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Monday, December 29, 2008

Goose Feathers & Dogs

Years ago I bought this wonderful down comforter. You know, the kind with a ton of the lightest and fluffiest goose feathers available. With our recent cold spell I thought it would be a great time to bring it out and put it on the bed to help keep our toes warm in the middle of the night.

The dogs loved the comforter, in hindsight, maybe too much. Yeap, you know where I'm going with this day last week we came home to a floor COVERED in these fine, light and fluffy feathers. We're not talking a few of 'em. Nope, they were ankle deep! You guessed it, a dog or two became a bit obsessed with our warm covering!

When you tried to gather up the feathers, they'd flutter away. Any air motion sent them flying to another part of the house and soon they were well beyond the initial bedroom. We were laughing so hard, the dogs would come in and sure enough, our light-as-air feathers would whisk away, often landing on the back of a dog or two. The best part is when the furnace kicked on and our fuzzy feathers would fly up to the ceiling and slowly float down. We weren't sure if it was snowing inside, outside or both!

Any way, here we are on day 5 of our feather collection and I'm amazed at where they're showing up and in such quantities! I should have taken a picture...darn it!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reflections on 2008

With a New Year coming up, one can't help but reflect on the past year, so I decided to list those things that were tops on my list.

First, the most immediate was the loss of my young dog Coal. I honestly don't know how anyone gets over the emptiness when you love 'em so deeply. Just writing about it makes me gush tears and I suspect it will always be that way. After talking with some people I admire and who have gone through a loss, I've accepted that this is just how it's going to be and that's okay.

However, it seemed to bring out either the nasty in people (gossiping about the situation around Coal's death) or the softness (thank you to those who cried, and continue to cry, with me).

On the other hand, the loss has made me appreciate what I do have. It sounds so darned cliche, but I think that's a natural part of life. Some of the things I've continued to work on over the year:

* spending more quality time with my husband, family, friends and dogs.
* focusing on my home & my relationships
* taking better care of myself (I'll always struggle with that)
* easing up a bit on the tough expectations I have for myself
* not giving a darn what others say, even if it's pure fiction
* and most importantly trying to remember that if I don't have anything nice to say, either say nothing or say it politically correct

I've been successful in many ways and of course there are other things I still need to work on...(I won't be bored in 2009!)

I've learned a few lessons this year that have hardened me a bit, maybe in a good way and then again, maybe not. I've learned that:

* some people are just mean. Strange to say, but there are some people who are just so unhappy with themselves, that they feel it's okay to "share" their ugly side in an attempt to make themselves feel better. My husband has told me to say "Who gives a flying f*uck" and mean it. I'm still trying to embrace that and certainly hope to get better at it!

* Next, egos run ramped in some places. Yeap, goes back to the fact that some folks just aren't happy with themselves and find it easier to blame others vs. taking responsibility for their own actions. This year I've met an out right bully who is so tainted with hate from their upbringing that they systematically take it out on those around them in an attempt to over come their own feelings of worthlessness. No logic in trying to sort that one out and I do have to thank another soul for pointing out that it's their issue, not mine. Nonetheless, it's been a lesson.

* Here's a news flash, did you know that some folks are self-centered...LOL? Now this won't apply to everyone, but boy do a few select really stick out. These folks are so vain, they actually think our actions are because of and ABOUT them. Thank goodness they're not my friends!

On the other hand AND on a more positive note, I have met some of the most wonderful people.

* I have an incredible husband who, despite my qualities and faults, loves me and we can joke about anything (including our funny quirks). I feel safe with him and have realized over the last year and a half of marriage that he really does know me (good points and bad) and STILL loves & accepts every part of that with a smile.

* Newsflash #2, I do understand my husband, quirks and all, and still love him. Since he's an engineer and I can be more of a creative, he's more laid back and I'm a go-getter, this can be a challenge, but it's a good thing. We really do compliment one another and we've now made it through several remodeling projects, a near death experience (he dropped a tree on my head), a car accident (my fault), 2 new dogs, a death and family events (you have to know his family ) and we still love each other and laugh daily at ourselves. I have never doubted that we're here to stay.

