accomplishment ACE Adopt the Internet Day advocate AKC ALIVE Andrea Arden APDT attention aversives Be the Change for Animals beagle beds Bianca bibliophile birthday blessings blog hop BlogPaws board and train Boston Terrier bullied by the blog C-WAGS C.L.A.S.S. call to action CCPDT CDSP certification Certified Pet Dog Trainer change chapter 1 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Christmas Cincinnati click and treat clicker expo clicker training coming when called commitment common sense communication competion coupon cpdt CPDT-KA craft crisis response Dads Daisy decisions dog shows dog training dominance Easter economy emotions empathy equine Face of Crisis facebook family focus food Fortunate Fido Frames of Mind fraud Gardner giving goals group class harness holy week house guest humanity Husker Ian Dunbar individuals instinct integral internet Jade Jean Donaldson joy K9 Chaplains K9 Comfort Dogs Karen Pryor Ken McCort Lake Township Lana Mitchell learning learning theory leash aggression life experience lifestyle training living positively mama beagle Meagan Melissa Alexander minature horse Morgan Specter Mr. Chewy mule Nevada Humane Society Never Shock a Puppy normal Northern Illinois University Open House openminded opportunity pack theory Parents of Murdered Children party Patricia McConnell peace personality pet blogger challenge Pet Blogger Hop Pets without Parents Philadelphia polite greetings POMC positive reinforcement positive reinforcement clicker training precious priorities product review puppies puppy class Rainbow Bridge Rally Obedience relationships relaxing research review rewards routine safe versus dangerous service dogs SPA sports stress success Sue Ailsby Sweet Spots Doggy Ice Cream TDInc. teacher technology The Clicked Retriever therapy dogs thinking time tools tornado toys training plan training tip travel tricks twitter unconditional love video work in progress

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

...everywhere I go! This is the time of year when calm gives way to frenzy, when normal gives way to crazed, and when we really should be thinking about others instead of all the things we are thinking about.

In this economy, there are many people with no jobs, no place to call home, and no relief in sight. Their pets have also suffered. Some have been let out to go potty and never let back in, others have been driven out to the country and dropped off, and others have been dropped off at shelters and pounds. I heard a story about a dog wandering in a city with Rosary Beads around his neck; someone loved that dog and prayed that it would be safe and find a new home.

I have a suggestion for you this especially trying holiday season -- instead of buying a bunch of new toys, treats, and a new dog bed for your own dog (when truth be told, they really prefer sticks to new toys, our lovingly made, more nutritious homemade treats, and our bed to any dog bed!), buy some things for a shelter or pound you hold near and dear. They can always use beds, food, treats, toys, and countless other items! Wouldn't it feel good to help out animals in need this year? Wouldn't it help to remind us all that it's not just about us? Wouldn't it feel good to know you helped an animal who is not curled up on a nice soft couch in a warm house this winter?

There are lots of great groups out there who need your help. Ask around, Google it, do whatever you need to do, but find a group and give them something -- nothing is too small or insignificant to help. The rewards will be boundless.

"For unto us a child is born."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Common Sense

What has happened to common sense, to being a good person, to following your instincts? Actually I think I know the answer but I don't know how to change things. I think we've become so accustomed to "value meals" by the number, life happening in tiny, short bursts of time, and so many demands on our time that we have forgotten how to THINK, how to FEEL, how to just BE.

I've been reading John O'Hurley's book, It's Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump, and I am loving it. It's funny, insightful, and speaks to my soul. He talks about being a young boy and going to his pond with his dog to contemplate the great mysteries of life. Why don't we do that any more? I think it's because we are scared to think on our own. It might not fit into the status quo and that would be bad -- or at least we think it will be bad. Why don't we take some cues from our dogs and live life for different reasons other than being where we need to be when we need to be there? Dogs don't care about that; dogs love life and love experiencing life!

Thinking outside the box and trying something new could be good, it could result in wonderful things happening in our world! Today I challenge myself, and anyone reading this, to think, just for a moment, outside the box. Find your pond with your dog (wherever and whatever that may be) and contemplate life for more than a second. Good things are bound to happen if we can rediscover our humanity. While others might wonder, know that I am thankful that you did something and hopeful that, together, we can change the world just a little.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pack Theory Debunked

I found this great article on the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) website today:

It seems not a week goes by that I don't get a phone call or an email from someone who is sure their dog is trying to "dominate" the household by displaying certain behaviors. According to current research, nothing could be further from the truth!

