Monday, March 26, 2018

Playing Favorites

I've said it time and again. Dogs play favorites.  While it is indeed true that dogs have the capacity to enjoy the company of lots of different people, most have a favorite person.  You know...the person for whom the sun rises and sets in their eyes.  Pet assisted therapy dogs like my collie, Desi, are social butterflies. He loves meeting new people and actually gets offended if folks don't stop to pet him and make a fuss. However, I know he plays favorites.  He loves my husband.  My husband is all about the pack and shares anything he has with Desi. Cheese. Yogurt. Popcorn.  Desi's three favorite things, coming from his favorite person.  I'm the one who feeds Desi his meals, so he does love me, don't get me wrong.  But he adores his dad.  Then there is my other collie, Ozzie.  I am his person.  He likes many people he knows, but he loves me. Most of the time, that is. When I bring out the nail clippers, he hides.  His other favorite?  My two teenage girls.  He adores them.  They will hug him, let him on their beds, and fuss over him.  What boy doesn't love that?  But Ozzie is aloof with strangers.  He isn't aggressive, he just holds back.  Which works just fine because Desi wants to meet everybody.

So, what was the point of all that?  Well, I tell clients the same thing.  While they may have chosen a dog with every intent that the dog will be theirs and theirs alone, said dog may prefer someone else.  Some breeds are notorious for this. French Bulldogs, for example.  I have more than one client who picked a Frenchie for themselves only to find the dog loves their spouse, their parents, or a neighbor more. There are definitely things that can be done to swing the odds in your favor if you find yourself being snubbed. Do something that the dog enjoys. Take them for a walk, a ride in the car, or out with you to lunch.  Share your time...and your snacks. You may not be their first choice, but you will still be in the top two!

There is actually some science behind this as well. Female dogs tend to bond more with male owners and vice versa.  Again, this doesn't mean you won't find a woman with a female dog who is hopelessly devoted to her, because you will. It's just statistics and probabilities.  So, if you are a man looking for your next canine companion, you can put the odds forever in your favor by choosing a female dog.  However, if you fall for a male dog, don't be too surprised if he favors your girlfriend/wife/daughter/mother.  Just remember that can work in your favor as that dog will make you look really good in the eyes of those women in your life. And any person with a sociable, friendly dog is viewed by others as more sociable and friendly as well. So, while you may have to work for your dog's affection, he's making you look good in front of others. Enough said.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A New Class!

Pretty excited to be teaching a new class for Molly's AdobeDogs Dog Training starting on April 28!  It is a class for people who have pet assisted therapy dogs and want to learn more about shaping behaviors for the pet assisted therapy setting.  I will be teaching some basic behaviors such as having your dog put his head on a lap, side of a bed, or the arm of a wheelchair, as well as advanced behaviors like how to train them to lay quietly on a bed without disturbing a patient; staying with the handler without shortening the leash, for better mobility in tight hospital corridors; and standing on a riser so that patients who are prone can reach the dog, to name a few.  I love to shape new behaviors in my own dogs, and teaching others how to shape behaviors is so much fun!  You can actually watch a dog learn without frustration.  A clicker can be used to shape behaviors, but isn't required, so any dog can still have success.

I really do enjoy pet assisted therapy work and introducing it to others.  Visits are rewarding not just to the patients, but to the volunteers and their pets as well. And having a few special behaviors that you can ask of your dogs on their visits just makes it all the more enriching, and gives dog owners doing pet assisted therapy work new goals to set their sights on.

Had to share this funny picture of me with "Trouble," during a recent pet assisted therapy training class. He's coming to the new class in April.  How about you?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks!

Well, if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, then you already know that I have begun taking herding lessons with Ozzie, my 3 year old Rough Collie.  Ozzie is an 11th generation direct descendant of the original Lassie, and thus a real working dog...of the Hollywood  Ozzie likes to work, and then he likes to take breaks in his trailer, aka the back of my SUV with the door up, where he can watch everyone else work.  He's such a hoot.

All kidding aside, it really is a pleasure to work with my dog and have someone else be in charge.  We love our instructor; Trish Wamsat has been my friend for 20 years.  I am grateful to have her in my life, and even more grateful to have her as our herding instructor.  She is patient with us both, but she does spur us along.  That's what makes a good instructor.  Someone said to me, "Oh, it must be hard for you to take classes from someone else. And even harder for someone else to be your teacher!"  This really made my smile.  I LOVE learning, whether it's from clients and their animals, things that I read, a family member, or even one of my kids.  I think we should never tire of learning and always be open to the process.  I can't speak for Trish, but I do hope that having us in her class is not too painful!

I'll be the first to admit it. Ozzie is much better at herding than me.  That dog has the moves of a natural. Me? Not so much.  I am learning what it means to trust my dog, but still keep my eyes on him; to ask him to do behaviors without him actually looking at me; to use my voice in a commanding, but still nice way; to turn my back toward the sheep, while still watching them so that I don't get trampled; and most importantly, know where I want those sheep to go!  More than once, I found myself simply observing.  Watching the dog, watching the sheep, but not actively being the shepherd.  Trish laughed at me (with me?!) and reminded me that I have to actually have a plan. I can't just be an observer, I have to be part of the job.  It's a dance.  Shepherd, sheep, and dog.  Ozzie is a great partner. I just need to learn how to lead without stepping on his feet or losing track of the beat.

I am looking forward to our next herding lesson already.  I love running around with my dog, having sheep nuzzle my fingers, and the sun shine on our heads.  To be able to spend this quality time with Ozzie is truly a pleasure. To spend time with  and learn from a dear friend at the same time is priceless.

For more information on herding lessons for all experience levels, visit Trish's website at

Ozzie in his "trailer" during herding lessons

Friday, March 2, 2018

Kids & Dogs Class Returns!

More than once, I've been told that I'm crazy to teach a class for kids and their dogs.  Comments have ranged from, "that must be like herding cats!" to "that must be a nightmare!"  I always laugh because my kids and dogs class is a blast.  Kids have energy and enthusiasm which many adults are sorely lacking. Plus, the kids in my class get a kick out of the fact that no parents are allowed until the last class where they get to show off what they can do. I know that the parents are often skeptical about leaving their kids and dogs in my care (I'll admit that some actually seem relieved!), but the class always gets rave reviews from parents and kids alike, so I must be doing something right.

So, what makes this class different and fun?  First off, it's all about teaching kids that they can be responsible and have control over their dogs.  Second, we play games and work on trick training as a means of gaining respect by the dog for the kids and vice versa. I truly think the dogs enjoy the limbo game as much as the kids do!  It's a pleasure to see kids become more confident and to watch their dogs build trust in their young companions. 

It IS a lot of work to teach this class, don't get me wrong.  There have been times when siblings got into it with each other during the class, we've had dogs get over-stimulated, and we've had treats dumped on the floor more times that I can remember.  Nonetheless, I enjoy this class and continue to offer it a couple of times each year (usually around Spring Break and during the Summer).  I've had kids take the class more than once, so I know they must be having a good time. For me, it is a sweet reminder of a time when my own kids were little and I let them work with our dogs one-on-one.  The pride they felt and the tricks their dogs accomplished are memories I hold dear.  My hope is that when the parents of these kids show up to the last class to watch their kids and dogs in action, that they too feel a sense of pride in what their kids can accomplish outside of a traditional classroom, and with an instructor (me) who is anything but conventional!

If you would like more information on this class, visit for details.

My niece building confidence working with two of my dogs (2006)