Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In Memoriam

Edna Louise Rusch (nee Lempke) was born in September 1906. She was the first of her family to go to college, she was a nurse, a wife, a mother and a grandmother.

She loved dogs.

My Grandma died today. This was the last picture we took together, on her 100th birthday in September 2006.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

'Tis The Season

I'm so sorry for no posting. It's the season to be super busy. However, I have two weeks off from work coming up, and will post something or other during that time.

The two of you who responded to my last post - yeah you! The rest of you can Kissmyarse.

Happy Holidays & Merry Xmas & Happy Hanukkah annat!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It Works Like This

Dear Lurkers:

The more comments I get, the more inclined I am to post!

Monday, November 27, 2006

No Photo to Share. Seminar Summary.

The Ian Dunbar seminar in Orlando was a gruelling 3 days, but let me tell you, I learned so much my head was threatening to explode.

I learned some new techniques which are different than Lloyd's. I think that's just peachy. When I strike out on my own as a professional, I want to be armed with as much knowledge as possible.

Dunbar has very strict age limits for his puppy classes, which allows young dogs (no more than 4 months) to play while being trained subtly. The subtlety comes from allowing play, while interrupting at timed intervals to take hold of the dog's collar, then letting him go back to play. This creates a reward system for allowing the owner to grab the collar - the dog learns that he will be allowed to play after he allows his collar to be held.

This progresses to holding the dog's collar, then having him sit, then allowing him to continue playing. Eventually, the owner should be able to tell their dog to sit from a distance, without touching him. The young age of the dogs allows them to interract without the baggage and behavior problems that may come with older dogs.

We also got to see videos of all the techniques in action, including a beginner's class with older dogs. One of the videos showed dogs progressing from being rewarded for simply looking at their owner to staying by their side while walking. Pretty amazing stuff. Franklin and I are practicing this. It may taker a while, but it is gentle and reduces stress for dog and owner.

One of Lloyd's favorite phrases is "catch a dog doing something right, and reward him for it". This fits the technique above to a tee. The owner simply waits for the dog to do what is required, and is rewarded. The beginning is looking at the owner, progessing to always following the owner's face, even when the owner turns his or her back to the dog. This progresses to the dog sitting by the owner's side, then walking by the owner's side. Wonderful.

I met some top-notch people at the seminar, including local DC area trainer and author
Joel Walton, and trainer and author Nicole Wilde.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Monday, November 13, 2006

Don't Get Your Knickers in a Twist

I'm waiting on someone to send me a picture via email before I blog about the seminar. If it doesn't arrive by a week from today, I'll soldier on without it.

Now stop bugging me! Sheesh!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Seminar on Thursday

I'm trying to ignore the fact that I have to get on an airplane on Wednesday. But the Ian Dunbar seminar starts on Thursday, so I will have reportage for you next week.

In the mean time, I am working with Franklin on his Gentle Leader. I sewed a small bit of fleece onto the snout piece so it wouldn't dig into his wrinkles. He gets treats when I put it on him, and we've walked some small distance with it. He is still getting used to it (i.e. he hates it), but he does very well with it. Nary a pull...loose leash all the way.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Becoming a professional

I just took a lookee loo at the NADOI provisional membership application. A provisional membership in NADOI is for apprentices like me. Let me tell you, it's hard. It's long. It's detailed. If this is a provisional membership, I shudder to think what the full-fledged membership entails.

But I'm going to do it. By god. NADOI is top-of-the-line for dog training instructors. Lloyd will help me with my application, I'm sure, and I'll be on my way.

