Thursday, June 14, 2007

From JennB's Blog

8 Random Things about me

I picked this up off JennB's blog.... here's the deal:

The Rules:

  • 1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
  • 2. People who are tagged write a blog post about their own 8 random things and post these rules.
  • 3. At the end of your blog you need to tag 8 people and post their names.
  • 4. Don't forget to leave them a comment and tell them they're tagged, and to read your blog.And here I go!

1. I'm the World's Biggest Slob.

2. I want to move back to Vermont as soon as possible.

3. I still love my childhood crushes: Dirk Benendict and Simon LeBon.

4. I listen to Neil Diamond all the time.

5. I don't think kids are cute. Any kids.

6. I think clothes are stupid.

7. I worship Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson & James Madison.

8. I hate work, especially office work.

I'm going to tag.....

  • JennB who lives in VT and makes me nostalgic with her VT stories.
  • Hockey Chic who has traded hockey for motorcycles
  • Dearest Cupcake who knits stuff and dogs up stuff
  • 8 people?!?!? Kee-rist.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Very very interesting stuff, and yet more criticism of Cesar Millan. Every highly-trained doggie behaviorist and trainer I have heard speak has mentioned (not in a good way) dear Cesar, although never by name. Very interesting that the majority of the dog training and behavior community seems to think he's a quack. Probably because he says his training is "instinctual", which seems to be a bunch of B.S. since he himself is not actually a dog and therefore can't empathize with dog instincts. His methodology flies in the face of decades of empirical study and carefully controlled research. But so much for science!

Anyways, the lecturer, Brenda Aloff, has a couple of books, but one in particular seems the most fascinating. It's a photo essay of doggie body language. Check it out <----click there (or click on the pic).

We did not attend Day 2 of the seminar because of Lloyd feeling under the weather and my anxiousness about the actual weather. We got home in 4 hours, about and hour and a 1/2 longer than normal due to the heavy rain and many attendent accidents. The Harbor Tunnel and BW Parkway were poor choices is all I can say. Luckily we were able to cut over to I-95 due to my superior navigation skills ;) .

Thursday, May 31, 2007

And We're Off!

Almost. Off to the doggie body language seminar with Lloyd tomorrow!! Probably won't be time for a cheesesteak. But I hear from reliable sources that neither Geno's nor Pat's is the way to go. Hopefully I can rustle up a good slice of NY style pie, though.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Thank god puppy class is on Saturday. After riding 8 rides at King's Dominion on Sunday, I can't really move very well now. For anyone who hates crowds but loves a good roller coaster (or 8), Mother's Day is an excellent time to go. Our longest wait was about 5 minutes for the Italian Job Turbo Coaster.

Anyways, this past Saturday was another "Hell Saturday" at puppy class. Everything went very smoothly, with the help of Lloyd's friend Mickey (I hope I spelled that right!).

We have one family in class that has a dog that is just not "fitting in". The family and dog can't seem to find the right chemistry. The dog is a chocolate lab puppy, a very very active and intelligent breed. Mixed with young kids, the activity (i.e. hyperness) increases. They don't have a fenced yard for play.

People - please please do your research before deciding on a breed and dog. Yes, Labradors are wonderful companions and very trainable, but they are sporting dogs. They are meant to hunt and run and swim. Just because they are popular and great all-around dogs does not mean you should own one.

I'm a big Lab fan myself. I love them and their goofy playfulness. But when I started to think about getting a dog, a Lab didn't even come into my mind. I spent at least a year researching breeds for temperment, activity level and intelligence to find a good condo dog. I finally settled on a pug, as that breed had the most "pros". That's not to say there aren't any "cons". There will always be something that is of concern when chosing a breed (in Franklin's case, the pug doesn't tolerate heat and humidity well, because of their smashed noses. We get around that by doing our outdoor activities early in the morning and keep the activities mellow the rest of the day).

The puppy class family now faces a tough choice, filled with heartbreak, especially for the young kids. They would probably have a wonderful life with an older, more mellow breed. In fact, we have a Bernese Mountain Dog in class that is the picture of calm.

To research breeds, visit the AKC, UKC (the UKC has a much stricter anti-puppy mill policy than the AKC) and read lots of books. I have The Dog Bible. After narrowing your choices to a few breeds, visit your local shelter or breed rescue organization. We have an excellent Labrador Rescue here in the DC area, as well as rescues for many other breeds.

