Monday, November 26, 2012

The Private Life of Love and Death


                My dog, Princess Tiger Lily, a boxer, is presently fighting for her life. She is lying in my bed on a pile of towels, blankets, and layers of absorbent plastic-backed pads. Her head is on Dave’s pillow, and she is presently sleeping, breathing hard and fast, probably due to her high fever. She has cellulitis—a deep tissue infection, in her upper thigh. This has caused a number of eruptive lesions, from which vile, putrid drainage has been coursing. She is on two antibiotics, pain medication, and a stomach medication. She has been getting hot baths in order to soak her in wounds in Epsom salt-laden water, to help them drain. She has lost a lot of weight, and had none to spare in the first place. 

                I have spent the last three days literally tending to her around the clock, with Dave’s help. I carry her outdoors, and she is such a good girl, despite feeling awful, and cold, and weak—she eliminates outside. I then pick her up and carry her in for her soak, which helps offset the chill. We then do some disgusting postural draining, and then change all of her bedding and clean and dry her wounds. We give her water in bed, and then feed her a serving of boiled rice and ground beef. I wrap her wounds loosely, cover her with a blanket, pet, cuddle and encourage her, and tell her how sorry I am she is feeling so bad. I remind her she is a strong “working dog” breed, and she is brave and courageous. She is a boxer, a fighter—a 14 rounder. I remind her we have all sorts of things we've still not done together. I tell her I love her, and lay my head against hers. She looks at me with big, sad eyes. Sometimes she offers me her paw, and today she wagged her little stub (docking is evil!) of a tail. Tomorrow Lynn, the vet, is paying a house call to help clean and debride her wounds (gross.)  I am hopeful she may pull through this, but her history of health troubles and her challenges with maintaining her weight are concerning. Lily is a young-ish dog, and I hope we get more time together.


                This all reminds me of Nefer's downhill decline, last year, and her eventual—though not untimely, considering she broke the record for Pharaoh hound life expectancy—death. Nefer's death was not a highly publicized event outside of my immediate family. I've been thinking about the stories I share—and those I do not share—with my students. This has come up in reaction to comments made just this week by a past, somewhat challenging, client of mine who is presently working with my daughter, as a house sitter/ dog trainer. Apparently while still attending my classes, this man asked me “how’s Nefer?” to which I purportedly replied “dead.” I did not elaborate, or share any emotion, or publicly perform my grief, and I guess this didn’t set well with him. He has mentioned my “coldness” and “lack of emotion” to my embarrassed daughter more than once, shaking his head with disgust that I could be “so insensitive and uncaring” regarding the loss of my pet.

                During this time of tending to Lily, I've mulled a bit on this man’s opinion regarding my failure to share a proper performance of a very private grief, and it comes around to that very point. My grief is private, not a flag to wave, and the death of my dog was a huge and profoundly personal loss. It isn't for display, or for good advertising. I will say this: her death came tenderly, with her head in my arms, and she died at home, helped out of this world by my caring veterinarian friend, Lynn. Tomorrow Lynn will come again, to help me with another struggle, this time in efforts to save Lily’s life. I really hope I can share a joyful announcement, in a few days time, that Lily is on the healing side of her battle.

                As I am writing/ venting about all of this, I am wondering: will my writing about my desire to have my privacy respected, and to have the benefit of the doubt if I choose not to share deeply, make you hesitate to ask me how Lily is doing? I hope not;  if you happen to read this and then see me some time after, please do ask. I am not unwilling to share what is going on in my life, with my pets, to the level I am comfortable. If she survives, the grueling nature of our struggle will be worth talking about—probably way more than you want to hear--for having resolved happily. If, on the other hand, Lily does die—though I desperately hope she doesn't—and if I seem terse speaking of it, please understand the depth of my sadness is something I’ll again keep private. I appreciate empathy, care, and commiseration, and believe the sharing of personal stories regarding love, life, and even loss can be healing. However some things are very private, and some loss transcends simple explanation, in passing, to casually interested persons. Nefer's life was bigger than this little story, as is Lily's. 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

No Classes Today!