Also, Franklin tried on a Gentle Leader last night and it fit! We're working on some
e positive reinforcement training to gradually get him used to it. The Gentle Leader will be a huge help in our therapy team training. It's not a muzzle, by the way - it's like a horse bridle. Basically, a collar that doesn't go around the neck, but around the snout instead. The name is as it implies....a gentle way to lead a dog. Ask your dog trainer about it. It does take some instruction and training to use it, but it's well worth it. Every dog I've seen who uses one is a dream to handle. Can't wait to get going with it!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Therapy Training

Franklin and I will be embarking on the Delta Society's Pet Partners home study training course. I think it's time for a new challenge for myself and the poopy dog. He did very well in Cleveland during Labor Day for my Grandma's 100th birthday. My Grandma is, as her age suggests, not very mobile and slightly frail. Franklin was curious about her, and very friendly. Most of the time he is a bit shy with new people, but with my Grandma he was wide open.

Therapy dogs provide valuable emotional support for the elderly and sick children. Studies have shown that exposure to dogs reduces stress in most people, and they take people's minds off their illnesses. Therapy dogs are often used with autistic children, who sometimes show openess and emotions around the animals that they have trouble expressing with humans.

I think this will be an excellent opportunity for me, and Franklin will have exposure to all kinds of people.

Wish us luck!

Monday, October 02, 2006

TV Show to Air on Oct 3

I hope to have a YouTube link to Your Dog's Best Friend after the show airs tomorrow. That is, if I can figure out how to do it. And if it's not too embarassing.

All is well in dogland. The class with my parents in attendance went very well & they were duly impressed with Lloyd's teaching.

I have been sick for most of the last week, so I didn't attend class this past weekend. I won't be at class this coming weekend because of a wedding in Connecticut. We had planned on stopping in Atlantic City on our way home for some much-needed gaming, but as it looks like Franklin will be with us, that is out.

Business idea: dog-friendly casino!

I leave you with an image of the animals in my household interacting. Well, this is as close as they come!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Awww Jeeze. Or, What Did I Get Myself Into?

My parents are in town.

They are coming to watch me at puppy class on Saturday. Given that they are huge
Cesar Milan fans, they may not quite "get it" (Milan does not use positive reinforcement methods 99% of the time).

Oh hell, I would be nervous anyways.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sorry it's been a long time & Big Steps

There are 3 new developments in my doggie training career. These really show the progress that can be made in just one year, with commitment, passion and determination.

First, up until a couple of weeks ago, I would set up the equipment for class, handle money and registration forms and make sure the dogs had their collars on properly. After class started, I would mostly observe from the sidelines. When the newest puppy class started, Lloyd asked me to be down front & center with him. My purpose there is to help individual trainers during class if they're having trouble with things like holding the leash properly, controlling their dog, or employing the methods Lloyd teaches for things such as "Sit" and "Down". This means a lot more work and a lot more fun for me!

Next, I made my reservations to attend my first doggie seminar in Orlando. The seminar is conducted by one of the world's most respected animal behaviorists,
Ian Dunbar (pictured). Dr. Dunbar is a pioneer of canine behavior, building on the methods and experience of such other greats as Milo Pearsall. This is Dr. Dunbar's last multi-day seminar in the U.S., so it's a really exciting opportunity (although the thought of flying is already giving me agida, even though the seminar is 2 months away). If you're an apprentice looking to attend these types of things, but are worried about the expense, there are probably opportunities for you within driving distance. And if you live near a university town, you can probably find classes and symposia on this type of subject matter. But I would really recommend a savings fund for longer trips, especially if it's a respected teacher like Ian Dunbar.

The biggest development in my mind is that I will be teaching makeup lessons for puppy class. If a dog and trainer miss a class, they have a 5-minute makeup lesson before class the following week. Lloyd asked me if I wanted to do the makeup lessons, and I was thrilled! This is a big step in my learning how to teach people how to teach dogs.

It's so rewarding to see results of my effort. I feel like the ball is really rolling now, and I'm well on my way to being able to do this as a career.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Monday, July 31, 2006

Absenteeism & Perceptions

For the last 3 puppy classes, only 2 of the six dogs and owners have showed up. It's great for the 2, because they get semi-private lessons, but I wonder what gives with the other families? If I paid money for a class, you bet your butt I would show up or call the teacher to explain my absence! Anyway, I hope to see some of them back to make up their lessons in the next session, because there were some cool pooches there.

