I came to dog training in the mid-1990's, a fact that has both its positive and negative aspects. The most negative thing, of course, is that I missed out on sharing my early life with these wonderful animals. As things turned out, however, I believe I was very fortunate to enter "the dog world" when I did and was able to take advantage of the newer approaches to training that were coming to the fore. A few years earlier it would have been very difficult to find information on how behavioral theories had been adapted to work with dogs - techniques which form the basis of modern dog-training. Besides, I may not have taken the time to fully investigate and practice these techniques, adopting some and discarding others that seemed unworkable.
After attending university in Ontario, husband Charles and I moved to Edmonton, Alberta where I taught elementary school for a number of years. When my father-in-law began to think about retiring, Charles decided that he would like to try his hand at managing the family printing business and we moved to his home territory of Grabill, Indiana. We finally bought a small house a few years later - which is when we had a few too many encounters with the rat that kept coming back, along with his numerous smaller mouse cousins! We therefore got two cats, Francine (not much mouse-work ethic!) and Murrei (a true mouser). After renovating our house it was finally time to bring on the dogs.
We got Hank (an Australian Shepherd) from Aussie Rescue in 1997 when he was about seven months old. He had been neglected and malnourished, rather overwhelmed by everything but sweet. As soon as classes resumed after the summer break at our local dog training club Charles took him to an eight-week beginner's class. The class was a traditional punishment-based class, where Hank and his peers were to be "corrected" with a "pop" on their choke chains when they weren't doing what they were supposed to do. Unfortunately for them, these dogs didn't understand English and through a process of elimination were supposed to figure out what behavior was not going to be punished. The behavior that wasn't punished was obviously the behavior the handlers wanted. This is a difficult concept for humans to understand - imagine how incomprehensible it must be to a dog, whose whole communication system is at odds with this sort of thing! It is amazing that so many dogs manage to learn in spite of this treatment.
Hank was willing and able to learn the basics through this method. He passed his Canine Good Citizen test and started working on the exercises for his first obedience title. Things started going downhill fast. He lagged somewhat on his heeling (a very common problem with traditional training) but it was when he went into the competition ring that he totally fell apart. I had taken over his training and was getting to the point of such utter frustration that we were going to quit training him altogether. I could not bring myself to punish him enough to get the point across, yet I didn't know how else to teach him.
It was then that Chris Bach truly rescued us from the quagmire. She presented a seminar in Maumee, Ohio on The Third Way , her humane and fair method of dog training based on operant conditioning. It was like a breath of fresh air to both Charles and I! She showed us that dog training can be positive, fun for everyone and a truly enjoyable learning experience for both dogs and people. We have never looked back.
Since this time, positive training has taken over my life. I was inspired to read further, watch videotapes, attend seminars and am surprised at how much excellent information is lurking out there (although, there is also a lot of bad!) that I never knew existed. Hank no longer looked "beaten" when training time came, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Problems were a challenge, not a drag. And yes, he did get his Companion Dog title!
After we finally got on the right track training-wise, Charles decided to get a second Aussie, primarily to do agility, as Hank had never been very athletic and driven to that sort of thing. In February, 2000 he picked out a puppy with strong herding heritage and named her Gooseberry Pie. Goosie, unlike Hank, seemed to be very bold, full of energy, always ready to do things. Unlike the reserved Hank, she was gregarious, loving people and dogs alike. Then suddenly, at about a year old, she became very "aggressive", first towards dogs, then humans. She would lunge and bark and become quite uncontrollable as soon as she was aware of them, even blocks away. After trying to work through this with little success, we were able to secure an appointment at the Behavior Clinic of the School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University with Dr. Andrew Luescher. He explained that it was a fear-based reaction and he had Julie Shaw (Animal Behavior Technologist) demonstrate various exercises to work through with Goosie to help her learn to cope with her anxiety in more appropriate ways. We were told that she may never be "normal" but could definitely improve.
Of course all this sparked an interest in an utterly new branch of dog behavior, commonly referred to as "aggression". After many books, articles, seminars, lectures, and videos on the subject, the bottom line is that the successful way to directly deal with such difficulties lies in positive reinforcement training and management. And yes, Goosie did improve immensely - and so did we as handlers. It took a few years but gradually she was able to control herself under most circumstances. She was able to take walks with other dogs and enjoyed playing with many of them, but we never did feel that she could handle the stress of the close company of dogs at competitions so her agility was limited to our back yard. She turned out to be very affectionate with most people although her first impulse was to bark at certain people.
We moved to a larger house near Spencerville, IN in the autumn of 2005 and were fortunate enough to have another Aussie, Trophy, entrusted to our care by Diana Woody when she left for Purdue University. Trophy, a few months younger than Hank, had achieved titles in a number of areas such as flyball, obedience and agility. She was a sweet-tempered dog who joined me in Therapy Dog work with disabled children. The combination of genetics and training certainly came together in this dog, and we thank Diana Woody and Trophy's breeder Sheila Boneham for allowing her to join our family.
Inevitably, between September 2010 and March 2011, most of our much-loved companions died (Francine was 18, Murrei 17, Trophy 13 and Goosie 11). Since Hank was closing in on 15 and had a preference for cats over dogs, we decided to adopt a cat and get another dog at a later date. As fate would have it, we found a wonderful 18 month-old cat named Maddie and a sweet 9-month old dog named Katalina at Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control. We couldn't resist adopting both of them...much to Hank's chagrin! With age comes a degree of fatalistic acceptance of things, and Hank did an admirable job of that. He stayed as engaged as failing eyesight, joints and hearing would allow, always ready to go for a walk. His last walk was the morning of December 5, 2012.