I heard a term this weekend and I am going to "steal" it for this conversation -- "innocently selfish." Yes, dogs are selfish, but not in the way humans are. Dogs are selfish because they are hardwired to do what they need to do to get what they want/need. Sometimes this is selfish because it is done without consideration; but it is never done to hurt a person or a dog -- it is simply for survival. Therefore dogs are innocently selfish.

I think the sooner we all come to understand why dogs are the way dogs are AND we understand that they are just that -- DOGS -- the sooner we will have better, more accurate, more mutually beneficial relationships with our canine companions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

K9 Chaplains, part 2

We spent last weekend in Cincinnati with our dogs and the national crisis response group, Extra Mile Ministries K9 Chaplains/Comfort Dogs, at the annual national conference of Parents of Murdered Children (POMC). I love the K9 Chaplain group and the work that we do! When I am with them, I feel at home, in tune with God's will, and able to do almost anything.

We spent most of our time in a common area of the conference just being available for the conference participants and staff. We listened, we talked, and we listened some more. We shared our dogs, their unique personalities, and their miraculous ability to help the healing process. We tried to understand things we will never understand, we tried to show the light of Christ in things that are so dark and evil that mere man cannot begin to comprehend. The people at the conference are family -- family brought together by tragedy, but family nonetheless. They opened their hearts and their arms to each other, to us, and to our dogs.

We met many, many people outside of the conference too. Staff and other guests at both the conference hotel and the hotel we stayed in, the people attending the WWII Air Force Reunion at the hotel where we stayed, people on the streets of Cincinnati, the young man we talked with at dinner one evening, the wait staff and the clerks in the stores and restaurants we "invaded" with 7 dogs and 8 people! We realized almost right away during the trip that we would go nowhere fast -- we were stopped all the time by people wanting to know what we were doing, why we were there, and if they could pet our dogs. We, of course, always obliged and we all benefitted from the interactions.

While I somewhat dread the next crisis or tragedy that will bring the group together again, I also look forward to seeing these wonderful people and dogs again. I also am very much looking forward to attending next year's POMC conference in Philadelphia. If you want to know more about either of these wonderful groups, please contact me and I will be happy to share with you. Blessings!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

K9 Chaplains

In February 2008, a lone gunman fired shots in a crowded auditorium at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb, Illinois and changed countless lives forever. I was 400 miles away at my house in Ohio when it happened, but it was an event that changed my life forever.

I am an NIU alumni. I watched the news coverage both on television and the internet about the shootings, the aftermath, and the recovery efforts and process. While watching, I found out about a faith-based group of people and their dogs who were on campus helping the students, staff, and community cope with the situation. Without hesitation, I knew I wanted to be a part of this group!

Soon after, I contacted Chaplain Ralph to find out how I could get involved. We had several wonderful conversations and the wheels were set in motion for me to be a part of this wonderful team of people and dogs. I knew then, as I know now, I had found the ministry of my heart.

We have done many things for Extra Mile Ministries K9 Chaplain/Comfort Dogs Crisis Response Team since that first contact. I have worked on various publications, including their newsletter and maintaining the Facebook group (K9 Comfort), and we were blessed to be able to return to NIU with the team in February 2009 for the anniversary of the shootings.

This week we are preparing for a response in our own "backyard" at the National Parents of Murdered Children Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is exciting to be working together again and a little stressful as I wonder what it will be like. This is something I have never done and I don't know what to expect. What I do know is this is my calling and that Daisy and I are up to the task. God will figure out the rest! Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers this weekend!

(for more information about this group go to

Monday, August 10, 2009

Personality and Dog Training

I have been reading some information lately about aggressive people having aggressive dogs. I find it very interesting and plan to keep reading about it to learn more. I haven't quite figured out how to work it into conversations with dog owners who complain their dogs are aggressive -- but I am hoping with more knowledge comes that revelation as to how best to do that.

Personally I have been dealing with a lot lately. It has gotten me to thinking about the aggression connections and whether other human characteristics "spill over" into our dogs. Do thoughtless, uncaring people have thoughtless, uncaring dogs? Do people who do things without considering the consequences have dogs who do the same types of things? Do compassionate people have compassionate dogs? Do people who serve have dogs who serve? Etc...etc. I don't know -- it's definitely a rhetorical question. But I think it might be a question worth exploring a little more.

