About Me

I am the Dog Trainer Girl. A wife to a wonderful husband, momma to 2 boys, one that is a mini-me and makes me call my dad and appologize on a regular basis. I am owned by a Corgi named Yadi. I'm a Baseball girl, who likes bats, ball and bases on my diamonds. Go Cardinals!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Silver Linings

It has been almost a month since I have been working from home.  My own pups have come a long way in their behavior at home.  We still have our challenges, don't get me wrong, they are in no way perfect and they never will be.  Yadi still barks at the neighbors and runs the fence with the neighbor's dog barking at her in a playful way thankfully.  I've tried to keep Kona from picking up that habit as well. 

Kona has her bad habit of counter surfing that we are still working on, but all and all they are really great dogs.  

I've been working on several things in my down time.  Most of it has been to make my training better for everyone else.  I have been wanting to make an online portion of training for a long time.  There are things I feel that are really important to teach that we just don't have time to go over when we are
working with the dogs in a session.  So this gives us that chance to do it.  The problem is that the training that I do in person does not necessarily transfer over to online training.  So I'm having to totally redo everything.  Needless to say, it's setting me behind.  Then there is the problem that I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing, as far as an online platform for the classes and how to put the information together.  So I'm taking a class to help me with it and trying to keep my students going at the same time, and man is it stressful.  

I have had a bit of a break I've taken a couple days to myself and I need to get in the habit now of taking at least two days a week to myself and trying to practice self-care.  I do feel better than I have a long time, I feel as if I may be coming out of my burn out.  I just don't want to see myself fall back into it as soon as this is virus is over if I go right back to doing the same things.  Working 7 days a week, 13 hours a day.  I have to learn some healthy boundaries so that I have more to give to my family, friends, and clients.  

I had fun going out and working with Kona and Yadi while Ian played on his swing set the other day.  I took Kona though the weave poles and she was actually pretty good at them.  Yadi likes them and wanted a treat too.  I need to work with him sitting and staying while I work with her, and vise versa.
I still need to work on Kona's Novice and Intermediate trick titles.  Hopefully, I will get around to that this week.  

Thursday, March 26, 2020

And just like that the wold fell apart

But my dogs still needed training!!!

Within a couple weeks everything has ground to a halt and I went from doing 25-30 appointments a week, to not having left the house in two weeks. This time, it was not because of my depression or a mental breakdown it was because of a world wide virus that is spreading across the world like wild fire.

So I jumped into to brining my students into online dog training but I failed to realize that this was going to showcase a big fear that I have been hiding.

That I couldn’t do it anymore.  This pup right here was my soul pup.  Trainers often talk about that one dog that taught them so much about being a trainer.  Well that was Tazie for me.

This little dog put me though the wringer of emotions and taught me everything from how to teach basics to how to care for a dog with a neurological problem.  We had a wild journey that took us from Atlanta, Ga to Rochester, Ny to Birmingham, Al and finally to Jonesboro, Ar.  He was my heart dog, he got me though the pain and heartache of two failed marriages and helped me find myself again and realize I was the person I have become today.  The inspiration for Helping Paws, he was my training partner for so many years that when I lost him I lost a huge part of myself.

I’ve spoken to this before but I believe that I locked away a part of my heart and sole to keep me from ever being so bonded again.  So that when I had to suffer that loss again I would not have such a huge empty void ever again.

You may be wondering as your reading this now how this has anything to do with my students and
online classes.  Well, during a video session yesterday I realized my training techniques have become so sloppy.  I need to get back to that love of training I had with Tazie.  I though last year I had reopened it for a while when Yadi and I were doing tricks, but I think that I was just avoiding coming to terms with how burned out I had become.

After 2 weeks of being at home and not leaving the house some extra sleep, I can’t say less stress I think the stress has increased so much more but I feel so much better than I have in such a long time. I feel like I have the mental capacity to take on trying to get my mental health back where it should be.  Maybe this shutdown will not only help me get over my Compassion Fatigue but also help me to fine that bond with my own dogs that has been missing because I have been too busy and too tired to train with them.