The two that have showed up are adorable and hilarious to watch playing together. They're both black labs, but one of them has a really shaggy coat and a very square face, which makes me think he may be a Chessie mix (see pic of Chessie - Chesapeake Bay Retriever).

It was really hot the Saturday before last. I was schvitzing up a storm while I was setting up the chute (for practicing off-leash come-when-called).

Lloyd said that he got the impression I not much of an outdoorsperson, that I couldn't be without a hot shower and air conditioning.

I quickly disabused him of that notion. Here are two of the places I have seen in person (sans voiture).

Death Canyon, WY (Tetons)

Lion Head, New Hampshire (Mt. Washington)

Friday, July 28, 2006

We Finally Did It!

Well, I made it to the correct TV studio yesterday (literally a 3-minute drive from the office). Lloyd told me to wear light blue, so I picked a light blue silk blouse from my closet. Errr...not so good. Just call me Professor Pitstains when you see me, OK?

Anyway, it went really well. The time (15 minutes) flew by - we didn't even have time for 10 questions.

The gist of my appearance was to let people (especially those over 30s) know that you can do this, financially, physically, emotionally. It's possible. Just do your research, Google is your friend, find a good trainer to work with, educate yourself, read lots of books and magazines.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Me, An Idiot

Well, turns out your Dog Apprentice is quite the idiot! I went to the wrong studio for the show taping. We had to reschedule for next Thursday.

Learning opportunity for me and you: ALWAYS remember your cell phone!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Me, A Ham (Get It? No? Not a Women's Soccer Fan?)

Lloyd has invited me to talk about becoming a dog trainer and the apprentice experience on his TV show. We'll film on July 20th, and I believe the show will air on the first Monday in August at 6pm (note: the time on the web site is wrong). Look for Your Dog's Best Friend on Cox cable in Fairfax County, VA!

P.S. Since your lazy butt won't allow you to Google, here is the meaning of the subject line.

How I Came to This Pass

So, I decided I wanted to be a dog trainer. I am simply not cut out for office work - each day in an office brings me down (see: Peter Gibbons). Anyway, I love dogs. I loooooove dogs. And I thought to myself, after watching innumerable dogs shows and agility competitions on Animal Planet: "why can't I do that?".

I had no idea how to go about pursuing this dream. I did a little Googling, and found a few of (very) basic pieces of info:

  1. Do an apprenticeship
  2. Attend seminars/conferences/conventions
  3. Join associations such as APDT or NADOI

I had tons of questions, mainly: How does one become an apprentice? How do you know when and where seminars & conferences are occurring?

I couldn't find much on become an apprentice....I needed to know how to approach a trainer, how much of a time commitment there was, did I have to pay anything, etc.

I figured that I would just go for it and jump in blind. I decided to take advantage of my professional skills and offer an exchange: I'll create a web site, they'll take me on as an apprentice. This worked out well, since almost none of the trainers I found had web sites. I found emails for every dog trainer within a 25 mile radius of my house (mainly using the online Yellow Pages and Metropets), composed a form email and sent it out.

According to Lloyd, it is pretty standard to make first contact with a trainer via snail or e-mail.

I got a few responses, and my story of how I hooked up with Lloyd is in the April Archives of this blog.

After Lloyd and I started working together, the seminar thing fell into place - Lloyd lets me know about any useful seminars or conferences he hears about. His network is obviously quite extensive, so he gets wind of everything!

