).

Memorial to Dr. Sophia Yin

On September 29, 2014 I learn of Dr Sophia Yin’s death. I was shocked and in complete disbelief. I texted a friend the news and she was so shocked she wrote back “what do you mean” and all I could answer was, “like DEAD”. Shortly there after it was made public that she had committed suicide, more shock and disbelief.

I did not know Dr Yin, but at the same time I felt like I did. I’ve spent a week and a half mulling over what it could do to memorialize her. I decided the best thing was to list all of the ways my training has been colored by her work. So here goes…

The next morning I went out and walked my Burnham Terrier, Bueller. Bueller currently is working on some dog to Bueller on a walkdog reactivity issues (thanks Dr Yin). So Bueller goes on walks wearing a Gentle Leader head collar (thanks Dr Yin), and being walked using a Buddy System waist leash (thanks Dr Yin). I have my clicker (thanks Dr Yin) and treat bag (thanks Dr Yin) ready for training. It was a solemn walk on a grey dreary morning.

Two days after her death, I hosted a new student orientation. In our orientation packets I have two handout from Dr Yin’s website. The first is the Body Language handout (thanks Dr Yin). The second is the Learn to Earn (thanks Dr Yin) handout. While we go over the handouts I have my dog Dara on a Buddy System leash, tethered to me (thanks Dr Yin). I am rewarding her with her dinner (thanks Dr Yin) and demonstrating Say Please by sitting (thanks Dr Yin). Then when Dara was done demonstrating she started working on emptying a Foobler food toy (thanks Dr Yin), which she loved. At every other orientation I point people in the direction of Dr Yin’s website, which is listed at the bottom of the handout. This time instead I took a deep breath looked to my friend who nodded approval and went on. I managed not to cry.

A day later I am working with a new client who has a fearful, overwhelmed rescue dog who has snapped at the mother-in-law. This new client has two younger children who love the dog, sometimes a little too much. One of the things the client left with was Dr Yin’s handout on how to interact with a dog and how not to interact with a dog (thanks Dr Yin). The owner was thrilled with such a clear way to explain things to her kids.

Then that Friday Rizzo, my American Water Spaniel (AWS) needed to have stitches removed from her ear. (That’s another story for another day!) Rizzo is a very friendly dog, like ridiculously so, until you try and restrain her. The vet office who was removing the stitches is not our regular office but was the one who stitched her up. Which means I have to explain that she might try and bite them if she is not handled properly. Quickly, I show the tech Rizzo’s chin target (thanks Dr Yin) and hand her a bag of bacon jerky (thanks Dr Yin). Rizzo is perfect, no issues, (thanks Dr Yin) and is given a clean bill of health. Thanks to Dr Yin’s Low Stress Handling training (thanks Dr Yin) that the staff has done they did not “undo” my years of training with Rizzo.

This is just four days worth of training and teaching and look how my world is made better by Dr Yin’s teachings. I wish I could tell her, as I know many trainers wish they could now too. Sadly we can’t but we can have her life’s passion live on through our training. Also we can continue to share her teachings through her videos, website and excellent handouts.

Dr Yin’s work was amazing, and I am incredibly grateful for her generosity and talent and I will happily spread her desire for dogs and cats to life a happier life. Thank you Dr Yin, thank you.

Basic Hotel Manners for your Dog

This past week I spent three days at the Toller National show. Whenever I am at hotels with dogs I’m always amazed by the good and the bad that I see at big dog events like this one.

Rizzo and Bueller relaxing at a hotel!
Rizzo and Bueller relaxing at a hotel!

First off we must be reminded that more and more hotels are not allowing dogs to stay at their facilities. Then for the ones that do allow dogs the pet fees are on the rise! Every time you stay at a hotel with a dog you are an ambassador for all people traveling with their dogs. This is a big responsibility, please take it seriously.

Your dog should be your priority when traveling. Make sure that they are fed, have fresh water, and walked properly. These needs need to be taken care of before your own needs. Be aware of your dog’s stress levels and adjust your schedule accordingly. The less stress they are under the easier it will be for you to take care of them.

Please, only take dogs who are comfortable with strangers to hotels. The other guests and hotel staff do not want to feel threatened by your dog walking in the halls. Even if your dog is normally great with strangers, be aware that the stress of being in a hotel might make them on edge and act differently. When walking the halls and the lobby keep your dog on a short leash. Have treats with you to reward good behavior, or to use to distract a nervous dog.

Do not leave dogs unattended and loose in your room. If you have to leave your dog in your room here are some tips of the trade. The dog should be crated in a sturdy crate (with no chance of escape). Make sure to hang the Do Not Disturb sign on your door. You do not want the house keeping staff or your dog to be startled by each other.  Leave your dog listening to Through Dog’s Ear music playing on either your iPad, computer or the portable iCalm system. This will help them relax and drown out other noises from the hallway. If you don’t have Through The Dog’s Ear then leaving the TV on a calm channel can help. I would suggest Food Network or Golf channel, you want minimal yelling and odd noises.