Just a quick reminder, for those who've not checked my news and alerts page:
There are no classes today, Oct. 14, 2012.
See you next week!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Favorite Place in the Whole World: 

Forked Creek Farm

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Happy First Birthday, Philippe and Jean Claude!

My bouncing-baby-poodle-boys are one year old today!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Teacher's Pet!


Mike K. is super-student of the week! He is rising above--literally, on this ladder, and figuratively, as he goes beyond the call of dog training to provide his skilled services helping us put new lighting in our garage!

Thanks, Mike! :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back to (Dog) School!

Attention Students: I am updating this post to ask each of you to update your pet's health records for my files. You can get the veterinary history form here: Veterinary History Form. Thanks for helping me keep everyone healthy!


Yes, we are all clear and its time for your dogs to pack their school bags, gather their lunch boxes, and get ready to bone up on their training skills! Classes resume Sunday 8/26. See you soon--unless your dog is sick, in which case please stay home!!






Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Road to Recovery


Okay, so far so good, but for the sake of precaution and the protection of pet health, I am seeing the quarantine through next Saturday. That will put us at 14 days with only our dogs on premises. As of now, we are at 10 days without a sign of diarrhea here at my place, but there have been a couple of reports of dogs who had been boarded who went home and then developed diarrhea (the last dog went home a week ago Saturday.) I think any dog who has been symptomatic should stay away (sorry!) until they have been producing solid poop for a week and have a negative fecal on the re-check. 

Meanwhile, dog summer vacation is extended, but I am doing private lessons off-site, either up at Starbucks or in-home. If you are feeling antsy about keeping up with training, feel free to give me a call to get a one-on-one lesson scheduled. 

Sunday advanced class, we will meet up at Starbucks tomorrow AM, weather permitting (and provided your dogs are SUPER healthy!!) Check my news in the AM, or give me a call on my cell: 630-888-8934. Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Important Notice! Class Cancellations!

Hi Guys,

First, the  bad news; we have a dog diarrhea problem in my kennel. UGH!


Because these things can spread like wildfire, and because I do not want to be the Typhoid Mary of dog stomach flu, I am shutting down all dog comings and goings for at least a week. I'm going to have to cancel all lessons and classes until I am certain none of my dogs get sick. Sorry in advance if any of yours do (like Steve, who was here playing today...sorry!!) 

My hope is this will not spread and will be resolved quickly; meanwhile, in good conscience, I don't want you to bring your dogs and risk exposing them. I will keep you all posted. I suggest keeping away from dog parks; that is probably where this originated in my client's dog. Yuck.


Now for the good news; despite having some health problems (unrelated to the one mentioned above,) my dog Blue has once again rallied and is doing much better. Now let's just hope he doesn't catch this stomach bug! 

Please let me know right away if any of your dogs get sick. Stock up on rice, chicken, kaopectate, pedialyte, canned (plain) pumpkin, and plan to call your vet for metronidazole (antibiotic) in the event it does happen.

Again, my apologies in advance. Despite our best efforts to be sure dogs are all healthy when they come here, and despite our diligence with disinfecting, sometimes dogs have something brewing that hasn't become symptomatic at the time of their visit. I guess this is one of those times :(

Peggy

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My Good Old Dog, Blue

Blue is almost 14 and hasn't been feeling so good. Here is a recent video of him when he was feeling better:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dog Improvement Dog Training: Ankle Biting Chihuahuas!

What gets my goat? The County Fair!

Not Such a Ba-a-a-a-a-d Day!


Hello fellow dog-bloggers! I hope you are all practicing training and enjoying an improving relationship with your pets. We had a busy Sunday, here at my dog school, as usual. Puppy play class was exceptionally fun, and all of the dogs were well mannered while enjoying playtime and socialization with both pets and people. I was really pleased to observe how cooperative you all are, and I think your good attitudes are rubbing off on your pets!