I'll admit that Franklin is not a rescue dog, but after waiting for over a year for the right small dog to come into one of the shelters, I decided to go to a breeder. My personal belief is that you should try your best to find a rescue first, and then try a good breeder after exhausting those possibilities. Just because and a breeder has AKC next to his or her name, does not mean they are a good, reputable breeder. For an example of one of the best breeders of any breed, look at Rainmaker Ranch - check out their breeding practices and how open and communicative they are about their dogs. More on choosing a breeder to come...

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I miss Dearest Cupcake...who's with me?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Seminar Coming Up!

Lloyd and I will both be attending a seminar by Brenda Aloff in New Joisey in a few weeks. It's on doggie body language, which should be interesting.

And they have good pizza in Joisey. And Philly is really close so a visit to Pat's or Geno's may be in order. Are you a Pat's or Geno's person? I've never been, but I know one uses provolone and the other uses Cheese Whiz. I can't wrap my mind around which one I would like better.

Franklin will be bunking with Crash for the weekend. Can't wait for exhausted doggie time when we get back!

Monday, May 07, 2007

One Major Reason I Want to Train Dogs

I'm not cut out for office work. I'm just not. It's not for me.

Anyways, work is very stressful these days. Launching a new web content management system tends to be like that. So, your Dog Apprentice has to bite the bullet and deal with the stuff that pays the bills for the time being. Hopefully next week will be calmer and I can spend some time talking to y'all.

Will they let me say y'all if I move to VT? They didn't let me say "pop" when we moved from Minnesota to Vermont back in '79.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

No Worries

Dog Apprentice will continue in addition to DCTourist.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I Like to Blog So Much...

I made a new one!

Thank Whomever!

Forecast is for highs in the low 70's tomorrow. Outdoor puppy class will be a pleasure after 6 months of fa-reezing out there on the field.

This is why I need 10 acres of usable land...indoor dog training!

Monday, April 16, 2007

In Under the Wire

Puppy class just made it before the Naweastah of Aught Seven (that one's for you, Mark Grace) hit. The weather was quite lovely, actually.

One dog was moved up to the next level, Off Leash Readiness, because he already knows how to down & stay. I suspect he'll even be more advanced than that class.

Meanwhile, one student in class has two dogs, and his other trainer was not available on Saturday. So, I had the pleasure of handling Tucker, the little black pooch of unidentifiable lineage. He's a handful, let me tell you, but he's very smart and food-motivated (perhaps I detect some Border Collie in him?). I love handling different dogs in class - you'll remember last year I got to handle the lab/husky mix known as Bonnie Blue Eyes. Each dog presents its own challenges to the trainer, so my experience widens.

My earworm for this morning is Smoke on the Water.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I Can Seeeeee You!

So, since I don't get too many comments (ya jerks), I decided to put a little non-invasive script on my blog's template to count how many of you are actually reading this thing.

And here's me as a Modigliani painting:

Monday, April 02, 2007

Momma's Got a Brand New Dog

My Ma's new puppy came home on March 21. She's adjusting to life at the Steingrandt household (oy vey!). Here are some pictures to warm your cockles.

Introducing Higbee!

Back to Sleep Deprivation

Lloyd informed me on Saturday that we'll be moving the puppy class from 10am to 8:30am. That means my blissful 4 weeks of sleeping until 8:00 have come to an end. It's said that people need less sleep as they get older, but in my case, my ideal range is still 9-10 hours. But given my teevee addiction, I find it hard to turn off Donald Trump and get to bed at a decent hour.

However, the good news is that Off Leash Readiness is starting again, which means Franklin can finish up his lessons. I dropped him out of class last year because I was handling another dog as a favor to a client, and the weather got too hot for Franklin to be comfortable.

Class on Saturday was really great, yet again. One of the students was out of town, so her mother brought one of the two dogs to class. Let me tell you - Mom "got it" right off the bat. She wasn't worried or concerned about the little details, but understood the over-arching concepts over rewarding the wanted behaviors, even if the dog wasn't "commanded". For example, it usually takes several classes for owners to understand how to keep their dog under control by either holding the leash as close to the collar as possible, or by dropping to their knees and holding the collar itself. Owners will many times have dogs running & jumping all over the place until they can remember that the closer the dog is to them, the more under control it will be. Mom got this right away, and was kneeling and holding and reinforcing that dog at all the proper moments.

That is why this (as I said below) is a fantastic puppy class!