Some trainers will ask for money to do an apprenticeship (Lloyd tells me the standard is $1000/year), but if you have some useful skill, such as web design, administrative experience, accounting skills, handyman abilities, you could definitely work out a barter arrangement. A good dog trainer willing to be a mentor will work this type of thing out with you.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Just a coupla pics

Franklin enjoying the dog park, Monroe St. in Alexandria

Leo not enjoying getting his picture taken at the dog park.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Holistic Dog

Since Franklin has a little trouble relating to humans and has been reluctant to get in his crate, I am trying Bach's Flower Essences on him, per Lloyd's recommendation. He is taking Aspen, Rescue Remedy and Mimulus. Lloyd also recommended Water Violet, but I was unabel to find that in the store. He hasn't had too much interaction with people since he started the therapy, so it remains to be seen whether it will work. I will start trying to get him in his crate this weekend. I plan to put treats and food in there to entice him & keep the experience positive.

Also, I am considering a new diet for him, called BARF. People say BARF stands for different things, but the most common one I've heard is Biologically Available Raw Food. This means feeding the animal food that it would be eating in the wild. He will get raw chicken necks, backs and wings. Raw chicken bones are not brittle (as they are when they're cooked), so the choking hazard is less. He'll also get some livers, hearts, kidneys, etc. and kelp, which is very nutritious.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Puppy Class Plus

It was yet again another Hell Saturday (see earlier post on this topic) on June 10, 2006. We have a medium-sized class this time, with an English Bulldog, a couple of black labs, a Boxer and two unruly & aggressive German Shepherds. The Shepherds will stay outside the group for the next several weeks until they learn some manners and are accepting of the other dogs in class. By the end of that first class, they were fairly clam and were able to be within 30 feet of the other dogs without barking. The owners of these dogs have some major work to do. I admire their committment - they drive all the way from Frederick, MD to Great Falls, VA early on Saturday mornings to help their dogs.

We also had an Off Leash Readiness class, in which Franklin is supposed to participate. He will not get to come to class until a week from this Saturday, because I have agreed to handle a dog for one of the students whose husband can't be at class (they have 2 dogs). But it's a pleasure to work with Bonnie Blue Eyes, the black lab/husky mix. She's a big flirt and so smart. The Rottweiler in Off Leash Class was giving her big kisses!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It's Been a Year!

It's been about 1 year since I started this whole doggie journey. I left a really crappy job in February 2005, and spent a couple of months being depressed and tired. When my severance from the job ran out, I got up off my butt and emailed every dog trainer I could find in the DC area, and I got a part time job at the doggie daycare.

I worked with one trainer for a few months, but she was mainly doing dog sitting and very little training. I hooked up with Lloyd, and away I went! After I attended Lloyd's first puppy class, I was hooked, and I love it more and more every week.

The daycare job was really difficult, I must say. Some of the dogs honestly should not have been allowed there. See one of my early posts about that. Working there was a great experience, and the 20 hours a week I worked allowed me to get my own dog. I always felt like owning a dog was a distant dream, given my past full-time work schedule and my lack of yard. I did research and found that having a Pug in a condo was feasible. I found a reputable AKC registered breeder and connected with my little baby dog Franklin.

Franklin is a joy - he learns very quickly and loves being around other dogs. He is a bit shy of people, but we're working on that.

Now I'm back working full time in an office, attending to my apprentice duties during off hours and on weekends. Franklin plays at Lloyd's house every day & is completely zonked out at night (see pic of Franklin & Lloyd's dog, Crash).

Life is good.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I missed Puppy Class

I was sick as a dog (pun intended) on Saturday, 5/27, so no puppy class. I also had to miss a vet appointment to get Franklin's Bordatella vaccine updated.

On Sunday, we went to the dog park, just Franklin & I. Fiance Leo usually accompanies us, but he was late (what else is new?). It's starting to get hot here, so franklin only lasted about 20 minutes at the park. On Monday, he only lasted 15 minutes.

It is important for dogs with smashed faces, like pugs (I forget the technical name for a smashed in face, and I can't be bothered to Google it, sorry!) to be watched carefully in hot weather. Franklin was panting heavily when we left the dog park, but he was fine - just exhausted fo rthe rest of the day!