Anyway, after my long day working with pets and their people, we headed off to the DuPage County Fair. Today was the last day and I was eager to see...what else?--the animals! Actually, I fell in love at the fair, with some...

GOATS!  They were so sweet, friendly, and dignified (yes, goats can be dignified!) They were a breed that used to be known as Alpine Goats, but are now referred to as Oberhasli Goats. They are very cool and pretty! I hope to have a nanny goat one day, and this is the type I'll get. No worries--this won't happen until we live out at our new property, probably not for another couple of years; but still, I can daydream! The goats and I bonded pretty hard, and I spent more time in the goat barn than the rest of my family and Gisela may have enjoyed. (Sorry!) They were just so snugly and affectionate...  :)

Here are some pictures of my new favorite goat breed:







Aren't they cute and pretty?? Even if you are not so enamored, I'll bet in no time you'll be placing orders with me for goat cheese... :)





Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New homework assignment for ALL of you :)

Dear Fellow Dog Training Bloggers,

Please update your blog if you have not posted within the last week. Also, please be sure to "follow" your fellow bloggers, and to offer comments or feedback to some of them! Let's get this party started!

Warmly,

Your Dog Trainer,
Peggy

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Canine Selective Hearing


I think I can confidently suggest you have probably experienced so-called "selective hearing" from your dog, but how you interpret what underpins your pet's occasional "brain fogs" probably serves to either strengthen or undermine your dog training efforts. There are a lot of opinions regarding dogs and their compliance--or lack thereof--and an amazing array of methods intended to inspire canine performance motivation.

Could this dog--your dog, the one who responds like a slavering Pavlov-subject, ready to leap through flaming hoops, or at least sit at the speed of light in response to the slightest rattle of the dog cookie jar--be the same beast who stands in the backyard with snout in the wind, flipping you the hypothetical bird? Might this dog have an inkling how humiliating it is for you to prance around in your PJ's shouting "Treat! Treat!" for the entertainment of the neighbors? Sorry, but no matter how ticked off it makes you, your dog lacks the ability to theorize what you are thinking and feeling. Instead he experiences how you respond to your thoughts and feelings, for better or for worse. Additionally, dogs lack human moral coding; they are not evaluating life nor considering their own performance from your empowered (you hope) human perspective. Dogs do things for dog reasons, as they should.

So, is that selective-hearing moment a by-product of improper education, indifference, defiance, or distraction? I would argue for improper education, indifference and distraction, but defiance is wishful thinking.  No offense, but your dog doesn't come with a built in will to serve. To defy you, first your dog would have to feel a duty to comply, and then challenge it. Dogs certainly will cooperate, provided they find compelling reasons to do so, but they are not selfless creatures just hoping for a chance to fetch your slippers. A dog's work ethic is cultivated. Methods may include the use positive reinforcement such as applied rewards, access to life's rewards through your facilitation, and gains of social connection and security. Sadly, motivations may also include punishment; though there are better ways, some trainers still seek to illicit compliance from dogs who learn to avoid harm, threat, or rejection.

A dog's occasional "selective hearing" moments frequently stem from owner handling errors. Do you multi-cue like a broken record (sit-sit-sit-sit, etc.?) This could contribute to a reduced consistency in follow through from your dog, who has been taught--by you!--to tune you out. Do you bribe, rather than strategically (and correctly!) reinforcing compliance? This is another owner error that may undermine reliable responses from otherwise occupied pets. When there is nothing better to do they may work you over like a vending machine, but when presented with higher value, self-serve reinforcements of the positive variety--such as the offerings of the great outdoors--you may be left standing in bad pajamas with a cookie jar in your hand. Do you get angry at your dog? Your emotional ups and downs add stress and create mixed messages which may lead to hesitancy and avoidance from your dog. Are you a dog "dominator," extorting submission from your canine "friend?" This same dog may begin to reflect your overpowering ways back at you, asserting the power of ignoring and avoidance when out of your hands-on reach.

