Sunday, May 18, 2008

The better dog behavior question leading to success!

When it comes to the behavior of our dogs, we often ask ourself: "Why do you keep doing that (dogs name)?" As a dog trainer I get calls all the time with that question. At home, being a *dog mom* first, I will catch myself asking myself this question...usually on Mondays when the garbage trucks are circling the neighborhood about nine times throughout the day... So, what's wrong with this picture??? We're just focusing in on what we don't want - what drives us nuts - which doesn't solve anything. What we need to do is simple... we need to ask the right question: "What behavior do I want?" 

From that answer you can say to yourself: "Then this is the behavior I want to reward!" For instance, let's say I want my own dog Poncho to be quiet while he is hanging out in the yard. I do allow him to bark once (to alert me, after all, that's part of his *job* description)... So, being out there and just being quiet gets him rewarded! I make sure to catch him in the act of doing what I want, then acknowledge it, and reward. "Thank you!" If it's a situation where I want him to bark I allow him to continue, if not, then I give him a separate cue for wanting quiet. If he follows it, he gets rewarded - food, play time, freedom in the yard - if not, then inside he goes. "Too bad for you." 

Now he has the choice: stay outside following the rules gets rewarded - breaking the game rules gets him nothing. 

This is the type of training steps I teach in my classes - it's simple, it works, plus it gets you focused on what you want, not what you don't want... So remember, the next time you find yourself frustrated with your dog, just ask yourself "What behavior do I want? What behavior do I want to reward?" Then do it!


Sunday, May 11, 2008

In honor of my mom.

Dear Mom,

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Mothers Day, and tell you how much I love you. I can't believe it's been fourteen years since our last "mom's day" together. It feels like yesterday.

You would be proud of me. All of the love, care, and compassion you and dad always showed towards animals really rubbed off on me. I'm a dog trainer and behavior counselor now. You would love my studio here in Ventura. I share my passion for the love of dogs and their families in my classes, workshops, and private clients. I really love my job mom. You always taught me to follow my heart, follow my passions, and do what made me happy. Well, I've done just that. And I have you to thank for it. For allowing me to believe in myself, and follow my dreams. My only wish is that you were here to see it. 

If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be where I am today. I think of you every day, and miss you terribly. You will always be with me, in my thoughts, and in my heart. 

I love you,

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Trip to Venice Beach proved shocking...

Went on a road trip over the weekend to visit my brother who was in town for business... We met up in Venice Beach...a place he and I used to frequent while growing up. Hasn't changed too much - great place for people watching. What caught my attention wasn't the humans themselves, but the dogs... Why? One reason was they were all so darn cute.. this of course made me miss my little boy Poncho (hubby and I decided to "manage" and left Poncho with lots of interactive toys before we left...made sure we exercised him too so he was sleepy and wanted to nap)... 

Anyway, the other "things" that caught my eye were all the intact male dogs... yep, it seems that neutering is not a common activity in the Venice Beach least all the male dogs I saw. Big dogs, small dogs, purebreds, mixed name it, they had their "knick-knacks" intact. Now, being a critical thinker we can't assume all of the dogs and their humans were residents of Venice Beach...maybe they were all tourists? Maybe lived in neighboring communities? Maybe they were planning on taking their dogs to get neutered? Could be many different reasons, so I won't jump to conclusions... As for the female dogs, I couldn't tell if they had been spayed or not...and I wasn't about to start asking. 

I do know this. Spaying and neutering is important. For a variety of reasons. Dogs don't have the "common sense" gene that says "I shouldn't breed because there are so many unwanted pets anyway, and I know it's better not to contribute to the problem." Nope, they don't think that way... So it's a shame when we as humans continue to think "my dog would never do that" "they know better." Just takes a split second, and before you know it you're a new puppy parent! 

Unless you're a responsible, professional breeder, then having your pet spayed or neutered is the sensible thing to do. Does it make your dog any less "tough"? Heck no! Just ask my own dog Poncho... He's one rockin' tough little guy - still marks, raises his leg, growls and hunts, will attack any stranger that comes to the door that I don't want there... Being intact doesn't = macho... having the common sense and being a responsible pet owner is! 

This years theme for our annual Pooch Parade here in Ventura put on by our local rescue group The Canine Adoption and Rescue League is "Spay & Neuter"! For additional info on spaying and neutering your pets, check out these informative websites: Humane Society, ASPCA, The American Kennel Club, The American Veterinary Medical Association