Sunday, April 27, 2008

Nike, March 1-15

From Nike's Mom, Elena:

Well Nike and I have had a hectic couple of weeks. We just moved into our new loft in Church Hill. What a great neighborhood. Very pet friendly and lots of parks. We walk everywhere and go exploring together. Because we live in the city, I’ve been working with Nike to “Halt” at every crosswalk. She learned it in a day. We get to a crosswalk, I say “Halt” and she stops and sits until I say “Lets Go.” She loves the new place and its funny how she follows me everywhere in the house. I have a spiral staircase in the house and on the first day there I was upstairs putting stuff away, and she snuck up behind me. She’s so brave and confident that she negotiated a spiral staircase just to be with her Mommy. She also started opening doors. I was in the shower one morning and she came into the bathroom. I thought I closed the door, so I put her outside the door and called her and low and behold, I watched the lever handle turn and in walks Nike! We continue to do our one-on-one with Dee and Nike also goes to Dee’s group class. She is doing extremely well there and is able to stay focused on me for the entire hour and a half. There’s a doggy day care right around the corner from me and Dee convinced me to take Nike…

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Camden Loves to Bark

Dena & Camden's story, in Dena's own words:

I am having such a hard time with my 9 year old golden retriever lately. She is waking me up in the middle of the night to eat or play. I think she is jealous of my new guy because she only does it when he is staying over. At this point, I feel that Camden has me well trained and I would like to reverse that situation. I really need to get a good night of sleep. I saw a bumper sticker that sums up my ambitions for Camden - More Wag, Less Bark!

From the trainer: I scheduled an hour in-home consultation with Dena and Camden. I found Camden to be a delightful and very vocal dog. A short time after introductions, Camden started barking. Incessantly. Armed with high value treats, we started behavior modification then and there. The goal is to replace unwanted behavior with desired behavior. In this case, replace barking with quiet.

24 hours later
Hi Dee. You really do speak dog. I already notice a difference in my Cammie girl. Thanks. I will do my homework and decide if we need to schedule a follow-up visit.

From the trainer: So far a follow-up visit has not been necessary. Camden responded beautifully to behavior modification.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nike Update

Nike is 4-1/2 months old! It's amazing how fast they grow up. She and Elena joined my Top Dog class several weeks ago. She's now training with dogs of all ages and skill levels and is flourishing. Her obedience skills are amazing. She did, however, hit that 16-week mark and has started showing her independence. She's pushing her boundaries by jumping on people - something she never did before and that we are working on correcting. And her perfect recall has broken down when she is called from a distance. Rather than stopping in front of Elena, she gets close then goes around her, off noodling around in her own little puppy world. We will correct this by going back to basics: short, heavily reinforced recalls - gradually lengthening them until we've regained the distance we've lost.

The first year of a dog's life is an incredible time. They leave their mothers and their litter mates, go to new homes, learn a new language, go through puppyhood and adolescence, and finish the year as young adults. As a trainer, I consider it a privilege to be part of that first year ... and beyond.


We have a new puppy to train! Shelby is a 9-1/2-week-old Border Collie who is as sweet as can be. She has a wonderful family who love training her. We met for the second time today at her house. In a week she learned her recall and to sit on cue. Now she's learning down and watch me, as well as good puppy manners. And she loves "herding" a soccer ball. Visit my blog often to check on her progress.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


For those of you who have never met my Murphy, here some photos of him. Murphy is a three-year-old, 90-lb. chocolate Lab. He is my therapy dog, which means we can visit hospitals and nursing homes as a team. If you ever thought you might like to do therapy work with your dog, pursue the dream. It's incredibly rewarding.

These pictures were taken at The Dude Ranch where I'm a trainer. My friend, Chris, took them. He's a great photographer. If you've ever wanted the perfect picture of your dog, let me know and I'll put you in touch with him. His rates are reasonable, he loves dogs and he's an amazing talent.

See you around The Dude Ranch!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Deborah and Njucka are new clients. We'll have our first hour together in the near future. During that hour I will evaluate the situation, provide lifestyle tips, and start creating a plan to deal with multiple issues. Revisit the blog often for progress reports. Dee
Biggest problem: I can't leave Njucka (sounds like "nooka") in the house without his marking, or even sometimes pooping. My carpet is ruined. I had a doggie gate and kept him in the kitchen while I was at work; until he learned to climb *over* it. I think he can go over and under. Right now, I'm keeping him in the downstairs bathroom, but he is scratching the door. My boyfriend always invites Njucka when I go to visit him, but we can't leave him alone in the house. I'm not sure if I need to crate train him, or if that is even OK given that he is nearly 7 years old. He is a retired show dog, a miniature poodle.

He barks at strangers. This is OK, except that I usually can't get him to stop. If someone comes to my door, especially, he will not stop barking at them.

Anyway...those are just examples. I read lots of books about dogs and training, and I tried to establish myself as the "leader," but I don't think I've done a very good job. Also, I'm sure he is bored at home all day.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Do dogs think?

The following is from Gayle, Chelsea's Mom. The dogs are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Chelsea is five years old. CoCo is a year. CoCo is a rescue dog and is staying with Gayle while her new family is out of town. In Gayle's words:

Below is a funny story of how CoCo outsmarted Chelsea.

Monday evening I gave Chelsea and CoCo two new antlers (to play with and chew on) and, of course, they both wanted the same one. I have started teaching CoCo that she cannot have everything she wants every time she wants it. She normally goes up to Chelsea and snatches whatever she has. Monday evening I was telling her "leave it" or to leave Chelsea alone. She wanted the antler Chelsea had, which had gone back and forth between them several times. CoCo would stand there staring at Chelsea. You could see that CoCo was getting tired of that and I swear you could see the wheels turning in her head.

Well Miss CoCo decided she did not want to wait until Chelsea left the antler on her own, so she came up with a plan. She ran to the doorway between the living room and kitchen and barked (now, mind you, there is nothing to bark at and she only barked one time). It is as if she knew if she went to the back door it would not give her time to run and get the antler, so she chose the doorway further away. Chelsea, of course, got up to see what the problem was. As soon as she got to the doorway CoCo went running back to get the antler. It was all I could do not to fall over laughing.

A little later Chelsea had the antler again (the second antler was laying right there, but nobody wanted it). CoCo wanted Chelsea's antler and decided she needed a new strategy because Chelsea was not going to fall for the same thing twice. So she got a toy and started running back and forth in front of Chelsea from the bedroom to the kitchen. Chelsea was leery and did not fall for this at first. CoCo just kept running back and forth acting like she was having so much fun (she really had to work it this time). Chelsea finally gave up and grabbed an end of the toy to play tug. As soon as she grabbed an end, CoCo dropped her end and went running and got the antler. I could not help it. I busted out laughing and told Chelsea that CoCo was definitely keeping her on her toes.

Chelsea is a pretty smart cookie herself and CoCo outsmarted her twice in one evening :). CoCo truly is amazing and is such the actress. They were very entertaining to watch (better than TV). So don't ever let anyone tell you that our dogs can't think!