This Saturday, June 4, there will be several classes - the last class of the current session and the first class of the next. Not sure when Off Leash readiness starts, hopefully soon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dog Training Career Path

When I first met Lloyd, he showed me his dog training pyramid. The pyramid explains the careeer path of a dog trainer, as well as shows how many real Dog Behavior Consultants or Dog Behaviorists are out there (hint: not many!). I designed this for Lloyd's web site, but I thought you might like to have a look-see. I'm only 1/2 way through level 1.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Puppy Class 5/13/06

Today the weather was unexpectedly great... mostly sunny, temp somewhere in the high 60's. Franklin accompanied me to class to do his demo with the Holt halter. He did great. Lloyd took his leash, while I moved about 30 feet away. I had some treats in my hand, squatted down and called Franklin. The halter kicked in when I called and he tried to run to me. Lloyd stood still, and Franklin stopped pulling instantly and sat down.

He also got to see his girlfriends Marina and Zoe. Marina is a rambunctious yellow Lab, and Zoe is the only Bavarian Bloodhound (an example is pictured here) in the U.S. She came form Poland originally. I must say, Franklin has great taste in women!

Franklin also had fun with Raven the Rottie and Thor the young Dobie.

My favorite little pup, Kuma the fluffy black thing, was not at class today. No fluffy cuddles for me. Hopefully next week I'll get my Kuma fix.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Dog Training "Schools"

If you're thinking about becoming a dog trainer or dog obedience instructor, avoid any company that bills themselves as a Dog Training School. These people charge a buttload of money for something you can get for free.

A good dog trainer will be open to taking on apprentices and won't charge a fee for the privilege. Dog trainers will be mentors and teachers all in one, whereas at a school you will rarely get individual attention.

If you are willing to spend money to learn about dog training, go to your local college and take courses in psychology and animal behavior - they will get you a lot further than any dog training "school".

Another blog

I started another blog to show off my fabulous & tacky shot glass collection. Have a look-see. If you're 21 or older.

Franklin the Demo Dog

Tomorrow at puppy class, Lloyd will be teaching about getting your dog to walk by your side. He uses and recommends either the Holt Halter (for smaller or younger dogs) or the Sporn Halter (for larger dogs).

Anyway, when you use one of these halters, when your dog starts pulling ahead, you give a little tug on the leash, making sure the tail of the halter is parallel to and touching the dog's back. The halter will cinch up under the dog's armpits when you tug, which makes the dog think: "Huh? What the hell was that??!". It doesn't pull on or put pressure on the dog's throat.

Franklin has really responded well to his halter, so he will be doing a demonstration at class tomorrow. I hope he won't be too distracted by all the other dogs!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cargo shorts, anyone? Also, Crufts

I entered Franklin in the Old Navy Mascot search. I'm sure he's up against some stiff competition. A hundred dollars says a Border Collie who can disassemble a bomb and cook your breakfast will win. Pshaw....Franklin is by far the Cutest Dog in the World, even though he sometimes has a hard time coming when called.

I watched part of the
Crufts Dog Show, then The Apprentice came on. However, after Googling it up, I see that an American dog won! I do love Aussie Shepherds for their smarts and their beautiful coats. The Pug did not place in the Toy Group. What were they thinking?!?!? Pomeranian, my butt.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sorry for the lack of updates

I was out of town this past weekend, so I didn't attend puppy class. Now I'm pooped. I'll write more stuff sometime this week.

For your entertainment and eddification, some pics from the weekend in North Joisey and the greater NYC area. These are ladies I met on the internet. They tried to sell me a timeshare in Arkansas.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Positive Reinforcement

Developed by Edward Thorndike at the turn of the 20th Century, positive reinforcement is a gentle, reduced-stress way to train dogs and owners. One of the earlier proponents of positive reinforcement for dogs was Ian Dunbar, whose books are available online through most book retailers (like Amazon and Barnes & Noble).