Monday, March 26, 2007

You Know What "They" Say...

An apropos quotation for today:

"Youth is wasted on the young"

It's hope and regret mixed together, I guess. See, today I am 35 years old. I am midway through a years-long career change. If only I knew then what I know now, is that how it goes?

The regret: I spent 4 years of college and my parents' money studying a field that I only used for 5 or so years after graduation. I could have studied psychology or biology, emphasized behavior theory and modification, and been rapidly progressing to becoming one of the top dog behaviorists in the country. Who knew working in an office was so soul-draining and reflux-inducing? I didn't. Every adult I knew worked in an office. It's just not for me.

The hope: I am doing it. Albeit 15 years later, but I think (hope) I have another 30-40 years of prime time left, and maybe I'll still become top of the field, although probably not in the realm of behavior, more in the area of obedience/positive reinforcement training. But the door is open, of course, for me to change my mind. And that's the wonderful thing about life - you never know what's around the next bend. The goal is entirely attainable - that I will be making a living helping people understand the doggy mind, and train their dogs to live among humans.

So, today I am telling myself: "yes, I could have done it years ago, but no worries - I'm doing it now".

I leave you with Franklin and his new friend, from the dog park on Sunday morning:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

For Jean

Hi Jean! I hope you're doing OK. Are you back in London now? I hope your friends are taking good care of you.

Anyways, since you asked:

Clicker training is a positive reinforcement technique used to train dogs do do a variety of commands, from sit to complex work performed by guide dogs.

In order for a dog to understand a command, a reward (in most cases a food treat, sometimes a toy) must be given to the dog within 3 seconds of his performing the command correctly. After 3 seconds, the association in the dog's brain between the command and the performance is broken. So, for example, if I tell Franklin to "sit", and he sits, I need to give him a small bit of hot dog (or freeze dried liver, but we won't get into that!!) within 3 seconds, otherwise he won't know that it was his lovely "sit" that earned him the treat.

But if you think about it, it can be difficult sometimes to get the treat to the dog n that limited time frame, especially if you're working with Joel Walton's "All or Nothing" technique (more on that later...but remind me to do it).

That's where the clicker comes in. A clicker is a small piece of plastic that makes a clicking noise when pressed. A trainer can hold it in his or her hand the entire time while training their dog (you can't do that with food...your dog will snap it right out of your hand!). When the dog performs a command correctly, the clicker is clicked, and the dog is also given a food reward. Eventually, the dog learns that the clicking sound means he did the right thing. Once the dog learns to associate the clicking sound with the correct action, it becomes much easier for the dog's trainer to reward the dog within the 3 second time limit.

You can see that this would be great for training guide dogs, because a lot of the time, the guide dog won't be near the trainer when doing a command, making it impossible to get a food reward to the dog within 3 seconds. But, the dog can always hear a click from across a room!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fantastic Puppy Class

We just started a new session of puppy classes. Not only is the class at 10:00 a.m. (as opposed to the usual ungodly 8:30 a.m.), but the dogs and humans are most excellent. Everyone listens, and no one gets freaked out when they make mistakes. And the dogs are all smarty pantses.

I also got to teach a makeup lesson, which I don't get to do too often. The people are doing clicker training with their dog, who is singularly squirmy and fun (the dog, not the people, although they could be fun, I don't know them that well).

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More Waiting

Alas, my readers (all 3 of you!), it may be longer before I can post again. Life is proving difficult as hell so far this year. Not a smooth ride at all, and I'm a sucker for a smooth ride.

So, I leave you with these doggie tidbits:

  • PBS Nova...wonderful hour-long docu about the evolution of dogs. If I lived in New Hampshire, I would love to take classes from the guy from Hampshire College. I love how he grits his teeth like a dog. Also makes a great case for mutts, as far as genetic health goes.
  • Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. Interesting and anecdotal book about doggie behavior and what goes on in their brains. I can really help when you find yourself anthropomorphizing too much.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Comment if You...

Saw me on Your Dog's Best Friend on Fairfax or Comcast public access cable.

More to Come

I will have fresh-baked posts for you all in a couple weeks. Yeah...sorry. I just started a new job, ensuring our government's propaganda machine is in working order, and will be attending my Grandma's memorial the first week in March.

Thanks for your kind words about my Grandma. It's hard to think about not talking to her, or getting the cards from her anymore. But with spring comes new life & new adventures, all of which she'll be watching.