A dear friend, Gayle Butler, died on August 28, 2013. Charles and I adopted her two dogs, Mielle (an 8-year-old teacup poodle) and Teddy (a 5-year-old Yorkie-Maltese mix). In one fell swoop we are learning what it means to live with a tiny dog and with a very terrierish one! Kat is quite satisfied (although she really WOULD like a little more attention, please) but Maddie is not quite sure that she likes the setup. After a settling-in period, "the munchkins" seem to have accepted their new home. Mielle likely misses the Therapy Dog work she did with Gayle but is reveling in letting out her inner "big dog", exploring acres of rural sights and smells. Teddy continues to build his Nose Work skills and vies with Kat to get his fair share (or more) of attention.
Kat and I started K-9 Nose Work© in September 2011. Although I had become familiar with it at a workshop in July 2010, it was only at Nose Work Camp that we really tried it out. We both found out it was the sport for us, allowing her to solve interesting problems and teaching me to appreciate and understand more of her world. Because I found it such a fascinating sport, I enrolled in the Instructor program and became a Certified Nose Work Instructor© so that I could confidently help others enjoy this working bond with their dogs.
As Chris Bach is fond of saying, "Get a dog, become a dog trainer". It is so true. We often forget that dogs are learning something every minute they are awake. If we actively engage their minds in a salient manner, they can learn what we want them to. Left to their own devices they will learn what they need to survive, whether this fits into our human-centered society or not. Dog training can be a frustrating chore or a fun learning experience that will strengthen the bond between people and their dogs.
Margery and I (and so many others) have found dog-friendly methods of training to be the most humane and truly optimum ways to teach dogs appropriate behavior. Although many training methods exist, the positive reinforcement approach is a very accessible way for owners to understand how dogs learn and how to help their dogs succeed. Because our dogs are our companions and live with us, they need to learn appropriate behaviors to blend in with our lifestyles. This is why we are so interested in helping our clients learn how to teach their dogs self-control and basic household manners while strengthening the human-canine bond.
I am a CPDT -KA (Certified Pet Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed) since November 2004 and a Professional member of APDT(Association of Pet Dog Trainers). I am also endorsed by NADOI (National Organization of Dog Obedience Instuctors), and an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator . In February 2005 and May 2010 I completed the requirements for Pet First Aid for Dogs and Cats conducted by the American Red Cross of Northeast Indiana. In December 2011 I earned my CBCC-KA (Certified Behavior Consultant Canine, Knowledge Assessed) and in July 2013 I became a CNWI (Certified Nose Work Instructor).
Partial listing of seminars/courses I have attended:
Janet Lewis (Smart Trainers, Brilliant Dogs)
Jan Elster (The Art of Teaching People: Tools for Dog Trainers)
Patricia McConnell (Advanced Canine Behavior)
Turid Rugaas (Calming Signals)
Alice Moon-Fanelli (Behavior)
Chuck Tompkins, Thad Lacinak (The ABCs of Dog Training/Canine Aggression)
Deb Jones (Clicker Training)
Gail Fisher (Clicker Training, Teaching Clicker Training)
Susan Garrett (Agility)
Jen Pinder (Agility)
School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University (Passed the certification exam for the 2002 DOGS! Course: Principles and Techniques of Behavior Modification)
Chris Bach (The Third Way, Aggression, Dogs as Problem Solvers, The Phood Doctor, 5-day Third Way Instructors Camp)
Brenda Aloff (Behavior and Aggression) November 2002
Sue Ailsby (Teaching Base Behaviors) January 2003
Sue Ailsby (Teaching Clicker Classes) January 2003
Leslie Nelson (Family Dog Classes that ROCK!) February/March 2003
Pamela Reid (Aggression) August 2003
Clicker Expo October 2003
Jean Donaldson (Fight!) November 2003
Jean Donaldson, November 2005, How to Teach a Dog That Is/Is Not
Sue Sternberg, May 2006, How to Tell a Dog is Going to Bite Before It Bites You & Testing for the Ideal Dog
Pam Dennison's Camp R.E.W.A.R.D. for Aggressive dogs, September 2006
Sue Sternberg, Shelter Internship, December 2006
Sue Ailsby, Training Levels, January 2007
John Rogerson, May 2007, Progression of Aggression
Ken McCort, July 2007, Canine Body Language and Communication
Ray Coppinger, November 2007, Wolf and Dog Behavior
Sarah Kalnajs, March 2008, Language of Dogs
Pamela Reid, June 2008, A Dog is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Sue Sternberg, August 2008, Assess-A-Pet & Shelter Quality of Life
John Rogerson, September 2008, Ultimate Recall
John Rogerson, April 2009, 10-day Advanced Dog Training & Behavior
Ian Dunbar, July 2009, Dominance, Fighting, Biting, Compliance & Punishment
Suzanne Clothier, September 2009, Dogs Will be Dogs
Pat Miller, October 2009, Constructional Aggression Treatment
Kim Bauer, May 2010, Introduction to Small Animal Accupressure
Ron Gaunt & Amy Herot, July 2010, Introduction to K9 Nose Work©
Sue Sternberg & Pia Silvani, May 2011, The Instructor Training Course
Ron Gaunt, Amy Herot, Jill-Marie O'Brien, September 2011, April 2012, September 2012, April 2013, September 2013: K9 Nose Work© Training Camp
Ron Gaunt, Amy Herot, Jill-Marie O'Brien, November 2012, February 2013, June 2013 Certified Nose Work Instructor© Course
Amy Herot: K9 Nose Work© Teamwork & Continuing Education, November 2013