Properly trained dogs still occasionally test their handlers, despite solid, unwavering use of positive reinforcement; and even the best handlers make mistakes that inadvertently inspire their dogs to occasionally "test" them. Getting a dog to respond reliably and consistently requires a broad and creative understanding and application of positive reinforcement. It also requires awareness a dog learns systematically, through his own process, and part of the process is...selective hearing! From my viewpoint, a dog who examines his options--including ignoring me--is a smart dog. Luckily I am a smarter trainer, and in no time I will have that dog craning to hear what I might have to say, ready and willing to cooperate. Not sure how to achieve this with your own dog?? Take my class!

Friday, May 18, 2012

So, dog training students, here is your chance to get an awesome shiny new "Dog Improvement" t-shirt!
They are $20.00 each, shipping included, and all you need to do is let me know what size you want and hit me with $20 bucks, and in no time you'll have one of your very own! Here is what they look like (we are changing to bright blue for this year):


Custom t-shirt printing at CustomInk.com

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dog Training...for People!!

By now those of you who are my students know the truth; I am training you and your families! Your dogs are just coming along for the ride (and playtime with classmates, treats,  hula-hoops, etc.)

Not to be a big drag and mention homework, BUT, there is homework! Yep, WRITTEN homework (for you, not your dogs, of course.) One dog school homework assignment is to create your own blog, like this one, so you can report on your progress and get lots of positive reinforcement from me and your classmates. Please make your dog training blog, if you haven't already, and be sure to send my the URL so I can add it to my reading--and sharing--list!


Monday, April 30, 2012

Gisela Update

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to let you all know that Gisela came through with flying colors! She is resting after having her surgery, which took just over two hours, early this morning. She was alert and comfortable in recovery, and getting some rest once she was transferred to her room.

I'll post her room number on my password-protected news page; if you don't know the password, email me!

Peggy

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cruelty-Free Dog Training

By Peggy Moran


(Forewarning and apology: this is a REALLY long post!)


Old Dog Trainer, New Tricks

     In my ongoing, life-long quest to become a better dog trainer, and in turn a better people trainer, I am always researching other ways of achieving "dog improvement." You might actually notice, if you are one of my students, that I frequently change things up. I am proud of, and comfortable with, the methods and techniques I have under my belt, especially those bits of understanding I have come to hold as theories, or even laws, specific to inter-species communication and connection with my canine companions (you are welcome for that poetic stream of consonance!) But as much as I've come to a place where I am certain about many aspects of learning theory, canine ethology, and the pet-people bond, I still feel I can improve. I love trying out new techniques, and as I evolve, my goal has increasingly moved toward removing anything that causes discomfort or unhappiness for the living beings I work with and care about--both pets and people.
     Part of my continuing self-education, as of late, involves tapping into the Net--the Internet. It is chock full of dog training nuts--as in crazies!--as well as nugget of genius and inspiration; the trick is determining which is which. (I am going to come back to this, and even share some of what I've found, but bear with me as I lead up to it.) In some cases there are combos--a given pet expert offers some truly inspired advice paired with bits I disagree with, and therefore dismiss.
     As an aside, I have reevaluated my own methods over the years, and frequently clean house, dumping aspects I held as truths, for a time, as I evolve and become progressively "enlightened." I am not proud to say, in my earliest years of dog training I was a bit heavy handed. While I have always adhered to a system free from personal punishment--no scolding, shaming, spanking, striking, or in anyway displaying disapproval or anger, I did buy into aspects of the dominance-hierarchy school of thought that was purported by those dog trainers who came before, and initially influenced, me.


