Delightful Doggies, Special Message

Rest in peace, sweet Uma, dear teacher and friend

Yesterday we finally said goodbye to our MaxFund foster dog, Uma.

Such a pretty girl

It was a typical morning; all the dogs had finished breakfast and we were relaxing before taking morning walks. I was on the couch with Hidalgo and Uma. Suddenly Uma raised herself quickly and in such a way as I hadn’t seen before; she typically has twitches and acts strangely due to her being an old dog with neurological issues, but this was different. Her head and ears were extended so straight and upright that her head looked like that of a Great Dane. Thinking it would probably pass, as most things do for her, I asked her if she was ok, pet her, and went back to reading something, but it didn’t pass.

Worried she would have a seizure soon, I put her on the bed on the floor while Chris, my husband, readied the Diazepam. It was apparent at this point that she had lost function of her back legs. Something was definitely wrong—she kept moving her mouth in strange ways, and her head was wobbling. I got treats and she couldn’t seem to even follow them. Her eyesight was at least partially gone, and even her sense of smell seemed off. Yet, she wasn’t having a full-blown seizure. I called the MaxFund clinic right away and was told to bring her in.

Happier times with brother Jasper at Garden of the Gods

I carried her into the clinic and the tech agreed that it was probably time for her to go, after we went through what had been happening. At one point while she was on the exam table, she leaned over and her nose landed on the table, and she just let it be there, supporting her head. I’ve seen some really weird stuff at times but this loss of function was some of the weirdest. We put her back on the floor and I waited there with her for a doctor to come in an assess her. I called Chris and told him to come down right away. I just kept petting her and telling her how much I loved her, as she went in and out of sleeping and trying to “come to.” At one point she was so still I thought she might go ahead and leave, and told her it was fine to go.

The doctor who assessed her said her heart sounded much worse and that there wasn’t much they could do for her. We knew it was best to let her go. Likely her heart would fail, and that may be why she had been losing weight. (We had been trying to figure out why she had lost 10 pounds since March but only had some blood work done and were working on scheduling an ultrasound.)

Chris showed up and we spent some time with her before we ultimately watched her leave us, very peacefully, with help from the very caring doctor and tech.

Uma was our foster dog, but she was truly OUR dog.

A wonderful moment between Uma and Chris

I met Uma at the MaxFund shelter back in January 2012. I had been coming in to work on training with the dogs, as I was in the beginning stages of learning dog training, and I was going there very regularly. I had also decided to help with washing dogs. I was getting ready to leave one day when I saw her in a kennel—her beauty struck me right away, and many people know I have a bit of a penchant for good-looking herders. I asked a fellow volunteer, “Who is this?!” and found out that Uma had been found left alone in a local dog park, no one to claim her. Some good Samaritans took her in and tried to find her people to no avail, and ended up bringing her in to MaxFund. She had a very gnarly case of arthritis in her front legs, and a bad hot spot on front right paw. No doubt that spot was getting worse, waiting in a shelter kennel.

The following week I went back to see who needed baths. Uma’s was the only name on the list. I gave her a bath and a tech helped me trim her nails. She was such a sweet girl. I knew I had to get her out of there, though I wasn’t committed to adopting, so I convinced Chris to bring her home as a foster, and we did, on February 5, 2012. I was told by the vet that she was probably at least 13 or 14, and that she would maybe have another year or two of life, by how advanced her arthritis was.

Uma’s arthritis and bad heart (congenital heart murmur) were all she really had when we first brought her home. She and my dog, Jasper, who was a little over a year old at the time, got along well, playing in the snow in the yard. While she would still be limited by how bad the arthritis was, she never let it hold her back. We were able to take her out on short romps in the mountains (nothing too long or too strenuous!) and go for nice walks in town, and she and Jasper did love to play every so often.

Jasper and Uma play

In late March we were contacted by potential adopters. We did a home visit and they had a great home and seemed to be a perfect fit. The only concern I had were some stairs that weren’t blocked off, and told them they would need to install a door or a very good gate to ensure she didn’t try to go down them and fall; her arthritis made it impossible for her to navigate stairs safely. She was formally adopted by them and we took in another foster, but about six weeks later I got a call from the shelter saying she had been returned, and her front right leg was broken. Apparently the new family had installed a gate, but after coming home one day, found it broken and her at the bottom of the stairs. They returned her because they claimed she had more health issues than we had disclosed, and couldn’t care for her.

