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As a dog trainer, I’m blessed to work with both dogs and people—two of my favorite species! I spend most days interpreting dog or puppy behavior, and coaching people to teach their dog English as a second language. Dogs, like young kids, want desperately to be a part of things. They excite, sometimes over-enthusiastically, to every day transitions, like people coming to the door or family members leaving.
The little computer screen had finally projected sunny after a solid straight run of rain—a happy sight just weeks after our move. The kids blasted out of bed, eager to head down to the lake as my husband collected his papers and promised to help when he came back.
As I pushed my three canines out the back door to enjoy their new enclosed backyard, I was happy to appease my inner dictator who was demanding another day of unpacking, weather regardless!
As a professional dog trainer, I see all kinds of dog behavior and I will be the first to tell you that most bad behavior is simply bad training. But I’m also a mom and sometimes my momma instincts override my trainer’s cool. This weekend, my son was threatened by a neighborhood dog and I felt heart-stopping fear followed by deep frustration. This didn’t have to happen.
What happened on a recent visit to train a canine version of Bonnie and Clyde.
Next week, I will address getting a dog or puppy to match your lifestyle. Pure breed or rescue? Young puppy or older dog? How much does the breed influence the temperament? Male or female? Please forward me your questions to help me shape my article! Meanwhile, here’s a page from my Dog Trainer’s Dairy.
Meet Rocky, a Cane Corso, with a boxer’s name and attitude. He’s big. He’s bold. He barks with authority. And he’s only 14 weeks old. Uh-0h.
The psychology behind the modern day leash walk
Thanks to those readers who commented or emailed me on my article, “Winter’s Perils.” It was a great way to get to know some of you and a fitting introduction to my new bi-monthly column, “Ask the Trainer.” This new format will let me shape my column around your dog training questions and concerns.
Based on sheer volume, it seems the number one concern among my readers and clients is leash pulling.
Treat your dog like family, not just a member of the pack.
Recently, I was trying to finish up some last-minute work projects while my 7-year old daughter, Lindsay, studied the guest list for her imminent birthday party. Did I order the cake? Were the balloons definitely going to be purple? Should we call?
Frustrated and hoping a small project would distract her, I told her to look the numbers up in the phone book. And just like that, we had one of those generational moments. She had no idea what a phone book was. The times they are a-changing.
Choosing an approach that's right for your dog…
When my daughter Lindsay was 3, we made a sticker chart. Crafted out of poster board and bright magic markers, the sticker chart was supposed to encourage positive behavior. Every time Lindsay hung up her coat or brushed her teeth without a fight, we’d put a sticker on the chart. My friend Melanie swore by the sticker chart.
Exercise control or offer compassion?
Yesterday I saw Red the cardinal, our unimaginatively named but nevertheless reliable harbinger of spring, sitting expectantly in our leafless dogwood tree. Red’s feathers looked a little tattered, but he bounced excitedly on his perch. No snow! Longer days! Yippee!
The hardest thing to control in life, is not a dog…it’s your temper.
I’m proud to admit that I have a reputation for patience. Whether presiding over the first chaotic moments of a new group dog training class, sitting in a client’s kitchen listening to a long list of canine misbehaviors or guiding my daughter through the complex and sometimes volatile social strata of first grade, I manage to keep my cool.
The kitchen door slammed and there they were: my two children. Soaking wet and covered with mud. In April. I was wearing a fleece vest and Ugg boots, they were half-dressed, squirting each other with the hose. I’m so mid-life.
Setting my coffee cup aside, I hoisted my wet, wriggly toddler in one arm and took my daughter’s hand. It was time for an early afternoon bath.
The sound of the bathtub faucet alerted Whoopsie that there was water happening. Crowding into the upstairs bathroom, she looked longingly into the tub...
We spent the holiday break doing all the things that many families do in late December: we wrapped and unwrapped, shipped and received, pulled out and put away. We ate, drank, rejoiced, laughed and—just a few times—cried. But of all the 2010 holiday events, one stands out above the rest. Bohdie started toilet training.
What Dog Training and Preschool Have in Common
For starters, they should both be required.
Bohdie and I just crossed a bridge: we went to pre-school. I say “we” because although it is two-year old Bohdie that attended the class, it was 40-something Mama that learned the lesson.
One of my favorite things to do in my private dog training practice is untangle knots. Not the knots in leashes or long lines, but in the complex relationships between clients and their pets.
Sometimes the knots are simple…the “I just got a puppy, now what do I do?” type of call. Others are more complex: hair-raising tales of furniture destruction, car chasing, non-stop barking and seemingly incurable housebreaking problems.
