Monday, July 23, 2012


If there's one thing that I have learned by living with my dear boy, Oscar, it is that he is constantly pushing me to be on my toes.  Just when I think we are in a good place, he'll do something to slip the rug out from underneath my feet.  While I appreciate this gesture, this constant challenge for me to do more, learn more and be more, sometimes I'm ready to call it quits. Sometimes our connection just plain old sucks.

There were times during the weekend that Oscar and I were totally chill, totally connected, having conversations with one another without saying a word.  We would look at each other and I could feel our connection.  Then there were times when, honestly, I don't know what happened. Oscar would run over to the fence and bark at our neighbor I was having a conversation with after being totally fine with the neighbor just a few minutes prior.  It's confusing, frustrating and makes my trust in him fall to pieces. It's incredibly humiliating to both of us having our connection crushed like that.

I understand and appreciate the belief that we get the dog that we need, but being a person who runs on the border between stable and anxious I don't need a dog who errs on the side of reactivity. When I work with clients who have "problem" behaviors in their dogs, I find it quite easy to help them get to a better place.  A place of better understanding on both sides of the relationship through mutual participation. With a little education and understanding and some coaching I have seen near miracles happen in these partnerships. I know this takes determination and commitment.

Getting to this level with Oscar is harder than I've ever imagined it to be. I feel know that I put in an enormous amount of effort and am more than willing to try new things to get to the land of mutual participation and respect. And, sure, there are times when Oscar and I have a connection, but I know there are times when he does not trust me and completely tunes me out.  It's as if he doesn't give a crap if I was around.  This makes me confused, upset and frustrated...not at him, but at myself.  I often look at him and ask him, "What more do I have to do here?" "Why can't you just trust me?" "Would you be happier some place else with someone else?"  In return I get a blank no one is one is listening.  Does he even want to be part of the relationship or would he rather just go live somewhere a land of never-ending tennis balls and Frisbees?

I am committed to developing this relationship and going with the organic flow of ups and downs. And God bless Oscar; he has been there to at least try everything I have asked of him with minimal fuss, however there are still areas in our relationship that need work. I need him to trust me and I know that part of this equation is me trusting him to do what's right. I will keep learning, but the relationship needs to be a two way street...I need a little bit of reinforcement from him sometimes that I am doing the right thing.

So, here I am getting off my soapbox with just one request...and I hope Oscar's listening..."Can we go about our lives together with a promise to one another that we will be equal and willing participants in our relationship?"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Finished DVD: "Rehabilitation in Aggression Cases" by Trish King

Don't let the artwork of this DVD fool you, "Rehabilitation in Aggression Cases" by Trish King is a great 1.5 hour seminar that is well worth the watch.

As previously mentioned (I think numerous times), I love listening, reading and watching Trish King talk about anything relating to dogs.  In this short seminar, she does a wonderful job highlighting a few types of aggression case and gives her opinions on which cases she would or would not take on as a training case.  As expected, Trish's opinions are realistic and she doesn't sugar coat her feelings.

Besides the video being recorded in what looks like a dark, boarded up garage, it was easy to watch and very informative, especially for those of us who spend time dealing with dogs that have behavioral challenges.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Progressive Reinforcement Training

Happy Monday everyone!  Here I am again, in my never-ending journey to become the ultimate D.B.N. and I had a chance to get my fix over the weekend; this time bringing to you a recent discovery in the wonderful world of positive progressive reinforcement training.  

My current DVD series rental from Tawzer Dog has led me to get a better understanding of "Trick Dog" training as led by a Ms. Emily Larlham.  The name Emily Larlham didn't mean anything to me before I opened up my doggie Netflix rental mail last week. Holy crap, I had no idea who this woman was (shame on me!) and what a wonderful inspiration she has and will continue to be to me. 

She has an absolutely fantastic manifesto written about her Progressive Reinforcement Training methods that is well worth a read for anyone training with their dog or helping others in classes/private sessions.  Her manifesto is refreshing and spot on, in my opinion, to what I am trying to do in my personal and professional dog-related careers.