I was just anxious to get her back into my home. She had to stay in the shelter a few days so they could clear her medically to be back in my care, so I visited her every day there and told her I was sorry she had to be there, that I would be back to get her out. When we did get her back on May 3, we had to be careful as she was about 20 pounds overweight! With her broken leg/arthritis, we put her on a diet and once the leg was healed, she was able to get enough exercise and lose the weight.

About two weeks after we got her back, I was staying at a client’s home for an overnight pet sitting gig when Chris called me at about 2:30 in the morning. Uma was having convulsions and foaming at the mouth. I told him it was a seizure and to just wait it out, and to get her to an emergency facility, which he did. She had a grand mall seizure, the first we’d ever witnessed. We aren’t sure what started them, but perhaps a bump to the head falling down the stairs, or perhaps that is what caused her to crash through the gate and fall down the stairs—we aren’t sure—but this was the first we knew of, and we started her on meds to control them.

Lovin’ the belly rubs!

By October of that same year, I was noticing behavior changes in Uma as well. She’d always done fine around other dogs, and I would occasionally take her to dog parks, where she would usually stay to herself, sniffing around the parameter, or just lying down. She wasn’t one to play with lots of dogs, only Jasper occasionally. However, she started to be more like a herder—she would chase after dogs, barking, if they were playing or came into her space, and she would start staring more. There weren’t any problems and she always stopped or was easily redirected, but on Halloween, I noticed her staring more as we entered the dog park, and she went at a Rottweiler in a way that I felt was a little less “playful herder” and a bit more over-reactive, so I removed her and stopped taking her. She also started to become more leash-reactive: not only at dogs, but other people, birds, and random objects (like a recycling bin that was out on a corner).

A mentor trainer I had in the beginning came out to evaluate her and said I was limited in what I could do for her. The reactivity was likely from the seizures/her neurological issues, and training would be unable to really fix the problem because of the health issues compounding it. I was saddened by this news, as I was hoping I could relieve her (and my!) stress about this. I was embarrassed by her reactions and was terrified of her hurting another dog or person, or worse—a child. I avoided as many things as I could on walks with her, and if we encountered over-zealous off-leash dogs, I would drop Jasper’s leash to let him deflect the dog so she wouldn’t be in potential harm’s way.

Enjoying a dip in the water

By the following year I had been getting to know other trainers and discovered clicker training methods. I was doing everything I could to learn as much as possible not only for my own professional career, but for Uma. How could I help her? How could I keep her safe and rehabilitate her? I didn’t want her to be so stressed on walks. I wanted her to have a happier life. Finding Leslie McDevitt’s book, Control Unleashed and the Look At That method changed everything! Uma was finally able to learn how to cope with stimuli on her environment, and disengage from it and focus on me. Life changed for us, and I knew that if these kinds of methods could work for her, they could work for ANY dog. It was a true revelation to my life and hers, a revolution! I ironically took a video just this Sunday of her, being so good on a walk.

I would get inquiries about Uma, but when I’d list all the health/behavioral issues (bad heart and thyroid, arthritis and dysplasia that was now moving to the back end, seizures, her reactivity) and the commitments that came with them, it was too much for people. Later down the line it became more intense; as her liver got worse, she was up to medications five times a day, limiting how long Chris and I could be away, not to mention the cost of that plus the acupuncture treatments we got regularly for her. She had an intense routine and while her reactivity got better, her hunting for food never lessened. We had to be very careful about management with her, ensuring things were put away and sometimes even crating her. Everything in our lives had to consider her and what could happen to her.

In fall of 2014 she had a lump that was found to be cancerous. She underwent surgery like a real trooper, and became cancer-free. She kicked cancer’s ass, a true tenacious cattle dog!!!

Kicking cancer in the booty with a BIG smile!