This week, I'd like to share a story about the multi-dog household—another common dog training issue...
I had had enough. I tweeted, I posted, I answered emails and phone calls and then…I had enough. The weather icon on the bottom of my computer screen was showing nothing but happy little sun faces for the next several days so I made an executive decision: this family was taking a day off—midweek—and going to the beach. We were all playing hooky–from camp, from work, from Facebook.
Meet Aesop, the dog trainer’s dog. Eighteen months old, unreliably housebroken and occasionally a bit clingy, Aesop needs a little work. But he’s got something that can’t be taught: a gentle, devoted heart.
Oh—and us. Aesop’s definitely got us. Big time. Here is his story and how we all decided to let our hearts be buried in the fur of yet another dog.
Born Dog #58225 in a breeding kennel in the Czech Republic, this beautiful dog was repeatedly passed over by buyers because of a miniscule imperfection: an ear divot, a small nick in the upper corner of his ear. Buyers of champion German Shepherds demand perfection and that tiny flaw made Dog #58225— kennel-named Ezopp—hard to place.
My daughter is very imaginative. One minute she’s a leopard, the next a frog and a 30 seconds later, she’s a dragonfly. And woe is me if my day is on overload and I fall behind on the transformations. “Moooooom,” she’ll say somewhat impatiently, “I’m a SEAGULL now. You’re not paying attention.”
Dogs, too, enjoy our undivided attention and predictable routines. When the holiday season interrupts the regularly scheduled household programming, dogs can become unsettled and anxious. Here’s how to keep your pooch—and your family—on an even keel during the hubbub.
My son is going for the gold. He’s determined to break the world record for the oldest toddler never to utter a word. Einstein didn’t talk until he was 5, so I’m okay with his wordlessness, but still… no “mama,” no “dada,” just a complex combination of bellows and hand signals that convey his immediate desires with startling specificity. He’s only 2 1/2 feet tall, but he’s figured it out: why use up valuable brain cells learning to talk when you can bring an entire household to its knees with one perfectly timed, glass-shattering ARGHHHH! And maybe he’s fine-tuning the theory of relativity, who knows.
Sure, everybody knows Bo, the current four-legged White House occupant, but did you know that the White House is also home to 70,000 well-tended bees and has welcomed silkworms, raccoons, cows, an eagle, an elephant, a possum and a tiger? Not to mention dozens of dogs, cats, birds and farm animals? If the White House carpets could talk, they’d have quite a story to tell.
Recent presidential pets seem plagued by the same problems that afflict many of my dog-training clients. While Bo is well-behaved and stays out of the spotlight, some canine residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. have behaved in most un-presidential ways.
Every fall, my house becomes campaign central. Speeches are given; promises made. The lobbyists scramble to show their candidate in the best light. But this year, it’s a tough sell. The candidate is a rat. Literally. Because in my house, the campaign season is all about holiday pets.
For dog owners living in New York, it’s hard to choose a favorite from the long list of personal services. Is it the gourmet meals and custom beverages? Maybe the abundance of personal grooming salons, fitness studios, daycare services, private tutoring and excellent public schools? Perhaps you’re a fan of the poop pickup and takeaway services or live in a building that offers round-the-clock pet concierge services. As with so many other things, New York leads the way in dog-centric activities and all-around dog love.
My daughter is studying Greek culture in school and so, by extension, am I. I’m relearning the gods, the philosophers and the mythology. And while I’m loving every minute of it, I’m patiently waiting for my favorite of the Greeks’ lesson – the lesson of language and their definition of love.
While I’m fairly sure the Greeks didn’t spend much time considering their relationship with their pets, they certainly contemplated life and pondered the various shades and complexities of words and definitions. In our modern world, we use one word “love” to describe an emotion as vast as the sea. We use the same word to describe our feelings for baby chicks, our kids and truly fabulous shoes, but are the feelings truly identical? Of course not. Leave it to the word-loving Greeks to provide a better solution, using four distinct categories to describe that lovin’ feeling...
Companion animals are well-known for alleviating loneliness and lifting depression in people, but humans aren’t the only species that suffers from these common maladies. Like people, horses and dogs are social creatures that long for the emotional ties and daily interactions of a soul mate. Horses in particular pine when left alone. Despite their size, they are preyed-upon animals and feel much safer in groups.
Well perhaps my greatest joy on tonight’s radio show was finding a name for our latest rescue, a dear two year old cat who was left for good in a dented, dilapidated crate on the side of the highway. He’s been utterly nameless for over a month as we marveled at his loving nature and tolerance of all the kids, the dogs and the chaos under our roof.