* I am also grateful that I have some of the strongest, clear-minded, caring and loving friends and family. They're in the WOW category and always brighten my day! I love my Selthofer Family, from CA to WA and beyond, you guys are the best.

* I have such fun students who allow me to be a part of their life and development with their dogs. That's an honor I hold dear to my heart.

* It goes without saying that I have incredible dogs with such distinct personalities. I've learned a little about myself from each one of them. Sometimes I haven't like what I've seen and more often than not, they bring out a side of me I didn't know existed.

In 2009, I'm going to be 40. I'm not sure I ever saw me making it to this age, but I have to admit that I'm looking forward to it and in some way I'm proud to be reaching this new decade. I have so much around me that is good and those icky things above are things I recognize, but chose not to incorporate in my life. That will be my new attitude and as compared to my younger years, I'm not going to apologize for it. Basically, you either like me for who I am or take a hike since my job on this earth is not to ensure you like me, but to ensure I'm being the best person that I am capable of.

To those whipper snappers with an attitude, they can take a hike. To those loving folks who just want to grow with me, come on along for the journey as it's sure to be a hoot!

Friday, October 3, 2008

From Seattle to Chicago to Dayton, OH

I spent today flying across the country in preparation for judging a dog show. I do this a lot and to keep myself from getting bored and cranky, I've developed a mental outlook that keeps me occupied.

First I always view each trip as an opportunity. Maybe it's an opportunity to finally read those magazines that have been stacking up at my house, or it's time I can spend brainstorming and writing down the dog training items I want to work on or exercises for my students, or it's a moment I can finally draft specific steps to a problem or project I'd like to tackle and it's always an opportunity to buy the latest and greatest books to read.

Even with all of that, my absolute favorite is to look at each trip as a mini-adventure and I try to find moments that I can relay back to my friends and family upon my return. The fun and humorous are what I try the hardest to find (because everyone likes a good laugh), but whatever comes my way, I take it.

For example, on one trip I sat next to a group of people who were flying to Seattle to try out for the TV show, American Idol. One person had flown in from Australia, another from the East Coast and so on. They were from different walks of life and some were humble, some were arrogant and some were...well...just weird! Regardless, here were people actively going out to pursue a dream and were brave (and/or stupid) enough to want to go SING in front of lots & lots of people.

Most folks won't leave their own neighborhoods to pursue a hobby, let alone a life long dream. It got me thinking about what my dreams were/are...and so you see how my "mini-adventure" not only kept me occupied, but allowed me to reflect on my own accomplishments and more importantly, to plan a few more for the future as well.

So back to my current trip....

As is typical fashion in flying these days, 3 of us are cramped into a row on one side of the plane. The guy in the middle was by far the pushiest, least considerate space hog I've sat next to during any of my travels so far. He leans over into our space, puts his coffee cup on our trays (nope, he didn't ask), plops his feet next to ours, elbows us, pushes our arm off the arm rest and at one point, tried to climb over my seat mate without notice so he could exit the row.

After he leaves, my seatmate and I make a pact that we're going to buy each other a glass of wine to ease our bruises . Eventually our middle guy comes back and for some unknown reason, I strike up a conversation with him. Maybe it was out of curiosity, I mean is he really that much of a jerk? Is he having a bad day? There's got to be a story of "why" that is lurking behind the actions.

So as we're talking, the "why" soon becomes clear to me. First, my new pal is raised and born in Boston. I've grown accustomed to the easy going ways of the Western side of the country and my Eastern friend is a product of his environment. I can appreciate the cultural differences and admire them. Next, it comes out that he was an attorney. Not the fancy Wall Street kind, but the kind that works for an organized labor Police Union. Talk about a non-nonsense type of career!

As midi-guy talks, it's clear he's very intelligent and speaks in such a way as you can't help but be pulled into the conversation. I won't bore you with all of the details, but we were daring and talked politics, the economy, society, world religions, about other countries and much more. I left that plan feeling quite a bit more educated, with lots of ideas and even more questions.