Kona, my 8 month old Poodle can’t even do a basic sit stay and I need to fix that.  Yadi, needs to learn to stop herding and barking at our oldest son.  These are the two things I’m going to work on with both of them over the next week or two.
I’m also going to work on opening my own heart and soul back up, to find the joy I used to have when I was training.  I know I still love it.  I love working with you guys so I know I’m not done yet, but I have to find that joy I used to have.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Change has to start with us

I’m still working my way though the Click to Calm book but as I went back to reading it today something that I underlined the last time I had the book in my hands really hit me.  I’m not talking a little punch, I’m talking freight train that ran me down!!!!

Emma says: In any healthy relationship between a handler and a dog, the human needs to be the one to make all the important decisions in her dogs life.  Most dogs will naturally assume the leadership role if there is no obvious hierarchy present.

Do I not teach this to all of my students, do I not tell all my students that they are in control of all of the good things in their dog’s lives?

Emma goes on to say: If the human allows this to happen, the dog feels that he is the one in charge and subsequently, that he has to discipline other members of the family.  Dogs are likely to discipline in the most direct way they know how: with their teeth!

Oh My DOG!!!   Now we know from my last post that I already knew that it was my lack of leadership for my dogs that has cause the little miss we are in.  But to have read that and not connected those dots before the fight, what on earth was I thinking.  Am I really getting that old or have I just lost my touch?

I think touch is going in the right direction, not that I have lost mine but that I have become out of touch with myself.  What is a day off?  I seriously have to ask that question because I’ve not had one in several years.  Even last year when we went to Disney I was still answering texts in the lines for our rides and constantly checking emails.  Is it any wonder why I’m so burned out??

Please no one take this the wrong way, I love what I do and that is why I am over working myself but if I keep it up I won’t have anything to give to you guys.   I do appointments Sunday-Friday and spend Saturday planning and trying to catch up on emails and homework notebooks.  My days start about 5:30am and run to about 7pm between doing admin work and appointments. Most days I have about 5-7 training sessions, so it’s easy to say, I’m a little tired.  So when I get home it’s time to put Ian to bed and time for me to crawl into bed myself.  Is there any wonder why I live life looking for my next cup of coffee?  LOL.  I say all of this to say that when I do get home I have very little to no mental energy to pour into my own 3 dogs.

The change is going to have to start with me, if it’s going to flow down into my dogs and it has to flow down into my dogs, they need me and I need them too.  I guess it’s time to slow down some and take some time for me and recharge my batteries I am going to have to learn to say No and set a schedule and stick to it.  Can I possibly do that??  I’m going to have to, my dogs need me to, and they deserve to get just as much from me and I ask from them.  After all isn’t that what I try to teach my students, a mutual bond of respect?

My life needs to be brought back in to balance I think this year is the best year to do it.  Here’s to 2020 the year of Zen and Balance!  I’m going to live my vision of dog training!!!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

How does my life effect my dogs???

When I started the blog it was to share with you my friends what I do and how I train.  Over the years, that I've been writing I've changed why I wanted to write it, but it has always been about making sure that parents know they are not alone in the daily struggles they are facing.  This has been something that has really been on my mind lately.  Last year when Yadi began to have issues with his guarding me and barking at other larger dogs.  There had been links about a study linking Long-term human stress levels and dog stress levels, and though it set off huge bright Red warning flags, I thought I could get everything under control.  I mean come on I have a career I love, a decent training reputation that has allowed me to open my own business.  I got to start my writing career with Dogs Monthly, and have been working on putting together a training book.  I have a great husband who supports me at every turn and have been blessed with a son that I never thought I would ever be able to have but also with my husband's son who I love dearly and want to build him up to succeed as well.  We just recently bought our first house and I have two precious Corgi's my dream dog breed as well as this lovely Poodle who stole my heart the first time I saw her picture.  What is there to be stressed about right???