Child Dog Trainer, Old Tricks

     I started training dogs as a child, and was training professionally by the age of fifteen. I always used eclectic methods which I pieced together from a combination of reading, arguing with what I read, and studying my own pets as well as many other dogs around La Grange, Illinois, where I grew up. Intuitively I did not want to force myself upon an animal I loved and respected, so "might-makes-right" methods always seemed wrong to me. The overarching focus of my training was not to get the dog to reduce a given action, but rather to increase the frequency of its opposite.
     I invented the "red-light, yellow light, green-light" approach of reinforcement with my collies when I was 13 years old. I would only pet them when the light was "green"--they were sitting or lying down, and speak to them but never touch when it was "yellow"--they were standing. "Red" was any rude (in my opinion) behavior, and my goal was to inspire dogs to take responsibility, discovering an unpleasant result I'd pretend to have had no part in generating (even though of course I did.) This is how the penny-can (or penny-plastic-bottle, later,) came about. My dogs were given choices, to be petted, or not; to encounter a remote correction, or not. I always respected they might prefer not to be petted in a given context, and recognized the "yellow light" allowed them a polite mode for declining an overenthusiastic human's touchy-feely advance. This also did--and continues--to make me seem like a buzz-kill to blindered pet lovers who don't pay heed to whether their intended affection recipient is actually in the mood before they begin to lay on the love. Not every dog wants to be touched by everyone who is attracted to her.
     Despite my areas of methodological brilliance (in my not at all humble opinion,) the equipment I employed, back in the day, was the choke chain. Consider the name and you can see what blinders I was wearing. Delivering "remote" corrections--sharp jerks the dog was set up to believe the environment delivered as a consequence of a specific action, paired with the "penny bomb"--a can with pennies in it--seemed to make sense. Used in sequence, the secondary noise was immediately followed by the primary "remote" (impersonal) punishment, helping inhibit dog impulses while not causing the dog to blame his bad luck on me. I could reduce actions without endangering my relationship with the dog. This approach, skillfully delivered by my for-hire-teenage-self, caused many a sensitive soul to worry for their dog, but I argued it was better than the alternative--scolding and responding to done-deeds of the misdeed variety. I was not screaming "OUT!" or "Leave it!" while spinning a choking dog on the end of a leash one moment, then trying to pretend he should trust me the next. Removing myself--and my clients, when they began following my instruction--from any "personal corrections" did work wonders to reduce inappropriate impulses. 


The Perils of Punishment

     One of my early feature articles for Dog World Magazine was entitled "Punishment: Correction or Abuse?" In it, I was on the "it is abuse" side of the fence, if so called corrections involved any aspect of social interaction between people and their pets. The whole idea was to let the dog figure things out through cause--their action--and seemingly natural "effect"--our manipulation of the environment to create an aversive result. My manipulations, on retrospective examination, resulted in some dogs feeling more afraid of the kitchen wastebasket than was necessary to generate the desirable behavioral change. This isn't because I am wrong about the theory of training aversion; it is because training aversion at all may be unnecessary. It is also because there is a required level of finesse in delivering the so-called impersonal correction that few of my most competent students can consistently and correctly deliver, unfettered by the pervasive inappropriate emotional reaction. Setting a dog up to trigger a booby-trap--a penny can balanced above, attached by fishing line to the receptacle's lid--only once she has developed a solid confidence in every other aspect of visiting the friendly, food-producing kitchen, was intended to serve a "smart-bomb:" a minimally traumatic (sound based,) pain-free correction. The intention was to up the costs, in contrasts with benefits, for dogs perusing the fast food delivery device we call a garbage can. But might some sensitive dog souls have suffered unnecessarily? Is any moment of fear, triggered deliberately by me, even if it generates an overall greater good--safety--for the dog, justified? (So many questions, but they are important!)
     If I endorse any form of punitive correction, even so-called remote corrections, where do I draw the line? More importantly, can my students see and toe this same line? Might the overly emotional, training-enthusiastic pet owner fling the "bomb" at the misbehaving dog they happened to "catch in the act?" Would they be caught looking as they meted out a so-called "remote" correction, making a detrimental association between their eye contact and scary punishment? Might they be exuding anger, disapproval and their own pheromones of emotional arousal, and will this influence the efficacy of their training or undermine their dog's trust in other relationship areas? Do people in general have the ability to eliminate all emotion from their so-called corrections? And, if I endorse the use of lesser remote corrections, why not more dramatic-seeming ones? Might struggling pet owners amp up their training to include electronic collar--the Jetson's version of my Fintstone's training technology--when my approach sometimes failed to deter their pet's impulses?  As you can see, I ask a lot of questions, and test my own ideas--a lot.
     When I was younger, I would sometimes wonder about my training system with that "something still doesn't feel exactly right" kind of feeling. It kept me on the alert, always looking for better questions, which might--hopefully--turn up better answers. Some of my questions included: 