Turns out once midi-guy settled in, he wasn't so fidgety and he really was a neat guy to talk with. Not someone I think I would have picked out on the street to talk with, but well worth the time once I looked past the outward appearances.

Another successful trip where I didn't try to gauge my eyeballs out due to boredom...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Today's Quote is on Friendship

I'm always picking up nuggets of information that springboard my thoughts down a path I hadn't expected. Today's quote did just that:

To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship.
-- Thomas Moore

I'm sure you've had 'em - bad days. I'm sure you've met 'em - mean people. I'm sure you've received it - bad news. Whatever reason, I personally don't know anyone who can honestly say they haven't had at least one day where they felt like a bug who just smashed into a windshield. But there is a bright side to this scenario - friendship.

My friends have helped me to laugh at myself (of course I like the part where we get to laugh at them too!), were a ray of sunshine when all looked bleak, who made it clear they weren't going anywhere, who still liked me when I less than stellar and who shared their energy when it felt like I had none.

True friendship is worth far more than any gem stone you can buy and it certainly is a whole lot more stable!

So the call to action in this message is to be the best friend to those around you. Especially since you never know when that act of kindness will be the event that heals a part of someone's soul.

Going Green In The Dog World

Originally posted on July 8, 2008:

Going Green in the Dog World - It's Easy
Overall, they say that the United States is doing the least to "go green", although we're apparently the biggest offender when it comes to destructive behavior toward Mother Nature. Keeping that in mind, I've been on a personal mission to make my dog life/business as green as it can be!
So far I've made two large changes and I thought I'd share them since it's something that you too can easily do to have a positive impact.
First, as a member of the Lab Club and a Committee Member of their June trial held a few weeks ago I was allowed the opportunity to try a new concept to eliminate water bottles at trials. As I'm sure you know, water bottles are a huge problem in our landfills, they're often wasted, there's a big clean-up issue as they're strewn all over the trial grounds and of course they lead to full garbage cans which go straight to the landfills.
That's where the "Go Green" water concept came in. At the trial, the only water bottles purchased were for the judges. For everyone else (workers and exhibitors), we provided 2 huge water coolers (picture the kind that get dumped on coaches after a big game) filled with ice and water (store bought) from filtered, fresh water in 5 gallon jugs. We did provided paper cups, but ultimately, the idea is to encourage everyone to bring their own reusable water bottle to each trial.
I'm sharing this idea because I'm hoping you'll each go back to your clubs and encourage them to do the same. All that is needed is
2 - 10 gallon water coolers (on sale now at Home Depot)
4 - 5 gallon plastic/refillable water jugs ($11 each)
water to fill the jugs was a mere $1.75 to fill each 5 gallon water jug (found at the grocery store entry)
ice was less than $15 for a 3 day show
The Lab Club received an overwhelming positive response to this idea and it has already been adopted for other other Agility Trials. Additionally, the Lab Club Board liked the idea so much, they're going to be using this concept in the future.
The next idea I've been looking into is biodegradable poop bags. Like most of us, I'm currently using plastic, but with 5 dogs, plus caring for client dogs, it's time to change my ways to be more earth friendly.
Now keep in mind that just like you, I don't want "stuff" on my hands or leaky bags so this concept has to meet the reality test. That's where comes into play (no, I'm not receiving any kickback for this product ), there is a link on the front of my webpage (bottom right). They're biodegradable and I'm told will meet my cleanliness expectations. So I've taken the plunge and ordered a mass amount of the product so when you next see me, ask to see a bag and inquire how it's going. I suspect all will be fine and so I'm encouraging you to make the "green" change as well.
I've shared a few ideas on how to "Go Green" in the dog world, does anyone else have any they would like to share?

The Truth on Cat Population - Article

Originally posted on July 10, 2008:

Occassionally I come across some interesting animal information and this was one of them. The short story is below and a link to the full story from the Wall Street Journal is below.
Short Description:
Can a single female cat and her offspring really produce 420,000 cats over just seven years? This article examines the validity and origin of this commonly cited statistic, concluding that this statistic is likely an urban myth. A lower estimate is provided and substantiated by research by biologist Michael Stoskopf, who documented six kittens per year with a 75% kitten mortality.