I have to wonder if teaching people how to train their dogs really requires an ability to "pull out" of people who they really are so that they can better train their dogs? If it does, I hope that is what I am doing for these families and their beloved canine companions.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Puppy in the House!

We have had a houseguest for the last 4 days -- a 12-week-old Boston Terrier puppy named Georgie. She has been a delight and a challenge to have in the house and we have loved every minute of it!

How quickly we forget all the work that goes into having a puppy in the house -- the things they get into, the house and crate training, everything going into their mouths, the warm, tired body taking a nap on your lap, puppy breath, puppy squeaks, and the unbridled joy with which they live life. We have truly been blessed with the opportunity to have a puppy in the house and will treasure the memories of this time we had together. While Georgie may come back to stay with us again, she will never be this age again and it has been wonderful for us to marvel in it.

Thank you Skaff family for sharing your puppy with us!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Setting Up for Success

How do you learn best? Are you visual? Auditory? Tactile? There are as many different forms of learning and learners as there are things to learn. (If you are interested in knowing more about human learning theory, Howard Gardner's book, Frames of Mind, is a great read.) Given the opportunity, I would guess that if you have something new to learn, you are going to set yourself up for success. You are going to try and learn this new thing in the way that you learn best. If you are visual, you are probably not going to get a CD to listen to, you will probably get a book with a lot of photos or watch someone doing what you want to learn; if you are tactile, you are probably going to want to actually DO what you are trying to learn. You are going to put yourself in the best possible environment and scenario to learn.

Dogs also have different learning styles. Unfortunately they are not so easy to define (for us mere humans!), but in establishing our relationship with our dogs, in getting to know our dogs, we can come pretty close to figuring it out. Figure out what motivates your dog -- food? toys? time with you or another favorite person? a walk? a nap? a particular "job?" Then use it! If your dog will do anything for food, use food to teach them the behaviors you want. If your dog loves his ball, use a round of ball playing as the reward for a good training session. If your dog loves to play with you, roll around on the floor with your dog after she has learned something new. Finding what motivates your dog will maximize the amount of learning he does as well as minimizing your frustration as a teacher.

Keep in mind that what motivates your dog today, may not motivate him tomorrow! Too hard? Nah, it just takes being in relationship with your dog, being in tune to what's going on with your dog. When it's hot out, your toy motivated dog may care less about the toy, but might turn inside out for a chance to play in the water. When it's cold, your usually food motivated dog might be better encouraged by a brisk romp in the snow. Observing and interacting with your dog will give you plenty of opportunities to assemble a "tool box" of things that will help you in your training. Assess this "tool box" often and utilize every bit of knowledge you put into it and your training will be successful for both you and your dog.

We don't use "cookie cutter" training for our dogs -- they are each individuals with individual preferences and learning styles. By individualizing their training, we set them up for success. Today, get to know your dog, set them up for success and enjoy the amazing results!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Journey

The one thing I hope and wish for people and their relationship with their dogs is that the people understand what dogs seek -- a symbiotic journey with their human. They don't want to just be there, be a part of the routine, sometimes be that extra "to do" item the human needs to take care of before going on vacation. Dogs seek to be an integral part of our daily, even hourly, lives. Dogs' lives are consumed by the desire to do what gets them what they want. They jump on the counter to get something yummy -- not to ruin your day. They pull on the leash to get to where they want to go -- not to fight with you. They steal your socks because they smell like you, their precious human, and to get you to interact with them -- not to "get back" at you.

We worked with four lovely ladies and their wonderful dogs yesterday; sharing with them a portion of the vast amount of information out there about therapy dogs. These ladies cherish the relationships they have with their wonderful dogs and are seeking to grow that relationship by sharing their dogs with other people. How inspiring they each are! Thank you ladies for understanding that you are on a journey with your dog and that your dog is so much more than "just a dog."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Students

When I was a little girl, I was always playing school -- with my friends, with my little sister, and when no one was around, with my Barbies and my dolls. I didn't have dog until I was in Junior High/High School, or I probably would have played school with him too!

Now that I'm all "grown up" and have had to find jobs that I enjoy, that I have a talent for, that I want to get up and do every day -- I have been blessed the last few years to have several students in my dog training classes who have been committed to their dogs, to their goals and have been faithful and loyal to my classes. Having these students have made my "job" not a job any more, but a passion, a joy, a realization of a dream. I am very proud of them and their many accomplishments.

