My love for dogs goes back to when I would sit in my crib, looking at my favorite dog book instead of napping! Unfortunately, being the only “dog person” in my family kept me dogless.
Years later in college I studied human behavior, getting a Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling from Oakland University and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan.
I also got involved in as many dog-related activities as I could. Obedience and Confirmation shows, Canine Good Citizen, Animal Assisted Therapy and many other areas. With a developing experience base, I started teaching my own classes and continued involvement in anything dog related. It has been over 25 years now of teaching classes and I think I love it even more! For more on my training philosophy, see below.
Over the years I have been so fortunate to have had the experiences and friendships with so many people who each have contributed to my “higher education” in dogs.
One of my early experiences was with a well known AKC Obedience judge who was incredibly knowledgeable. His classes were geared to an Obedience competition level and taught me an incredible amount. In practicing, I was seen so often in the town I lived in that trainers from a well known Guide Dog school got to know me and invited me to join them in their own small, private training group.
One of the more powerful concepts that they taught me was the importance of using distraction while training your dog. The dogs that they were training could not quit working if they were distracted or the safety of their human partner could be at grave risk. I saw that a dog performing well in a class did not automatically translate into a dog performing well in the “real” world. They asked me to help them teaching their community education dog training classes and I jumped at the opportunity. Working with the great number of dogs and handlers gave me a great base of experience. Once I was given my own classes, it was up to me to create a successful training experience.
By this time, my own daughter was old enough (and interested enough!) to be in a 4-H youth dog training club. As one of the trainers and adult leaders for the club, we attended an event in East Lansing where we saw a flyer promoting a seminar with Cesar Millan, host of “The Dog Whisperer” on the National Geographic channel. I called the number to find out that the woman and three other members of the small committee had been in my training classes. When offered the chance to be involved, we jumped! We succeeded in hosting a very fascinating seminar and were privileged to be able to access the knowledge and incredible insight of Cesar. The last day was spent informally with our own dogs and Cesar, and getting the privilage of watching him work with some difficult dogs. We were delighted when his organization called us back to ask if we would like to host him again. We were again blessed with the overall experience of the seminar and our final day of dog talk, friendship and observing him work with dogs . His belief in the importance of the human aspect of the solution was especially compatible with my own. I told him that while I, and much of the world, felt he was so effective with dogs, that his ability to connect with and convey information to the handlers was exceptional.
My training philosophy is an eclectic approach, with a wide variety of “solutions” for behavioral issues and an approach to engage both dogs and handlers in classes. I call it Functional Obedience. Training that makes it easy for the dog to learn, but shows him or her that “while on the clock” work cannot be ignored. To achieve this, an attitude of leadership (strong but calm) is important from the handler. Over the many years I have learned from other sources too. 4-H children, patients from Animal Assisted Therapy and class members all have taught me that each dog/handler team is unique and may need a variety of ideas to find out what works.