  1. What right, as one sort of animal, do I have to assert any, especially slavery-like, control over another?
  2. What sort of pain and fear does the dog experience when "corrected," and is it fair, necessary and worth it? 
  3. Might there be a better way to achieve the same results? 
  4. Might my students, whose timing and emotional discipline may not match mine, be better able to effect behavioral changes in their dogs using different, more humane, techniques which allow more room for human error?

I'm Improving!

     These questions, along with many others, persist to this day, and while I am happy for the parts I get right--no personal punishment!--I still strive for a "better" way. I experiment with more positive reinforcement, leaning toward progressive reinforcement, adding (or facilitating dogs in finding) desirable rewards for the desired actions ("good behaviors,") through cooperation with people. I also seek ways to harness, rather than reduce, the value or attraction of competing rewards--the intrinsic reinforcers dogs find within their other actions, those behaviors trainers typically seek to extinguish or control (not the same thing, by the way!)
     These days I lean toward avoiding creating any sort of state of arousal in a dog, and especially avoiding creating behavioral suppression. If fear leads a dog to inhibit an expression of energy that would have been channeled through a particular action, where will that energy go instead? Pent-up, suppressed, frustrated, agitated dogs will act out in new manners. It may be through inhibition, shutting down, self-harming, and fading into a mobile corner they bring with them wherever they go, or it may be through acting out in new, equally undesirable (by people) ways. Either way, the cost is too high. Why correct at all, if instead we can easily direct the dog's energy into alternate, reward-earning actions that are the antithesis of the undesirable ones? 
     Are there appropriate ways we can interrupt a dog's run-away-train-of-thought, interjecting a sound the dog has been conditioned to alert to as a helpful warning rather than as a threat? Yes! Proper, controlled, limited, guided use of a secondary warning mark, such as vocal sound or even the penny-bottle sound, can help sway a dog toward a new, reward delivering course of action in less time, increasing the dog's momentum and the frequency of that action. Interventions and corrections that bring a dog to a reward earning behavior help grease the training wheel, but they must be used with care and an understanding of progressive reinforcement. Most importantly, they are never used to suppress the dog's learning. Dogs must be allowed to make mistakes as many times as it takes to discover those actions fail to garner any rewards, while alternative actions are discovered to work way better.
     This all requires just one thing, and it isn't easy: retraining ourselves. Successful, cruelty-free dog training depends upon a modification in human thinking and responding, through increased self-discipline and the asking of--and seeking the best answers to--lots of questions! 

Saturday, April 21, 2012





Hello, dog training students! 


I want to draw your attention to a change I've made to my website (and to ask you to please let me know if you notice any glitches.) What I've done is removed my old news page and replaced it with a new one. It is still located under the "News and Alerts" link at the top of my www.dogimprovement.com website. My hope is I can thwart creepy posters who like to offer all sorts of things you probably don't want. Please bookmark, or subscribe to, this new blog, and always check before lessons or classes to make sure we are still on!


See you at dog school!