Hundreds of media reports have used the statistic that a single female cat and her offspring produce 420,000 cats over seven years. However, research by reporter Carl Bialik failed to produce the origin of this statistic. It is believed that the statistic may have been derived from "assuming that each female cat survives into adulthood, and along the way begins reproducing herself at around six months, then continues creating litters every half year. That means 14 cycles of exponential growth over seven years." However, this fails to take into account kitten mortality, which could skew the estimate significantly.

Instead, The Feral Cat Times published a number closer to 100, citing research by Michael Stoskopf of North Carolina State, which showed that three quarters of feral cats' kittens die before reaching reproductive age.

Is Your Pet Prepared for an Emergency - Article

Sent on July 10, 2008:

Article on the SPCA Website:
Summer has proven to be a very busy season for natural and manmade disasters from wildland fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and the ever unpredictable earthquake. With the first official day of summer being Saturday, June 21st it is a good time to prepare yourself and your animals for the unexpected.

Animals depend on people for their survival during a disaster, but planning for your pet doesn't have to be an overwhelming task. There are two critical steps to ensure the safety of your animals if you must evacuate with them in the event of a disaster:

  1. Prepare – Have a safe way to transport your animals and have supplies gathered in one location that can be easily accessible.

  2. Plan – Know where you can take your animals if you had to be away from your house for any given amount of time. And appoint someone to evacuate your animals if you are not home when a disaster strikes.

To prepare for a disaster you should put together an animal disaster supply kit with everything you'd need to care for your animals for at least 72 hours. The contents will vary depending on the type and number of animals in your care, but every kit should include the following basic items:

  1. Food and Water. Keep a 3-day supply in an airtight container and be sure to rotate this supply periodically to ensure freshness.

  2. Containment and control supplies. Pack a leash, carrier or crate to safely control and confine your pet.

  3. Current photos of your animals. Include a photo of yourself with your animals if case you need to prove ownership.

  4. Collar and ID. Make sure you have a secure collar and up-to-date ID tag on your animals.

  5. Sanitation Items. Include litter, litter box, newspapers, plastic bags, disinfectant, and basic first aid supplies.

  6. Vet records and medications. Copy vaccination records and set aside a supply of daily medicines.

It takes less than a day's effort to put together a plan for you and your animals in the event of a disaster, a day's effort that could potentially save you and your animals' lives. If you found this information helpful, please support SPCA International so that we can education more people about disaster preparedness for their pets and save more animals' lives this disaster season.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Goal Set for What You CAN Control - Article

Originally sent on July 10, 2008:

The below is a portion of a Lanny Basham newsletter that is relevant to Agility and so I thought I'd share.
While the main topic was about the Miss Texas Competition, the points are relevant to any competition. Enjoy!
...Our clients were all told before the competition the same thing: Goal set ONLY for what you can control! You cannot control the outcome of a competition. You cannot control who the judges will chose in the end. But you CAN control your attitude about your performance. You CAN control your actions during the week and your performance in each phase of competition. Most importantly you CAN control your training.
Competitors in most sports seems to train easy and compete hard or they train hard and compete hard causing them to over-try. They have it backwards. You need to train HARD, put in the hours, the effort, the sweat to know that you did all you could before the competition to be the best you can be. When the competition arrives - RELAX, HAVE FUN and just enjoy the ride. Trust that all of your hard work in training was enough to carry you to your goal.
If you compete in a subjective sport or you are in a competitive business environment that is subjective remember that what matters most is did you give a performance that lives up to your potential? If so you cannot ask for more, if not, why not? Did you truly train hard enough to excel - did you out train your competition? Did you really relax and trust your training? Did you have a mental program in advance and did you follow it? Did you write in your Performance Analysis daily? Were your circles in balance?...

Dog Theft on the Rise - Article

Originally posted August 6, 2008:

We've certainly noticed this in our area. Interesting that this is happening across the country.
FYI - From the SPCA
Dear Friends and Supporters,

We have heard some disturbing news related to the slowing economy and your pets' safety. Reports of pet theft have dramatically increased this year - in fact, reports have quadrupled since 2007.