What I have not been doing though, is taking care of myself.  I am a caregiver by nature and so it is very easy for me to put everyone else first and take care of them, and work towards their problems getting fixed without working on my own.  Avoidance is my favorite form of "therapy" though I know it only makes things worse, I just have problems putting my needs first.

4mth old Yadi, The day it all went wrong
As I sit back now and think about it, there have been signs over the last year that something was going on but I was dealing with them one at a time and not seeing the larger picture.  I was seeing little things like Yadi guarding me, he had been resource guarding for a while he had been attacked while trying to drink some water, by  an Austrian Shepherd that belonged to my previous business partner while he was under 4 months old.  That was the last time I let him run around and play while she was out.  The damage had been done but I though that it was something I could fix as he was growing up.

Loki Austrialian Cattle Dog
In August of that year we had to rehome our Australian Cattle Dog.  He and Ian had an issue, he had been chasing something and Ian was in his way.  Ian fell and became so afraid of him that he couldn't even be in the same room with him.  It wasn't fair for Loki to be stuck behind a baby gate all the time and he had been partially trained, and I let him go to a new home that could continue his training.  Though it broke my heart, I knew it would be best for him.  However what I did not know, was how attached Yadi was to Loki.  After Loki went to his new home I don't know if Yadi sensed my stress or it was just him missing Loki so much himself but he quickly developed a level of separation anxiety that made me feel like I had no clue what to do.  If I left him for any length of time, he walked around crying and howling.  It broke my heart.  When other dogs were around though, he would bark and growl at them.  I saw him as being a cocky adolescences Corgi, who was becoming reactive.
Yadi and Loki mid play session

What I did not see was that I was failing him because my Compassion Fatigue, the loss of yet another close mentor and trainer friend to suicide and how mentally and physically exhausting it was to put on my confident face that was needed for my training clients, that I just curled up and wanted to avoid everything when I got home.  I was not giving him all the structure he needed at home to let him know that I was ok and he didn't need to take care of me.

Yadi and Marley
When Marley came to live with us we worked on his food aggression.  It took quite a while but we got thought it.  I started with me just sitting on the floor feeding them on either side of me a little at a time as long as we were nice and quiet, taking away the food bowl if Yadi became fixated on Marley.  Now they could eat out of the same bowl if they wanted.
They are definitely a bonded pair now.  They need to know where the other is at all times.  What ever Marley says goes, she is the oldest in the house at almost 3.  She is also our fun police as we call it.  She doesn't like anyone to be running around having playtime, she will often get after Ian or Connor for running in the house and nip at their heels.  She has a grudge against Connor.  Before she came to live with us Connor who we thought at 17 was old enough to know how to behave for us to leave him home long enough for us to run pick up Ian from Daycare less than 5 minutes away.  When we got home, I could hear Connor shouting in a deep voice and Yadi barking.  As I opened the door, Yadi ran out and would not go back in without me.  Well incident has cause us no end of issues with Connor and the Corgis.  Yadi took his guarding to include Connor now.  Keeping him from me and from Ian.  I told Connor for weeks before we brought Marley home that he needed to get it under control.  He damaged the relationship, he was the one who had to fix it.

Marley having gotten caught
herding Kona in the
Since bringing Kona home at 14 weeks old, they have all 3 slept in the same crate 95% of the time.  There were very few times they they were not all together.  Marley had started recently over the last couple of months just started developing this issue where she would run away from her bowl to bark at Kona while she was eating in in the crate, and then back to her bowl.  I decided it would be best to have a small crate for Marley to eat in to keep from having any issues creep up with her and the food bowl.  One day she even barked and growled over her food bowl when the other two were outside.

Marley would often herd Kona into her crate and sit in front of it and not let her out.  I didn't really pay much attention to it other than her just being the fun police and most of the time when she did it, Kona and Yadi had been getting pretty rowdy and playing around.  I would call her off and she would behave herself and let Kona out of the crate and go on.