Reinforcement (as part of operant conditioning) is defined by Wikipedia as:

...any change in an organism's surroundings that:

  • occurs regularly when the organism behaves in a given way (that is, is contingent on a specific response), and
  • is associated with an increase in the probability that the response will be made or in another measure of its strength.

For example: you give your dog food every time it sits when you tell it to. If the dog becomes more likely to sit when told to, sitting is considered to have been reinforced by the administration of food contingent on it.

Note that it is the behavior that is reinforced, not the dog. The food serves as a reinforcer, reinforcing or strengthening that behavior, only to the extent that sitting subsequently occurs more often or more quickly because of it.

I think positive reinforcement is the most gentle way to teach your dog all kinds of behaviors, from basic obedience, to agility, to fun tricks. When looking for a dog trainer or dog training class, be sure to ask what kind of training methods are used, and go with one that uses positive reinforcement.

Keep in mind that techniques for dealing with behavior problems such as aggression are different than those used to teach new behaviors, such as "sit" or "fetch".

Puppy Class 4/29/06

Puppy class was back on this week, after a cancellation last Saturday due to rain. It was great to be back on the field with the doggies! We have a large class this time around: Kuma the tiny puffy black dog; Thor the Dobie pup; Marcus the ginormous Dobie; Zoe the Bavarian Bloodhound (only one in the U.S.); Dixie the adorable & squirmy Chocolate Lab; Dexter the sweet Airedale; Marina the friendly Yellow Lab; there are also 2 Rotties and a big fluffy German Shepherd. I am probably forgetting someone, but hey, we've only had 3 classes!

The busiest part of class is checking everyone's collars before we get started. Dixie was particularly reluctant to have her adjustable slip collar put on...she's pretty shy of me right now. Most of the dogs are very friendly and bouncy.

Lloyd taught "sit with touch", which is an exercise to use when introducing your dog to new people - family, friends, and strangers. It helps the dogs trust new people and it teaches them not to jump up.

We also learned about 2 techniques to stop dogs from pulling while on leash:

  1. Stop dead. This teaches the dog there is no "payoff" for pulling.
  2. Turn around and walk the opposite direction. This teaches the same as above, while also giving a gentle physical signal to the dog via the leash jerking slightly.

At this point, most dog owners are learning the basics of handling their dogs on the leash, giving rewards, using their voice. By the end of 8 weeks, dogs and owners should be working like well-oiled machines.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Great Site

This is non-dog related, but you really should check out Rich (on a daily basis). He writes a letter a day to various politicos, Evangelists, mega corporations, government agencies, and non-profits.

Duties of an Apprentice Part I

Every dog trainer will have different tasks for apprentices, but here are some of the things I do at puppy class:

  • Observe! I'm there to learn, and a big part of that is just observing the class.
  • Set up traffic cones in a circle. The cones give dogs and owners a fixed place to stand and perform their training exercises.
  • Set up chute. The chute is used when the lessons on "come" begin. Owners crouch at one end of the shoot with food lures (i.e. treats) and the dog runs down the chute.
  • Paperwork! See post on Hell Saturday
  • Check to see if dogs' collars are on properly. Most owners use an adjustable collar that "slides", and it needs to be put on the dog in a certain way.
  • Make some noise. When we're practicing the "sit" in our first class, we have a few different noise makers we use to help the owners train their dogs in more busy environments.
  • Be a Supermodel. When certain techniques, such as how a dog should meet new people, need to be demonstrated, I'll serve as a "model".
  • Answer questions from owners.
  • Distribute handouts.
  • Cuddle doggies!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hell Saturday

The second puppy class is the one where almost everyone pays the fee and buys equipment such as collars, leashes, etc (the first class is a meeting with owners only - no dogs). With 15 people in a class, it is CRAZY getting all the paperwork done, making sure everyone has paid, what they paid for, who they are...on and on.