SPCA International cannot explain this rise, but we do recognize that people get desperate in hard times. It is extremely unfortunate that the victims in this case are our pets.

Thieves see our animals as helpless victims for their gain in a number of ways. Purebred dogs and cats can often sell for thousands of dollars. On Web sites like and the thief can remain relatively anonymous while selling your missing animal for a retail price. Thieves may also scheme to take advantage of your desperation by stealing your pet and waiting for you to post a reward. Returning your dog or cat a few days later as a hero and collecting profit with little suspicion.

Reports indicate that animals are stolen from backyards while parents are out, from cars while parents run a quick errand and from dog parks while old friends chat. I urge you to take extra precaution for your pets' safety this year, especially if your best friend may be viewed as an expensive breed. You being aware of this rising problem may be just the protection your companion needs.

I hope you and your family have a safe and fun August. If you can spare a small donation, we greatly appreciate and need your continued support – click here. With these summer months and a tough economy, we need all the help we can get from each one of you to continue building our efforts and supporting our companion animals in all that we do. We thank you.


JD Winston
Executive Director
SPCA International

Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) in Dogs

Below is a link to a very interesting article on a genetic condition in Labs called EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse). It hadn't been well known before, but the breed is doing a good job of educating folks. Since we have canine athletes (Labs or not), this is good information for all of us to be aware of.

Bioengineered Animals - Article

Bioengineered Animals is the latest advancement which could significantly effect our food source, our health and our medical testing. As with all items, there are pros and cons, but I think it's time we started to educate ourselves on the terminology and potential effects (both good and bad) of the future of our food source.

Below is an article on FDA Rules on Bioengeneered Animals. Animals are being used 1) for our food source and 2) medical purposes.

Beth's Famous Corn Salsa

For those of us watching our figures so we can run better with our dogs in Agility, here is a great recipe I thought I'd share.

Very easy to make Corn Salsa
2 cans of shoepeg corn
2 cans black beans
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
feta cheese
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil

Drain the corn and the beans. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

A Clicker Challenge

Written May 2, 2008

Ok, want a good clicker challenge? I've got it!
I decided that I'd like my dog to lick their lips on cue.
How does one accomplish this you ask? Well, it's not like I can pull their tongue out of their mouth to get the trick and lord forbid I try to lure the behavior because then I'll have a dog who thinks licking at my hand is what I want, so shaping/clicker training is going to be my means of eliciting the lip licking behavior (say that fast 3 times!).
Sounds easy enough, but holy cow that tongue is FAST! I had more missed opportunities before I finally got a few clicks in. I can also say with authority that licking my lips didn't elicit the wanted behavior either . Any way, once I got the timing down, it went quick after that, but timing was a challenge!
I encourage you guys to give this a try, it's fun! It does require a lot of waiting while the dog goes through it's toolbox of behaviors, but at some point they ARE going to lick their lips and you've got to be ready. Also another hint I wish I would have known inadvance - when you feed the their treat, be ready to click as they're swallowing. I noticed at least 1-2 licks would happen millimoments after the dog received the treat. This is another opportunity to click & treat to mark and reward the new wanted behavior.
Report back to the list and let me know how it went.
Next I may try blinking...

Heat Stroke In Dogs - Article

Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook


Heat stroke is an emergency that requires immediate recognition and prompt treatment. Dogs do not tolerate high temperatures as well as humans. They depend upon rapid breathing to exchange warm air for cool air. Accordingly when air temperature is close to body temperature, cooling by rapid breathing is not and efficient process. Dogs with airway disease also have difficulty with excess heat.

