Tag Archives: dog training


In the process of getting older I strive to let go of the things that don’t “work” for me. You know, those things that don’t feel good, that you feel like you should do but don’t want to, those things and thoughts that bog down your consciousness and creativity. Ironically, though, I find myself consumed with circles of thoughts spiraling around these undesirable things when I so wish I could let go of them and embrace any of the many things I’m passionate about. Such is life as a human, I guess.

Actually, I love getting older. I learn things that are so helpful. Without boring you with my lessons, let’s instead talk about some things that I’m really passionate about!

I LOVE being present. Being totally and completely there with my dog as she feels the joy of her first time pulling. Or drinking in the energy as I observe my dog basking in the sun as she lies on the grass. And what’s better than watching a dog roll? Raising my child I am so lucky to actually be with him throughout the day. I can watch how he is in all sorts of scenarios and in different phases of growth. Everyone says how kids grow so fast that you miss it. I appreciate the warning and have not missed much! Sure, my business may suffer as I don’t keep a pulse on Facebook. My attention is elsewhere.

I don’t think I could live any other way because I count on being present to inform me about what actions to take. I don’t know how I could be prepared otherwise. My training and teaching takes on an organic development. It’s greater than just what I could plan for. I hope to be able to connect with clients who want a wholistic approach to their life with their dog. I don’t want to help you teach your dog to jump an agility jump or weave, etc, when your dog won’t give you the quality of engagement that tells everyone watching that that dog is “into it”. Sure, you could get a dog around a full agility course, even be competing, but, I still won’t buy into any of the end results until your dog wants to work and values the job (whatever that may be, agility or otherwise). I’m happy to help people fix glaring omissions in training, but it takes a very special person to put this work in. The beauty of it, though, is that this learning will change your life with this and every dog following. I don’t mean to make this sound too inflated, but, this knowledge, along with the skill to apply it, can transform life with your dog (and possibly also with your kids and other relationships, too).

Now, I’m not saying that I’m ultra enlightened or anything so grandiose (or even anywhere close to that). I’ve been (still can be) quick to fly off the handle, burned many bridges with my tactlessness and lack of respect for formalities, and have plenty of communication skills to work on! But, since we have an active role in co-creating our world, I want to add a chapter to this blog where I can share some Zen moments with you. I’d love to hear if something resonates with you!

Stinking Foundation

There I was, watching my dog exhibit frustration after successfully seeking out the hidden odor (outdoors and buried), I spoke my cue that ought to mean, “show me exactly where it is”, when it dawned on me. Wait a minute, there are 2 separate behaviors here…

Some days you’re just lucky. On this particular day, I had an invite to sit down and talk to Jen & Steve White, who’s been instrumental in moving professional working dog trainers towards positive reinforcement. I’d been asking around for suggestions of good resources to educate myself further about odor training. There’s so much to learn and I was venturing away from “recommended protocol” and experimenting in how to train scent detection. Steve and Jen proved to be invaluable resources, offering their own time to talk shop and catch up a bit. The conversation was excellent.

I really like Steve because he’s a (primarily) positive trainer who’s pragmatic. He needs to get working dogs educated asap. Philosophy-wise, we are in the same camp. We believe foundation training is key. The problem with my scent detection education thus far was that I still hadn’t grasped what comprised the foundation of odor training. All 3 of us believe in back-chaining for most complex behaviors, and, after my experience that day, it became apparent that the 1st thing to train here, obviously (in hindsight), is the alert..

It was really cool (or maybe almost cruel) that my dog showed me what was up before heading into this fortunate conversation. I thought I did train an alert, mind you. Most of the dogs can indicate with clear changes of behavior followed by paw activity (paw targeting, digging, one often begins the chain with a very dramatic head whip back to me), which, of course, I was rewarding and shaping to be a chain of paw target then nose target. But, technically I hadn’t trained much, and certainly hadn’t proofed.

Here’s the deal:

The alert isn’t inherently reinforcing like the search is. Watch Zeal prove both that the search is rewarding and how totally incomplete his alert was.

Being of the camp of “conquer and divide” (no, that’s not what Bob Bailey called it;), one can cultivate the alert apart from the search, complete with proofing. So, that day I went decided to halt all searching and figure out my alert. You don’t have to train a dog to dig/paw target. You can elicit it easily. And, digging does damage. Not only that, but a frustrated dog might pour extra stress into the activity and even self-reward some by blowing off steam through that activity. If you do want to train a digging response, don’t let me stop you, and go for the gusto, like an old-school drug dog :P!

I decided on a sit AND stare for my purposes. A sit because my dogs would never otherwise be sitting down some distance from me while on a hike. A stare to tell me exactly where to dig, and to continue to tell me where to dig. Now to train it.