Hell Saturday for the current session was two weeks ago. One dog owner arrived early and I began their paperwork while Lloyd checked their collar fittings and leash. I happened to glance up to see if anyone else was arriving, and I see a parade of about 8 dogs and owners marching up the drive...right toward me! We were supposed to have extra admin help, but she didn't show up (probably forgot - class had been delayed by weather a couple of times). It was alllll me, taking checks, taking cash, handing out forms. It's been a while since I've done that kind of admin. It took about 30 minutes before I could come up for air.

I've talked with Lloyd about computerizing his forms. I think I'll pick up my Java Script and Java books and figure out how to do an online registration form, so students can have it filled out prior to class. Online payment would ROCK, but I think that's more pain that it's worth at this point.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Oh well

No puppy class or meeting friend and her Cavalier King Charles. Rain rain go away.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dog Tails from the Daycare

Some names changed to protect the guilty.

When I would arrive at the daycare in the mornings, the first thing I did was look at the list of attendees for the day. I would be overjoyed to see some dogs, like Sonny and Shelley, who rarely came in for daycare, but were a pleasure to be around.

Then there were the "other" dogs. Let's call them Apple and Seven - two dogs from the same household. Apple was some sort of retriever/herding dog mix and was as hyper as any dog. He liked to tear around the playroom at speeds up to 1,000 mph. This, of course, riled up all the other dogs, and before I knew it I had 10 dogs going non-linear. Apple also liked to play rough, and some dogs just don't appreciate that.

Apple also liked to bully new or shy dogs. He would sneak up behind his target, bite it's tail and skitter away. Little bastard. But Apple didn't have to worry about getting the beat-down from other dogs, because he had Seven to protect him.

Seven was a DOMINANT female Chow mix. This dog was so dominant she would lift her leg to pee. I kid you not. Seven was obedient with humans, but often felt in charge of the other dogs.

After the dogs' morning potty walks, we would load them one-by-one in to the playrooms. We had already let several dogs into a playroom when it was Seven's turn. She immediately went on the offensive with a sweet Collie named Barkley. She was put in time out (i.e. crated) for the next hour, and when she came back into the playroom she was fine, thank heaven.

But from that day on, the human room monitor had to be inside the room while the dogs were let in, which made it difficult, in that we needed an extra person to herd the dogs from the crate room to the playroom andthrough the playroom door.

If it was my business to run, Seven would have been banned from daycare right then and there. There are other peoples' dogs that we were charged with protecting, and ONE aggressive incident should be enough for banishment.

Apple and Seven were such a bad combo that we would take turns with which one of us would have to be in the playroom with them. You could guarantee a harrowing morning with them around.

Yeah Practice!

Going to help a friend this weekend with walking her dog, a teeny little Cavalier King Charles. We'll be using the Holt Halter, and demo-ing with Franklin. The weather looks none too good - hopefully we'll get a window with no rain (we call that the NASCAR Window).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Help in becoming a dog trainer:

Working at a Doggie Daycare

I think a good way to learn some basics of dog behavior, especially in a pack situation, is to work at a doggie daycare. Dogs are in a room or rooms together for a good part of the day playing and interacting.

Each day I would spend about 3 hours in the playrooms with about 10-15 dogs. Let me tell you, it is a sweaty, dirty, tiring job...I don't know how anyone could do it full-time. I worked about 20 hours a week in the mornings.

The morning shift was the most challenging, because the dogs were energized and ready to PLAY!

As far as the pack behavior, most dogs were well-behaved and played with each other well. When the toys (mostly tennis balls and Kongs) came into play, I got a glimpse of which dogs were more dominant, which were posessive, and which were submissive.