Common situations that predispose to overheating or heat stroke in dogs are:

1. Being left in a car in hot weather.

2. Being confined on concrete runs; chained without shade in hot weather.

3. Being of a short-nosed breed, especially a Bulldog or Pug.

4. Being muzzled while put under a dryer (this can happen in a grooming parlor).

5. Suffering from airway disease or any condition that impairs breathing.

Heat stroke begins with rapid, frantic, noisy breathing. The tongue and mucus membranes are bright red, the saliva is thick and tenacious and the dog frequently vomits. Its rectal temperature is high, sometimes over 106 degrees F. The cause of the problem usually is evident by the typical appearance of the dog; it can be confirmed by taking its temperature.

If the condition is allowed to go unchecked, the dog becomes unsteady and staggers, has diarrhea that often is bloody and becomes progressively weaker. Coma and death ensue.

Treatment: Emergency measures must begin at once. Mild cases respond to moving the dog to a cooler surrounding, such as an air-conditioned building or car. If the dog's temperature is over 104 degrees F, or if unsteady on its feet, the dog should be cooled by immersion in a tub of cold water. If this is impossible, hose your dog down with a garden hose. For a temperature over 106 degrees F, or if the dog is near collapse, give a cold water enema. A more rapid temperature drop is imperative. Cool to a rectal temperature of 103 degrees F.

Heat stroke can be associated with swelling of the throat. This aggravates the problem. A cortisone injection by your veterinarian may be required to treat this.


1. Do not expose dogs with airway disease or impaired breathing to prolonged heat.

2. Restrict exercise during the heat of the day in summer.

3. Breed dogs in air-conditioned quarters.

4. Crate a dog only in an open wire cage.

5. Provide shade and cool water to dogs living in outdoor runs.

© Copyright 1998, Macmillan Publishing. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 1998, Macmillan Publishing. All rights reserved.

Dog Food Podcast by Natura

FYI Item

To get the inside scoop on pet food manufacturing, join Natura Pet Products beginning September 10th for a special podcast - How Pet Food is Made - available only on

During this presentation, Natura's own Dr. Sean Delaney, vice president of Natura Pet Products, and Kari Liu, technical services and product development manager with Natura Manufacturing Inc., will give you an exclusive tour through our production process:
  • Ingredient definitions - why we use - and don't use - many popular pet food ingredients
  • Ingredient sources - where we get our high-quality raw ingredients
  • Pet food recipes - how our healthful recipes are developed
  • Cooking process - the difference between extrusion and baking
  • Quality control - why Natura established the most rigorous testing process in the industry
To listen to this free podcast anytime, just visit and click on the presentation.

Agility Judging & Who Our Customers Are

As an AKC Agility Judge, I have the pleasure of traveling around the country and judging dogs of all shapes and sizes. Since I've been doing this for a decade now, I took a moment to share some of my thoughts on the AKC Judge's List. Here they are:

Over the last several years, I've heard and seen quite a few "stories" from judges that made me proud to be a part of this group. I've also heard a few that had me shaking my head in disbelief too.
I know I'm from the old school where I see judging as a profession while others see judging as a hobby - that's okay. I think that we can all agree that the impact we have on a trial can either ease or add to the stress of those volunteers/clubs putting on the show. With that said, I would like to encourage all of us to take a moment to remember who our customers are (the one's who pay our fees, expenses & compensate us for our time) and that would be not only the exhibitors, but also the Club.
One example is that like it or not, we find ourselves in the role of helping Clubs keep costs down. Some of the things we can do is:
  • Make our air reservations in a timely fashion. Presenting the club with a $1,200 airfare bill for a flight within the US is generally over the top (even for today's standards).
  • Be realistic on rental cars. Sure you may drive a $45,000+ vehicle at home, but you can find reasonable cars/prices without having to revert to a Geo Metro. Folks, a $500 car rental bill for a 3 or 4-day show is excessive (unless it's Hawaii or Alaska which can reach the $175 a day range).
Also, Club members/volunteers are not our servants. Sure, they kindly help us out to keep the show going and most of us are very appreciative of the little things (like when they have lunch at our table at a specific time, get snacks we like, etc.), however, unless it's specifically written in your contract, all "extras" are above and beyond the call of duty. If your lunch or soda doesn't show up at exactly the time you specified or if your empty hotel-provided papercup ends up in the garbage by 2:00 p.m. - don't yell at those kind folks around you. Also, those putting on events are not our chauffers, laundry maidens, tourist guides or other service providers like we might expect on a personal vacation. Again, if they provide these items to you and it's not in your contract, it's an EXTRA, not a right. Lot's of people/clubs, love to do this and I've had some of the best times/experiences thanks to them. Rather, I'm talking about the expectation that this type of item be provided when the Club/volunteer hadn't planned on it or worse yet, volunteer it.
I truly believe the vast majority of us are reading this and thinking "Dah!" but I did want to throw it out there as a reminder.