Uma was a real treasure. She was always happy, always had a smile regardless of how painful it must have been to inhabit her body, and grateful for the walks to sniff as much as she could at her leisure. Some days she would surprise you by going that extra block, while a lot of other days it was a simple 20-minute walk around one block. Her spirit was inspiring. We had lots of nicknames for her, like Sassy Britches. She was full of sass and ready to take on the world, despite her frail body.

She taught me so much. I wouldn’t have become the trainer I am without her. She pushed me to learn and grow, and taught me a TON about patience, kindness and persevering. I owe her so much and wish I could have given her more…my heart is so broken today, the house so quiet without her demanding her breakfast or shuffling around to try and find any scraps she can, or to try and scramble on the couch for cuddles. I know I’ll get through this, but right now it’s terribly painful.

Hanging out with her beloved brothers

I will miss Uma terribly for a very long time. But I will also carry on and push through this in her spirit, as she has helped teach me to do. Uma led by example. She never let her pain hold her back from enjoying her life, from always having a smile, and always wanting ear scratches and belly rubs. She lived far longer than the year or two expected, at almost five! Amazing girl.

Rest well, dear Uma-loompa. Take care of our Soup, Buttons and Merlin, and we’ll see you at the Bridge, you playful, lovable pup, you!

Owner, Delightful Doggies

Delightful Doggies, Special Message, Training & Behavior

Holiday training tips

The holidays are just around the corner!

This time of year can be a challenge not only for us humans, but for our dogs. It can bring up a host of behavior problems, too–jumping, countersurfing, begging, destructive behaviors, hiding, and house soiling can be some of the most common. Some of these problems are because dogs are too happy, excited and not in control of their impulses, while others may be based out of fear or anxiety. Punishing dogs for these behaviors usually doesn’t help or work, so I wanted to put together some tips to help both humans and their dogs be better prepared for success!

Hidalgo has a great default down on his mat!
  • For the fearful dog: Remember, if your dog has a hard time with people coming into the home, with strange new sounds and decorations, and anything in between, that she or he is not doing it because they want to “ruin” your time, but because they are afraid and uncertain! These dogs should be able to have their own space away from the festivities where they can relax. Placing them in another area of the house just for them, with soft music and/or white noise and great enrichment activities can be key to their happiness and less stress for everyone.
  • For the hungry dog: Many dogs find it hard to resist the temptation of items left out on counters and other surfaces. Dogs are natural scavengers, so it’s up to us to manage the environment and teach them what to do. By keeping items out of reach as much as possible, we’ll have less to contend with, and less temptation for them to possibly give into. Beyond that, teaching a default LEAVE IT is key; I love this video from Emily Larlham/Kikopup on addressing countersurfing (and there are several other LEAVE IT videos on her channel too)!
  • For the super-social, I MUST RUN UP TO YOU AND JUMP ON YOU TO TELL YOU HOW HAPPY I AM TO SEE YOU! dog: Jumping and being happy to see you in an exuberant way is all very normal and natural for that friendly dog. You can teach your dog that standing or sitting are much preferred ways of approaching you by teaching and reinforcing these behaviors; I will typically give soft praise and maybe one treat for standing while sitting gets more! By “grading” it this way, the dog can learn that sitting is the most valued way to greet. You can also manage this behavior by keeping your dog on a leash or tether, or behind a gate when guests come over. Management is important so a dog won’t get more practice at the undesired behavior, and you can then prompt for a sit and reinforce it–not only with treats, but by ultimately getting to meet the guest! If the dog breaks the sit, the guest can walk away. Only by sitting does the guest get to come say hi, and give attention.
  • The magical mat: I am a HUGE fan of teaching dogs to relax on a mat, and use it as an alternate behavior in many situations. By having a dog learn a default down behavior on a mat, you can pair it with going there to greet guests, to get their own special stuffed Kong while guests enjoy their meal, and many more scenarios. By reinforcing the dog lying down on the mat, being relaxed on his hip, putting his head down, etc., he will view the mat as a place for doing those calm behaviors. You can also teach him how to go to the mat when the doorbell rings! There are many applications for this tool; we also love this list from The Modern Dog Trainer.

We hope these tips can help you survive this special time of year. Please contact us if you need more help! We do have openings in our schedule, and would love to work with you.