Last weekend, one of these students accomplished a goal he had been working towards since he began competing with his dog. They earned a score of 99 (perfect is 100 -- that's their next goal!) and a first place in Fortunate Fido's C-WAGS Rally Trial at Canine Affair in Chesterland, Ohio!!! It was a personal best (so far!) for Jim and his dog Bear. Unfortunately, I was not able to be there that day, but I was with them in spirit. I am so very proud of them and congratulate them on their accomplishment!

Liz and her dogs -- Zupan, Ditto, Chutzpah, and Happy -- are constantly achieving goals and needing to come up with new goals to work towards. It has been a joy and a privilege to be associated with both of these wonderful handlers and I look forward to many more years of classes, trials, and dogs with them!!!

Thank you Jim, Liz and pups!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

The best thing...

It's hard to know sometimes what the best thing is. What's the best car for my family, where's the best place for us to live, what's the best school for my children, who's the best instructor for dog training???? So many questions and not very many answers.

Something I have long advocated and try very hard to live by is "follow your gut." If you have unease with something, it may or may not be right. But I truly believe that if you are at peace with your decision, it was the right decision no matter how difficult it may be. Personally I have struggled with many decisions in the last year. I can say with confidence that the ones I "followed my gut" on, were good and right decisions for me, my family and my dogs.

I also apply this philosophy to dogs and dog training. If I am at peace with it, I have made the right decision. I like what I see in my dogs in relation to the foods they eat -- I made the right decision on dog food. I like the excitement I see in my dogs when I get out the clicker and the treats for some training -- I made the right decision on how to train my dogs. Our dogs fit our household, family and lifestyle as far as adaptibility and energy are concerned -- I made the right decision when we brought these particular dogs in their particular breeds into our home. The list goes on and on.

Bottom line? Follow your gut, trust your instinct. If it feels like the right decision it probably is. If something doesn't sit right with you, it's probably not right for you. There are many, many choices out there; in my opinion, we have no other choice by to trust ourselves and do what gives us peace. It's hard, it's sometimes not the "popular" decision, but in the long run, if it's what gives us peace, isn't it worth the effort?

Friday, April 24, 2009

We've been home about 5 days now from our Spring Break trip to Florida and while we are pretty much back into routine as a family, I still haven't found that rythym with my dogs. I always miss them terribly when we leave them (which is only about once a year, but so good and necessary to do for all of us), I can't wait to get home to them, and I am always fired up with new ideas and thoughts on training (especially when I spend my vacation reading training books!) -- but now I'm home and can't seem to find the right time and place to train/play with them.

It really showed last night at the first session of Puppy Class. I got Daisy out to play with the puppies (she is so good with them -- she plays so nicely and has great canine communication skills) and when Daisy figured out that one of the handlers had treats she was willing to share with her, Daisy would have gladly gone home with her! It was like I didn't exist. I have no one to blame but myself -- we've snuggled a lot this week, but that's about it. I didn't take her to school, I didn't train with her at all, I don't think we even did any tricks! Dogs love to work and play and Daisy, even being the couch-potato she can be, is no exception. To maintain our relationship and our bond, it's just like human/human relationships, we need to work on it. Since I am the human and the leader, it's up to me to do that. In thinking back over the week, there were many times Daisy was communicating to me that she wanted to do something with me and I ignored it. Definitely "handler error" and something I intend to work on this weekend and next week. I want to go to Puppy Class next week with my dog having eyes only for me!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lifelong Learning

I have long told my students and fellow dog handlers that dog training is a "work in progress" the dog's entire life for both the handler and the dog. I truly believe that and try to live that. We currently have an elderly, retired police K-9 German Shepherd dog at home. Every day is a new chapter in our life with him as he ages -- he's losing his sight, his hearing is mostly gone and his body is aging. We are learning ways to keep him healthy, comfortable, and how to communicate with him. It's truly a privilege to be blessed with such a good dog and to have him for so long is above and beyond what we expected. We are thankful for every day we still have him with us.