Peggy



Monday, April 16, 2012

Dog Training Methods

So, I guess I am not a very conscientious blogger. Sorry. Luckily I have a very small readership ;)

Regarding dog training methods, the actual topic of this post, now I am going to get long-winded (you have been warned!):

I just had an interesting phone query, specific to my business, and thought I'd share it. A man called and told me he was inquiring about my dog training, but first had a question about the methods I use. His question was, "Which do you train with, punishment or food?"

Well, I hesitate to answer those sorts of leading questions which have black/ white answers. There seems to be no room for anything else--something my questioner may not of thought of, for example; something like a more innovative system.

Still, some things are totally clear. With certainty I assured my caller I do not train with applied punishment or compulsion.

As for the use of food, I hedged a bit; would saying "yes" cast me into a category of stereotypical, so-called "foodies?" There are many people who train in different ways, along a spectrum of methods. Training with food doesn't automatically mean the trainer is a pleading, crossed fingered, food-filled-fanny-pack-wearing pleader. Some of the best training out there right now is purely food-reinforcement based, and I strongly approve of it; I just hate when people try to create a "lumpers" category (versus "splitters,") where, by saying "yes" to any degree, you are tossed into a tiny, preconceived, pigeon hole. I am proud enough of my training system, which I believe is highly evolved from a standpoint of motivational theory, that I want to take a stand and put forth my version of what I do. I don't want to concede to one of two assigned options.

So, yeah, a lot goes on in my mind, but no, I didn't inflict all of this on my caller, in case you are wondering. After a half-second processing delay I answered truthfully: in my dog school we employ a variety of positive reinforcers, sometimes including food.

Apparently my caller didn't like this response, and somewhat rudely demanded I "just answer the question."
Actually, I did answer it; I think he was just too closed-minded to accept my outside-the-box thinking ;)

There are many creative approaches to dog training motivation, some which use food, some which don't. I mostly don't, only because my system works so well without it--in most cases. Where we can boost results without compromising relationship and attention, we use food, too. Food is one of an array of motivating dog training rewards, and provided the dog is desirous of food in a given setting, it can generate amazing, pain-free advances for both performance and behavioral modification training.

The food--and the many other--rewards we do use are generally remotely located, and then earned through a dog's team cooperation with his or her handler. We facilitate access, but do not actually manipulate the dog to get the food directly from us; instead the dog gets the food, or any other rewards, through us. We serve as conduit, or like three legged race partners, or team members; together with us dogs achieve things that cannot be achieved on their own. This approach helps dogs desire to work with us, rather than to "obey," which sounds so...old-school, pedagogic, and...condescending, really. This isn't particularly original; my training is solidly, scientifically based upon learning theory and any good dog trainer knows, recognizes, and uses similar methods. For example, Clicker Training, à la Karen Pryor, et. al, does. My training is similar, but tweaks some finer points (not elaborating here; ask me and I'll be glad to share my 2 cents.) My forte is how I innovate existing systems, along with my ability to help students make changes while protecting and building deeper connections with their pets.

On that note, I guess all of this was lost in translation during my phone call this afternoon. I didn't even get the chance to try to explain how important I think theory, ethics, and scientific underpinnings are to dog training outcomes. The guy on the phone curtly said "Thank you," and hung up on me. In his defense, some people just want their dog to come when called and stop pooping in the house, regardless of the means.

As for me, I am committed to a very picky purity of system which I am always striving to refine--but if you are reading this, you probably already knew that!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Oodles of...POODLES!!

So, after the wolf-dog didn't work out, guess what I stumbled upon? A bouncing pair of five month old standard poodle puppy brothers who needed a family! We had such a great experience with our first standard poodle, Fifi, I had a feeling we should at least go visit and check them out. They are are very bonded to one another and Dave and I didn't have the heart to break them up, so...we took both! They are a joyful addition to our family, and all of the other pets and people love them dearly already. I have named then Jean Claude and Philippe and they are sweet, smart, loving, playful, and PERFECT! I can't wait for you to meet them :)










Monday, January 30, 2012