Happy Holidays!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Delightful Doggies, Special Message

Five-point checklist for a safe Halloween for your dog

Halloween is a lot of spooky fun for humans, but for some dogs, it can be downright scary! There are plenty of dangers that can be avoided if you plan and prepare well. Here is our five-point checklist to help you and your dog remain safe and happy.

  1. Keep candies and decorations out of their reach.
    Human candy is for humans only! Chocolate and xylitol, a common sweetener, are both highly toxic to dogs. Likewise, be careful when it comes to decorations. Chewing on electrical wires and unattended candles can be deadly risks. Pumpkins and corn decorations can also be harmful if ingested in large amounts: at the very least, these real foods can cause gastrointestinal upset and at the worst, if a dog were to chew off large chunks, a choking or blockage hazard. Glow-in-the-dark accessories and fake blood can also be toxic. If you suspect your dog has ingested something, rush them to your nearest emergency clinic or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for help: 888-426-4435.

    Reg loves his pumpkin costume!
  2. To costume, or not to costume?
    Many people love dressing up their dogs for Halloween, but do their dogs actually love it, or are they just tolerating it? Making sure the costume fits well and is introduced properly and positively is key. By putting it on slowly, little bits at a time, and pairing the experience with lots of little bits of high-value treats (i.e., deli meat without flavorings or additives, bits of cheese or natural hot dog, etc.), your dog may be able to tolerate a costume just fine. Remember your dog should be able to move freely in the costume, and to remove small parts if they can pose a possible choking hazard. If your dog still shows signs of not enjoying himself in the costume, don’t force him to wear it! Most dogs are happiest not having to wearing costumes, so it’s important to remember that. Remember, signs of discomfort/stress can be very subtle: licking of the lips, turning the head away, seeing the whites of the eyes, folded down/back ears, tucked tail, hunching over, furrowed brow.
  3. Preparing for Halloween trick-or-treaters and parties is very important!
    Some dogs don’t tolerate large parties or unfamiliar visitors coming to the door, and with Halloween costumes making everyone look and sometimes even smell different, it can be even more frightening. Opening and closing of doors can also pose a risk if your dog is likely to bolt from fear, or even excitement. Management is most important. For fearful or anxious dogs, having them in a separate area with some soothing music or white noise machine to lessen the noise of the party can be best. You can also opt to give some calming treats and enrichment, to assist as well as give him something to do. For dogs that may want to join in the party, remember to be careful with opening and closing doors—it may be best to keep him on leash or have gates in place to prevent him from going into areas where he could possibly bolt and escape.
  4. Bring them in!
    Remember that pets unattended in yards can always be at risk, regardless of the festivities taking place or time of year. Because so many more people are out on Halloween in costume, it can again be scarier for your dog and put him or her at added risk, so it’s best to bring them in and only take them out while you are able to actively supervise them.
  5. Don’t forget to have proper ID for your dog.
    Remember to have a collar with up-to-date contact information either imprinted on the collar, or on attached tags. Microchips are also a great tool to consider. This will ensure that, if your pet does go lost, you will be reunited more quickly.

In addition to our five-point checklist, we really love Doggone Safe’s Halloween Safety Page, filled with videos and other tips for the entire family.

Happy Halloween!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Special Message, Training & Behavior

The Cesar Millan pig killer show: my response

I have struggled, ever since this story broke, to come up with my own response. It has been one of the most difficult things ever, to come up with the right words and response to this, as it stirs a lot of emotions and outrage for me. Many of my colleagues have done great jobs in their own right, and I have read many of these great pieces, such as Lisa Mullinax and Annie Phenix with Dogster. I have to echo their sentiments and the facts they present. There are so many aspects to this case, but I guess what I’d like to concentrate on is what I would do with a dog like Simon.

First, I will admit that a pig killing dog is not something I’ve personally crossed, as there aren’t many pigs in the city of Denver, where I live and work. Most of the dogs I work with are those with aggression and/or reactivity toward other dogs or people, and most of them are either fearful or are in physical pain, or a combination of both. I work behavior modification clients with a certified TTouch practitioner, Courtney Kirman. I do this because I find those methods complementary to the training we do, as it can help them feel more aware of their physical state, and help them feel better and more calm.