I started to notice at one point that Marley no longer wanted to go outside anymore.  I would have to let Yadi and Kona out and then go pick Ms Marley up and carry her outside.  I didn't pay it much attention other than it was getting colder and we had been having so much rain, I thought that it was just too muddy for her.  What I don't understand is that if she was having problems with Kona in the crate, she never acted like she didn't want to get in the crate.  As soon as I stood beside it, she was the first one in it.

Marley supervising
Yadi and Kona playing
I always thought if a problem was going to come up it was going to be with Yadi, like I have said, he is my trouble maker with other dogs.  A week ago I got up like normal around 4:30am  when my husband was getting up to take a shower for work and went to let Kona out as she had barked to go out.  Yadi of course was right there with her and Marley came out but as we went into our Sunroom, Marley jumped up and bit Kona on the side.  I got her off Kona and was just startled I put her in the small crate I had been feeding her in.  When I brought Kona and Yadi back in, Marley went out and there were no problems and I thought we were good maybe Kona had bumped her or stepped on her coming out of the crate.  I put Marley back in her crate and the other two back in the big crate and I went back to bed for a bit.  I got up at 5:30am as usual gave the pups their breakfast and started my morning routine.  I started my cup of coffee and let the pups out of their crates for a few minutes to get lovings before they went out after eating breakfast.

Before I knew what was going on at my feet the girls were in a knock down drag out.  I didn't think twice, I just reached down between them trying to get them apart.  After what felt like a hour of trying I finally managed to get them across my kitchen and apart to get Kona in her crate and Marley in hers.  It was then as the fear and adrenaline started to clear that I realized that someone had got me a couple times while I was trying to get them apart.

Right after the fight
After going to see
the doctor
Now for several months now I've been struggling with Kona and her fearful reactions of other dogs.  I've been working with her and we have gone from her fear snapping at other dogs to just barking at them.  That was a lot of progress, now I fear all that may have been lost.  I'm working with them everyday and I'll make more posts in the coming weeks and months as to our progress but I just wanted to share with everyone what's been going on.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Some of my training adventures in this new year.

Today I was meeting with Rose and Gabe at Craighead Forrest to work on some social skills, and learning to calmly greet other dogs.  Kona tagged along to play demo dog.  This was actually her first visit out to Craighead.  Excuse her harness it’s falling off her shoulder as she sits there in the sunshine.  This girl has learned to bark at other dogs from her Corgi brother and sister who bark at our neighbor dog and that is something that I am now having to fix so that she can work with me out in public.

Rose and Gabe did very well with learning to settle down and relax.  We were only looking for calm behaviors such as standing squarely on all 4 feet instead of pulling on the leash to get to the other dogs.  We did not expect them to get anywhere near each other and stayed a good 15 feet away but did move in closer than we started so we counted that as a success.  

Miss Dolly Peanut is learning to walk on leash and was working on one of her first field out to a dog friendly store.  We are working with her on learning not to pull so we just stop the walk and wait for her to come back to us, then we continue walking.  Another thing we were working with Dolly was her learning to politely sit for greetings with other people.  She did amazing for her first lesson out and is going to grow up into a well mannered lady.  

Thursday I got go take some friends of mine and go out to one of our local schools and visit with some of the kids.  We were going to be presenting to them about Assistance dogs and helping them learn about Service Dogs and Therapy dogs and the differences between them.  As well as how to approach them and how to act around them.  We talked about the importance of not distracting a Service Dog from doing their job, and I answered a bunch of the kids questions.  It was so wonderful to see how happy the kids were each time we walked into a classroom and how interested they were in the dogs.  
I had two dogs with me, Sam a Golden Retriever who is training to be a Therapy Dog and Scooby an American Staffordshire Bull Terrier who is both a Service Dog that his dad does Therapy visits with as well so that he can an ambassador for his breed.  

I put out a podcast on the visit which can be found here... https://anchor.fm/dogtra/episodes/Assistance-Dogs-and-Kids-eahrl1/a-a18c2s7
Earlier in the week I had a moment when I realized that Yadi has finally come out of his adolescence. He will be 2 in March and he is no long the puppy that grabs anything he can find to try and get me to chase him.  I’m so happy about this, it means that I will only have one puppy in adolescence when Kona goes into it.  Maybe I can get her though it easier with her working though it on a regular basis, better than I did with Yadi.  Here is hoping!!!  