One critical thing is that the human in the room has to be in control at all times. I witnessed the dogs going nuts, barking & jumping, when a new employee would come in (new employees were always paired with experienced employees the first week or so). Until I gained the control and appearance of dominance in the group, it was very very tough.

I also got to see how crtitical training is. The dogs that had never had obedience training or were allowed to rule the roost at home were often difficult to control - they needed extra attention and effort from the human monitor to keep the rest of the playroom calm.

When a dog starts misbehaving in the pack, it ripples and causes the rest of the dogs in the pack to start acting up, either trying to "discipline" the offender or emulating the offender's behavior.

More one specific doggies and doggie stories from the daycare to come....

Monday, April 17, 2006

No Off Leash Class this time

Lloyd teaches a next-level class after Puppy Class, called Off Leash Readiness, where dogs and owners learn about "come", "wait", "stay", etc. We were supposed to start the new session this past Saturday, but since it had been a while since the last class (due to weather, etc.), no one showed. In about 8 weeks Franklin and I will hopefully get to participate in Off Leash Readiness.

Working & Learning

Is it possibly to maintain your regular full time job while learning to be a dog trainer?

Most definitely. Usually an apprenticeship will involve attending dog training classes and observing the instructor's methods and teaching techniques. Many classes are on weekends or in the evening, to accommodate the dog owners' schedules. Additional training is possible through night or online classes at your local college. Seminars and conferences on dog training and behavior abound, but may require vacation time from your job to attend. If you love dogs, attending doggie conferences is a vacation!

I decided to pursue my apprenticeship without working a full time job initially because I wanted to work at the doggie daycare I mentioned below. I was able to do this through the support of my fiance and my small salary from the daycare. If doing this kind of job sounds like it would be something you would like to try, ask your local daycare if they have any weekend shifts available.

I am back working full time in a office now, with plenty of time to pursue dog training on weekends and evenings. Working a "regular" job makes me even more excited for the day when I can call myself a Professional dog obdience instructor!


There's a mouse in my cubicle. I do NOT love all creatures great and small - especially small.

Let me bring you up to speed

About two years ago, I decided that it would be a dream to make a career out of hanging around dogs. I started researching how one becomes a dog trainer. There's lots of useful information out there, at sites like APDT, NADOI and others. I found out that I needed to become an apprentice to an experienced professional trainer or behaviorist as a first step, filed the information away, and waited for the right time to begin.

A year ago, the company I worked for as an internet marketing specialist asked me to become a telemarketer or take a severance. Since I don't like talking to people all that much, and I tend to take rejection personally, it's not hard to guess which option I took.

Once I left my job, with financial support from a wonderful fiance, I sent an email to every trainer I could find in my area. I also stopped by a doggie daycare near my home to ask about employment - I felt that working with a bunch of dogs all playing in a room together would tell me a lot about doggie behavior (I was right!) More on that in other blog entries.

In my email I offered a web site, designed and marketed by yours truly, in exchange for an apprenticeship.

I "interviewed" with two trainers, and got the job at the daycare. The first trainer I hooked up with as a woman in my age group who had apprenticed with a well-known trainer in the DC area and had a successful dogsitting service. I worked with her for a couple of months, but never really got into any training, since she was still transitioning from dogsitting.

The second trainer invited me to his house for an interview. He was very experienced and had been a full-time professional dog behavior consultant and obedience instructor for about 20 years. He invited me to his puppy class the following Saturday. At the time I debated whether I was going to go to the class, since I was still hoping to get something out of working with the first trainer.

Boy, am I glad I decided to get out of bed early on that Saturday and drive to Great Falls for puppy class. The trainer is well-organized, and has a well-thought-out plan for apprentices. He has become a great mentor and friend. I have been working with him now for almost a year, and I love the experience more and more every day. This is truly a pursuit of dreams. Check out my end of the bargain at
Great Falls/Reston Companion Dog Training.

This blog will memorialize my experience as an apprentice, and hopefully eventually as a professional dog obedience instructor.