In fact, this is what I would first do with Simon: evaluate his physical health first! When was his last vet exam, and what were the results? What does his gait look like? Is he showing signs of being stressed or anxious–when and where? There are many things I use to help to try and figure out what may be at the root of the problem in this regard. When you have a headache or pull a back muscle, for example, it can cause you to have a “shorter fuse.” Not feeling well physically is an important factor, and I also want to ensure the dog I’m working with feels his or her best to maximize the ability to teach him or her what I want her to do, and make it a positive experience.

Once I’ve covered that base, I would also implement a gradual, under-threshold desensitization and counterconditioning (DS/CC) protocol for Simon. This means I would work with him at his own level of comfort and pace to ensure he gets used to noticing pigs: seeing them, hearing them and smelling them, and making it a very wonderful–in fact, THE MOST WONDERFUL–thing EVER! Once he views them as something wonderful and is in a “happier” state of mind, he will be able to make the right choices to behave around them.

Since Simon is a known killer of pigs, this will take some time. The more severe the response, the more work it will generally take to get a more relaxed emotional response. Killing pigs is something to not take lightly! I would also acclimate Simon to a basket muzzle; this way, he can be fed treats, pant and drink water if needed, but not be able to bite anyone or anything. Until he is conditioned on this muzzle, I would always work my DS/CC with him on leash outside the pig pen, so he cannot get to the pig(s) at all.

Outside the pen, I would be clicking a clicker every time Simon looks at a pig (or I could use a marker word, like saying YES) and follow it with the most wonderful thing ever to him, which may be boiled chicken, or bits of hot dog, deli meat or cheese. I would do this repetitively, and for a short amount of time. This technique is known as the Look At That or the Engage – Disengage game, and is a great way for a dog to learn how to acknowledge something scary or very exciting without displaying signs of over arousal, fear or aggression.

If he shows any signs of stress or aggression, I would make note of that and make more space, and perhaps take a break. It’s important to know the limits; I may make mistakes, particularly in the beginning, of getting too close or training too long, but if I pay attention to Simon’s body language and make those connections, then I can modify my plan to make it less stressful.

For instance, if I was doing this with Simon at a distance of 10 feet from the pig pen, and had been doing it for five minutes–let’s say he had been doing fine until the last 30 seconds, showing slight signs of stress like sniffing and looking away while licking his lips–then I’d resume training later at being 10 feet away for only 3 minutes, so he would be less likely to be stressed, and have a positive training experience.

It’s key to keep the dog from practicing any aggressive, reactive behaviors, and from as much stress as possible. No one can learn when they’re stressed–behavior modification is MUCH harder if there is a lot of stress–and it will not make for a positive experience. If I go too far too fast, like sticking him into the pen without any safety measures like a muzzle or leash on him, it can lead to disaster. It is always better to go a bit more slowly and to ALWAYS consider safety. I would not let him anywhere near the pen until he was acclimated to a muzzle, and without a leash. In fact, as I said earlier, the leash would be used outside the pen as well so we could maintain the right distance we need for DS/CC.

As time goes by, I’d be able to get a little bit closer and go a little longer with training, but it would all be dependent on Simon and the signs he’s giving me. If he’s doing well, I can gradually increase my criteria for him. But I must be careful and not get greedy, and no one likes for things to be harder and harder all the time. It’s best to stop while you’re ahead, especially if you’re blessed with a great accomplishment. Perhaps I’m up to five feet away and Simon is able to look at the pig(s) but then look back at me right away–then I’d click and jackpot with lots of food! The better the response, the better the reward, teaching him how to make the right choices. Our video of Lucy’s story goes through what we have done with dogs like this, who react aggressively to other dogs.

Lucy learned how to be calm instead of aggressive around other dogs in our behavior modification sessions
Lucy learned how to be calm instead of aggressive around other dogs in our behavior modification sessions

This is a simplified version of a plan–there are many other components to what I would do as well outside of DS/CC, like teaching other incompatible behaviors, doing impulse control work, etc.–but it does give insight into how I approach such situations. Our dogs are so smart, and willing to please us, that we shouldn’t sell them short and force them into situations that can backfire. We should always set them up for success and reward them for what is good. That way we can build trust and a dog that is confident and respectful.