I have been studying to take a dog trainer certification exam -- something I have put off for a few years mostly because I wasn't sure where I would find the time. But I'm so glad I took the plunge and decided to MAKE the time -- preparation and studying has started off great! I have an awesome study partner and the books are wonderful! I am currently reading "The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson and "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor. Wow! I am learning some great new things and reviewing and reinforcing many things I already knew. I am excited about the future and possibilities it holds and can't wait to share all this information with my next class. (Check out for class info.)

I am taking Spring Break off this year. We are going to enjoy our family's company and relax before we jump into a new set of classes and all the craziness that is Spring at our house. Have a Blessed Easter!!! He is Risen!!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Yesterday I was asked if dogs comprehend and respond to our emotions, our moods, our health. I have to answer that I strongly believe they do! Not in the same way as humans do, but in a unique, necessary, canine way. I have had my annual end-of-winter, change-of-season bout with whatever germ is in the air combined with the onset of seasonal allergies and my dog knows it. She is constantly by my side, checking in with me much more than normal, and not very amenable to listening to others in the household. Kendra wanted to play with her the other day and work on some tricks she has been teaching her and Daisy wanted nothing to do with it. That's not like Daisy and I can only attribute it to me not feeling at the top of my game.

Dogs are not humans and do not respond in the same way as humans. To give a dog human characteristics is grossly underestimating a dog -- dogs are so much more! They are sensitive and caring and empathetic beings -- almost to a fault. It is our duty and obligation as thinking, feeling human dog owners to do our best to understand and assimilate our dogs' emotions. It is not to give in to them, or to baby them, or to humanize them. It is to understand the best time to train our dog is not when Mom is sick; it is to understand that a dog's love for her human is unconditional and not to abuse that love; it is to understand that all our dogs want to do is to fit into our families, have a purpose and to be loved in return. Our dogs don't ask for much and give so much in return. Hug your dog today and show them how much you care!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The age old problem...time...

Where do we find the time to do the things we want to do? The things we need to do? I have found I need to be far more creative with my time management of late. Raising a family, training dogs, having a job, starting a business, just living! --- they all take up time and time is truly one of our only limited resources. No matter how hard I try to make more time, there are still only 24 hours in a day!

I have been trying to get up a little earlier -- or at the very least, utilize early morning time a little more effectively. I have been trying to stay functioning and coherent a few minutes longer each evening and get a little more done before I sit down to relax. As far as training the dogs is concerned, I am going to try harder to "practice what I preach" and do meal time training at least once a day.

All that being said, I am also trying to better use my down time -- snuggling with my daughters, playing with my dogs, reading a good book, reading daily devotions, enjoying a cup of tea, reflecting on the day, spending time with my husband. It's truly a blessing when you look to what's important, everything falls into place.

Things are changing quickly at our house as we continue work on our new-to-us building, prepare curriculums and handouts, and get the word out about our classes and services. It's new and exciting and it's where we are meant to be. I know this because it's all working out and I am grateful for and humbled by this opportunity.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Things change...

I have been thinking a lot lately about how much things have changed in my lifetime -- since I was a child -- since I graduated from college in the 80's -- since I started training dogs in the 90's. I have been exploring all of the different options of advertising in this age of instant communication and it simply amazes me. Now we have to be so up-to-date, so cutting edge, that we have to be ahead of ourselves!

Truth is, I love it all. I love how I can put something out on the internet and people across the globe can read it instantly. I love keeping track of friends and family through Twitter and Facebook (it reminds me of when I was little and my mom would stand at the back fence with her coffee chatting with the neighbors -- something that was lost, but I think has been rediscovered in a different form). I am learning to like to text and I know it's helping my teenager and I stay more connected. And now, I am venturing into the wonderful world of blogging -- something I wasn't sure I would do, but am willing to try. I am really enjoying learning about the many different ways I can share information with clients.

Dog training has changed too and I think it's for the much better. Using positive reinforcement is so building up instead of tearing down, both of the handler and the dog. I used to dread working with my dog because I didn't want to be mean, I didn't want to see that look on her face that told me she was not understanding and feeling really badly that she was not doing what I wanted. But now, to get the clicker and the treats and to see the joy in my little dog when we get ready to play makes me want to train, to do more, to learn more and I think my dog feels the same way! To watch the shaping, the learning, the understanding is exciting and rewarding for me -- the dogs really seem to love it too.

This slightly middle-aged lady likes the progress we have made in so many areas! I am not going to fight it -- just the opposite, I am going to embrace it!