When using the elevator do not stand right in front of the doors.  Make sure there is room for the people exiting the elevator. Once on the elevator step to the side and back. Give your dog space from other dogs and people. Remember elevators can be quite scary to dogs. If you ask your dog to sit and the don’t, don’t force it! Most likely the lack of listening is due to stress/nervousness about the elevator. Lastly, if you have a tailed dog, be aware of where their tail is at all times. You don’t want it caught in the doors or accidentally stepped on.

Finally, remember you are a guest, as is your dog! It is critical that you clean up any and all messes. Accidents happen, but don’t ignore them. Tell the staff, ask for clean up supplies if you need them, and clean up the mess yourself. Remember to leave your room tidy and to pick up after your dog inside and out. It is not the staff’s job to clean up after your dog.

I hope these tips make your next trip with your dog easier! Thanks for being a great ambassador for all the dog traveling public!

Trade Ya! – A Simple Skill that Can Save a Life!

In my basic group classes I always say, “If your dog learns three things in life they need to be, don’t bite people, come when called and trade ya. Everything else is icing on the top of the training cake.” Most clients ask me why, because all they want is their dog to stop jumping and pulling. The answer is those three behaviors can save your dog’s life. I have seen many clients put up with crazy behaviors from their dogs, but none are life threatening to the dog.

In my classes we teach Trade Ya! as a behavior that means please drop when you have in your mouth and trade it to me for a cookie (treat, reward, etc). The reason we call it Trade Ya! is to remind the owners that they need to always trade some thing with the dog. It is rude to go over to your dog and just grab something out of their mouths. Just like its rude to go to your neighbors house and take something from their refrigerator.

One of the tricks to first teaching Trade Ya! is that you have to trade equal or higher value for what the dog has, and the DOG gets to determine value! Yep, you read that right. So your dog might have used tissues and your get out a piece of their kibble. They look at you and pause for a moment and think “that’s nice” and keep eating the tissue. Sorry, you have learned stolen dirty tissue is better then their food. So now go grab a piece of cheese and just the sound of the plastic wrapper has your dog dropping the tissue and running to your side. Ah, good, cheese trumps tissues! Now Trade Ya! training is ready to go.

My favorite way to start training Trade Ya! is with the dog’s own toys. If they are happily playing with a stuffy, I’ll approach with a high value treat and say Trade Ya! If need be I’ll put the treat right by their nose so they get a good smell. Once they drop their stuffy they get the treat and then I engage them back to playing with their toy. Hum, they think, I trade, get a great treat and get my toy back too. Awesome, total win-win in the dog’s mind. I do this a lot, always with things they dog can get back at first. Sooner or later they understand Trade Ya! means drop what’s in your mouth and I’ll pay you for it with a cookie (or cheese, or chicken, or tennis ball, etc) Now we have a behavior that can save your dog’s life!

I have two favorite life saving Trade Ya! stories. The first is from a dog that I bred, Winston.  Winston is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and his owner always planned on participating in hunt tests with him. So, from the moment he moved in whenever he had something in his mouth, good, bad or otherwise he was traded. Winston is a pretty cheap date and will gladly always trade for kibble, which is easy. One day when he was a little past two years old he came trotting up to his owner. By the look on his face she was pretty sure he had something in his mouth, but she couldn’t see anything. She held out her hand and said Trade Ya! and out came a razor! He had stolen it off the edge of the bathtub shortly after one of her teenaged daughters had used it with raspberry bath wash. It smelled delicious to Winston. Thankfully two years of rewarding trading made Winston know it was worth bringing a new object to mom. Eight years later, Winston is still going strong and just won his class for Veteran dogs over 10 years of age at the Toller national show. To think we could have lost him years ago if trading was not as valuable to him, we can’t even imagine.

My second Trade Ya! story comes from my very own Rizzo. The summer she was 3 years old our dog sitter was out in Rizzo loves to have something in her mouth the yard with her and she heard this awful screaming, squealing, sound. Quickly she figures out the Rizzo has finally caught the chipmunk, that she has been stalking all summer long. The sitter panics, not wanting Rizzo to eat the chipmunk or let it loose in the house. She starts yelling all sorts of cues that Rizzo ignores, mainly because she does not know them. Finally, in a stroke of genius she yells out Trade Ya! Rizzo promptly drops the chipmunk, and runs into the house for her cookie. The chipmunk runs off, we assuming shortly there after has a heart attack. One chipmunk life saved, thanks to Trade Ya! Now why would Rizzo trade a high value thing like a live chipmunk for a small crunchy cookie? Easy, she has years of high value, and high repetition of Trade Ya! She knew for sure she was going to get something for her effort.

Trade Ya! is such a valuable skill. It has so many uses and life saving added value. It’s never too early or too late to work on teaching your dog to share with you using Trade Ya!