And for the record, if you want to know my opinion on Cesar Millan–you can refer to this earlier piece of mine. I might also add, I consider pretty much all reality TV as total unreality. 🙂

Thank you,
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Special Message, Training & Behavior

What makes someone a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist?

This question is an open-ended one and depending on who you ask, it could have many different answers. Traditionally in dog training, trainers became trainers by apprenticing with experienced trainers. In today’s world, there are many different schools, online programs, certification programs and pathways, which is great, but also a bit confounding, especially if you’re new to the field or the average consumer.

Since training and animal behavior are unregulated fields, there are no laws about who can call themselves by these terms, or set up shop. I’ve personally had many mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am glad I don’t have to worry about a bureaucracy to do what I do, but on the other hand, I definitely am concerned about charlatans who are taking money for outdated techniques, if they have techniques at all. It’s definitely a double-edged sword, so I thought I’d write a bit about the labels those in our industry use, and how to get past the marketing puff to understand professionals you may want to hire—or run away from!

Sasha focuses on mom during a training session
Sasha focuses on mom during a training session

First things first, let’s clarify differences between trainers and behaviorists.

Dog trainers are focused on training skills with a dog. Their proficiency can vary—some trainers may concentrate on teaching obedience and manners alone, others may delve into behavior modification, particularly for commonplace behavior problems, while others may concentrate on sporting or other activities (agility, herding, gun dog/hunting, nose work or scent detection, etc.). Their level of education and experience can also widely vary. See this information from the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Behaviorists are those who deal with more complex behavior issues, and use fundamental scientific principles to address these problems. Applied animal behaviorists that are certified have usually undergone many years of formal education (usually PhD level), done internships and have undergone many hours of hands-on experience. See this information from the Animal Behavior Society.

I have to admit I have been frustrated numerous times at how overused the term “behaviorist” has become. One of my more recent experiences was especially disheartening; on a networking group, a person had posted about her rescue and as I went to research her site, I saw she claimed herself to be CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed, a certification given by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, or CCPDT) as well as CAAB (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, a certification given by the Animal Behavior Society). There are very few CAABs and I thought I knew of all those within my own state, so I delved more and found her claims to be fraudulent. She didn’t hold–nor had she ever held–certifications to these end. It is very easy to look up these sites and find who is certified. After a phone call from one of the organization’s people in charge, she quickly removed these qualifications from her site, and simply “grew up with dogs and has worked with them all her life…”

It’s maddening to me that people will fraudulently misrepresent themselves on this level, but even if someone doesn’t claim actual certifications, they will still throw around words and labels to market themselves. My purpose in writing this is to help more of the general public understand how easy it is to be misled, especially since there are no regulations. While it is not illegal for anyone to call themselves a behaviorist, I find it highly unethical that people are using this term so loosely.

As a consumer, it’s important to ask questions. Anyone can write marketing material that claims they are “positive reinforcement only” or teach dogs in their own “natural way.” It’s important that consumers ask them what their actual techniques and methods are. How do they address problem behaviors? What equipment will they use or recommend? Does it teach the dog what to do, or does it only punish behavior? What are their qualifications? Do they hold certifications? Have they apprenticed with other trainers?

The more questions are asked, the more you will learn about the trainer and if s/he is the best fit for you and your dog. We always recommend trainers who take a gentle approach to teaching a dog confidence and skills to be happy and make the right decisions, rather than use harsh, punitive-based techniques. This article from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) is great at giving pointers on choosing an adequate trainer.

We are always happy to help you with your training, or provide quality referrals!

Thank you,
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Special Message, Training & Behavior

Training is essential!

“Animals deserve the best care we can possibly provide. Training should not be considered a luxury that is only provided if there is time; it is an essential part of good animal care. Just as one would never consider developing an animal care program without a veterinary component, a nutritional component, a social component, and an environmental component; nobody should consider caring for an animal without a behavioral management component integrated into the program.” – Ken Ramirez, from the introduction to Animal Training: Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement

Photo courtesy Cognitive Canine,
Photo courtesy Cognitive Canine,

I first heard Ken Ramirez actually speak this quote to an audience earlier this year at an amazing weekend of learning from his vast experience as an animal trainer with 35+ years of using positive training methods on all kinds under his belt. The instant he started talking about this, I got really excited, thinking, “He’s SO RIGHT! What a world we’d live in if everyone who got a pet understood the absolute necessity of proactive training, if it was viewed as a necessity and not just a luxury!”