Some highlights from Emily's manifesto:
"Progressive Reinforcement Training Means: 
1) Training by rewarding desirable behaviors so they will be more likely to occur in the future, while preventing reinforcement of behaviors that are undesirable.  
2) Interrupting and preventing undesirable behaviors without physical or psychological intimidation, as well as rewarding an alternate response (training a behavior you find desirable in it’s place). 
3) Taking an animal’s emotional state and stress levels into account. 
4) Socializing and teaching an animal to cope with his environment using reinforcement. 
5) Using a marker to train, whether it be a clicker, some other noise-maker, your voice or touch, or a visual marker.  Or, on the other hand, not using a marker, and instead for example reinforcing an animal by feeding a treat directly to his mouth. 
6) Employing humane, effective, respectful training based on the latest scientific evidence.
Progressive Reinforcement Training Does Not Mean:  
1) The intentional use of physical or psychological intimidation. 
2) Intentionally disregarding an animal’s stress levels or signals.
3) Holding selfish or uncompassionate goals for your training.
...Progressive Reinforcement Training is not a permissive form of training.  It requires providing consequences to all behaviors.  The trainer takes on the role of a benevolent leader and guide using these ethical and scientifically based methods." 

Beautiful stuff, right? I love that she is sensitive to the animal as an emotional being and could not agree more with her beliefs of interrupting and preventing undesirable behaviors.  

Beyond Emily's manifesto, she has a plethora of free videos (yes, FREE!!!) that are refreshing, easy to watch and easy to understand (I've already used some of the new learning this weekend) and are based on scientific-training methods (and did I mention they are 100% FREE?!!).  I encourage you to swing over to her website, and get your Progressive Reinforcement Training fix!  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Finished DVD: "Different Breeds Have Different Needs" by Trish King

This review has been a long time coming!  I've been busy, I swear, and my lack of blog entries should be excused.  ((I know, I know, none of you have probably noticed or really care that I haven't posted about a finished book or DVD in several months))

It is no secret to those close to me that I love Trish King.  I love her rationale for her training methods, love what she has done professionally and could listen to her talk for days on end about dogs.  In my opinion, she has the beautiful mix of brains, experience and humor that I strive for in my dog-related profession.  I have had the pleasure of speaking with her on the phone once when I was in my "What-the-hell-is-wrong-with-Oscar" phase and it was wonderful. She had empathy mixed with a sense of humor and what I appreciated the most was that she was realistic in her expectations. She didn't sugar coat anything, but said everything with her sound experience.

In her recorded seminar DVD, "Different Breeds Have Different Needs," I found myself nodding almost non-stop as she gave her overview of different breed characteristics in a handful of selected groupings (Bully, Herding, Guard and Terriers were the main focus).  In my limited experience, her findings seemed to be spot on and very informative, if not comforting.  I loved watching her little video snippets shown throughout the seminar showing specific breed behaviors, especially with the herding dogs for obvious reasons.

The main message I took out of watching this wonderful DVD was simple.  Dogs are who they are and are, and are often times predisposed to certain behaviors because of their breed.  Plain and simple, right?!  Then why do so many people (including myself!) get upset or frustrated when our beloved furry family members act the way they are supposed to?  Part of moving forward is accepting your dog for who they are hardwired to be and channeling that knowledge in the right direction!

Thank you, Trish King, and I'll have another!

On deck: "Rehabilitation in Aggression Cases" DVD by Trish King

Monday, July 2, 2012

Lettin' Dogs Be Dogs

This past weekend was all about hanging out as much as possible.  Between crazy work schedules, visiting relatives from out of town and leaving town for our own vacation, Aaron and I did our best to spend as much time as possible outdoors just hanging out.  Of course mother nature has been doing her finest job of throwing heat at us and saving all precipitation for other areas of the world, but that didn't stop us from getting outside and enjoying the weather. 

Oscar and Fanny doing whatever they want.
Oscar has been maturing quite a lot the past couple of months.  I never thought I would see the day where he voluntarily laid down outside, but he has added the fine art of lounging into his vocabulary.  Of course as soon as someone gets up to move, he's ready to play ball...or when he hears something suspicious on the other side of our fence, he just simply cannot sit still and let things pass.  This world was made for his investigation!!  

Fanny has long ago perfected the art of laying low and enjoying the cool, damp shady areas of our yard.  She's a master at sniffing out her spot to potty, then b-lining it for one of her favorite spots.  In her fine age she isn't as tolerant of the heat as she used to be, so when we get up off our butts to do something in the yard, she slowly gets up and looks at us hoping we will go the nice, cool A/C house.  We, of course, let her in at her polite request. 

I enjoy these moments of lounging...just letting everybody be what they want to be.  Oscar loves the new sod area of our lawn and lays down on it with a big thud. Naturally, he has a toy nearby - if not in his mouth - and will sporadically fling himself onto his back with such gusto as he air bats at the toy between his teeth.  It's a sight that makes me smile with delight.  Fanny watches from a far thinking to herself, "Doesn't he know that is such a waste of energy?  What is wrong with him?"  

The summer days are just beginning and I enjoy being with the pups outdoors, just doing what we do...enjoying each others company and lettin' the dogs just be dogs.