Going "Live" To The World...

Blogs have often puzzled me. Why share your deepest secrets with the world? Why dish on people's privates lives, etc. Heck, I may never know the answers to those questions, but I do know this:

I've decided to blog in an effort to put all of those light-bulb moments down in one place. While most will be my light bulb moments, some will be the dogs & clientele I work with each day as well.
As is human nature, I suspect most of us can't be brilliant all of the time so I'm sure there will be some "not so brilliant" moments as well.

Oh heck, that's what's going to keep things interesting!

In the meantime, I am going to go back and pull some older content on articles & e-mails I've written to get things going.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

How Dog Training Has Progressed

Written May 2, 2008

Recently I decided to take the examination for the Certification Exam for Pet Dog Trainers and subsequently the Certification for Dog Behavioral Counseling. Lots of rereading and rewatching document dog videos are in my future, but what got me thinking the most was the application. You see, in order to take the Certification test, I must have a minimum of 300 hours of dog training experience. Before you read on, I invite you to add up your dog training hours - I think you'll be as surprised as I was!
In adding up my hours, I was amazed to find that conservatively I have approximately 4050 hours of teaching classes, 2960 hours of watching dog behavior while judging and over 3000 hours watching dogs as a spectator. These numbers don't include the countless hours I've trained dogs private lessons, obedience and puppy classes and they don't count the years I've spent training my own pups too!
Well, if I didn't know it before than I guess it's time I come to terms with the fact that I've officially "gone to the dogs" and that if I'm not careful they may make a "Best in Show" type movie staring my Busy Bee!
But the real point of this e-mail is that I'm amazed at how dog training has progressed over the last 10+ years. The biggest lessons I've learned and wanted to share are:
  • Dog training isn't about the dog communicating with ME, but rather me adjusting my ways and communicating with the dog in THEIR language. They give us so many signals and we humans rarely pick them up. Instead we say "Why isn't he moving faster?" as we turn our back on our dog (which in dog language means 'leave me alone'), "He knows (fill in the blank)", "He's being stubborn", etc. I often wonder why it's all about us....and how did we become so self centered in this dog/human relationship. Don't get me wrong, we're not always like this, but when things aren't going our way, we tend to become self focused and ignore our partner. I used to get terribly nervous before running my Dalmatian in Agility. I've since learned that giving her a hug at the start line and looking into her eyes takes the focus off of me and puts the balance back in my world. I try to make that a habit now.
  • Another thing I've learned is that when encouraging/training a wanted behavior, rapid repetition (click treat, click treat, etc.) and breaking things down into smaller, more manageable portions is my friend! In other words, I shouldn't expect my dog to be brilliant if I'm only going to notice the unwanted behaviors and ignore all of those good things they're offering up.
  • One of the most important things I've recently been reminded of is that sometimes my dog needs to figure "it" (the thing I want them to do) out on their own and I need to patiently stand/sit there while they work through what I expect of them. Now granted, I'm talking in manageable steps, but gosh golly, if I step in every time they stood there staring at me and opted to lure them into position, I've given them no reason to think and they readily disengage their brain...the opposite of what I want! This one is hard, but as it's also been pointed out, I'm rarely standing/sitting there for eternity like it sure feels like!
  • I've also learned it's okay to be silly with my dogs, to get down on the ground and play with them or to run around the yard playing chase. While my neighbors may find my antics funny, it is really good exercise! Like my justification on that?
While I'm sure I'll come up with more epiphanies over the next several months, I'd like to hear from you. What have you learned during your time training your dogs?