Ever since then I’ve been thinking about this on a daily basis. Each day I’m working with people and their dogs, I’m thinking not only about how to motivate and teach the dog but also the people in his or her life, to enjoy and be invested in training. I am blessed with many kinds, from those who just got a puppy or dog and want to ensure success together to those who have been living with behavioral issues and are now at the end of their rope and want the problems to stop now.

When we bring an animal into our home, it is our responsibility to teach them how to live in our world. It’s no good to have expectations and not teach the dog what they are, or how to fulfill them. By teaching our dogs skills like sit, down, stay, wait, leave it, drop it, come and loose leash walking, we are helping them–and us–have a happy life together. By understanding and addressing their emotional needs, we can help them become confident and make the right choices.

And it goes beyond that. Even before an animal comes into its forever home, breeders, shelters, rescues and the like should also consider the behavioral needs of the animals as much as any other needs. Imagine if breeders were proactive with teaching stress-free handling and socialization with puppies before finding them homes? I’ve been amazed at how many breeders are also letting littermates go to homes together, given the knowledge we have about littermate syndrome. And if rescues and shelters knew more about how to make their environments calmer, and taught dogs basic manners, how much more appealing and prepared they would be to enter a home–and stay in it–successfully!

I dare all my readers to imagine a world like this, where we can be on the front end of helping us and our animals live happily together, instead of trying to catch up on the back end once problems start. I also want to challenge you to promote the idea that training is essential! If more of us present that viewpoint to each other, hopefully we can start a trend that can make a big difference in our lives and the lives of our furry friends.

Happy Training!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Special Message

How being a dog trainer has changed my life

I’m such a lucky person. Not everyone gets to do something about which they feel so passionately, and enjoy so much. My life has not only changed in terms of loving what I do, but in myriad other ways!

I get to work with cute puppies like Molly!
I get to work with cute puppies like Molly!

I am a more patient human being. Training dogs has taught me the fine art of how to take more pauses in life, and take it slowly. Each dog has their own aptitude for how quickly they learn and each is unique. If I take a moment to get to know them and set training up so they can be successful, I will be far more efficient with results in the end. I’ve also learned to be calmer, and move in a way that is more mindful. Working with reactive, aggressive, overly excited, fearful and anxious dogs definitely provides many opportunities to practice this ability, and it carries over in my own life.

I can make an impact. Not everyone can say their job improves the lives of other creatures and people on this planet, and it’s definitely something that has driven me to this career path. It’s so fulfilling to see people learn to understand their dogs better, and for them to have better communication between each other. Seeing the light bulbs go off for people and their dogs is definitely exciting, and knowing that you’ve helped a family regain a sense of peace and happiness is also out of this world!

I build awesome relationships with lots of dogs—and people! I get to play with puppies, help clients deal with frustrations and turn them around into awesome learning opportunities, and share intimate moments with others in a way that really connects me to them. It’s a pretty amazing, inspiring thing. I also get to network with other professionals to ensure proper referrals and build an awesome support system.

I’m more confident. Being a dog trainer means being a lot of things–as your own business, you are marketer, customer service agent, administrative assistant, scheduler, accountant and more. It’s also a little daunting to be new in this field. It has been a wonderful journey in teaching me that I CAN do what I set my mind to!

I’ve learned how powerful positive reinforcement-based methods are. I knew a little bit about behavioral science from taking psychology courses in high school and college, but until I had to learn about it in terms of dog training and behavior, I really didn’t grasp how powerful the science of using positive reinforcement to teach behaviors is. By focusing on getting behaviors I want and reinforcing them, I don’t have to go down the path of punishment and frustration. I am a more proactive than reactive. And it’s fun and makes everyone happy!

It’s truly a pleasure to work with all of you and your dogs, and I am so honored to get to lead the life I live. Thank you so much for your continued support!
Owner, Delightful Doggies