Saturday, December 28, 2019

embarrassed moment leads to lightbulb moment!!!

I've always been a big fan of talking about training because when you talk about it, things come out that you wouldn't have thought about in the beginning.  Now this blog post has taken on a totally new light since I started writing it 20 minutes ago.  I'm leaving the original post below in italics.
Riley - Black Standard Poodle

I'm not talking a little, I'm talking completely flushed and sweating I was so embarrassed!!!  So Riley is my new prospect.  She will be 6 months old tomorrow, I quit working her out in public for more than a short period at a time because she was just not handling her food well, she was allergic to chicken and I didn't realize it at first.  I was having a hard time getting her potty trained at home because of it and didn't want to risk an accident out in public because she had already had one.  
Kiera in the red vest, getting ready to do a recall past another dog (Riley)

Well last night I took her to work with another student of mine Kiera.  Y'all this girl is going to challenge me until I change everything about how I train, or I pull out every last hair on my head.  Now I know she was probably feeding off of me because I was nervous having her out anyway, and I had a headache so I was a little off my game.  This girl for one is afraid of other dogs, I don't know if she has picked that up from Yadi or something that happened before I brought her home.  

We get past her barking at Kiera at first and then we start to work on Kiera's lesson, she is amazing and she and her handler do beautiful together!!  So we start to head down to Target.  Riley gives me no warning at all and just pees as she is walking...  

I'm like what?????   You have to be kidding me...  

Clean that mess up and then continue on get to Target to work on ignoring food for Kiera and Riley just relaxing and being a distraction.  Before we could even get started there she pooped in the middle of the main isle.  OMG Riley!!!!   Now my student says...  I love how you even gave her a chance to go potty and she just stood there and looked at you.   Guys I wanted to crawl into a whole and hide, but this customer walking by as I was cleaning everything up says "did we have an accident?  Well it happens to all of us sometimes."  That made me feel a tiny bit better and then my student's mom says "you make me feel normal" and that made me feel better.  

I guess the take away from this is that we are dealing with dog's they are not perfect, they are not robots, I am going to take this a yet another learning experience with her and make sure that if we are going to work in public I take her out on leash to potty before going anywhere, and I'm going to work on teaching her to paw target my foot when she needs to go out to go potty instead of barking at me.

It was upon typing that last sentence it hit me, I did this to myself.  I took away my pups potty alert without teaching her a new one first!  Talk about a face palm moment.  Her cue to go potty was to bark at me, and since I have been correcting her for barking in public... when we are in public she doesn't know how to let me know that she has to go potty.

I know I will get a lot of flack for this post from people that will say I have no business taking my pup out to train if she is going to have potty accidents in public.  Believe me, it's not something I want to have happen, but it did and if someone else can learn something from my mistake then I'll take the flack for it.

Happy Training!!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Feeling like a Fake...

I have never been stopped so many times over a service dog as I have in the last week.  Everything from “oh my gosh your dog is so pretty” as they pass by which I honestly don’t mind.  To people wanting to take pictures of the dogs I’m working with, and one guy that interrupted a training session yesterday because “I could just tell he wanted to sniff me” as he leans down and puts the back of his hand right up to the dog’s nose as I’m saying “He is a Service Dog, you can’t pet him” he says “oh I’m not petting him”.

I just blinked…

Last week I was working with a client dog Leo, and while I must admit he is a very handsome boy I was constantly being hassled from people wanting to take his picture.  Early this week I got in a patch that I ordered for Riley that says, “I’m a Service Dog not a Magical Unicorn” and I feel it came at the perfect time.  It’s hard enough when we are working with a young service dog in training to keep their attention and teach the the skills needed, then you add in the stress we feel having our dog out in public in the first place.  Most of us are so awarded of all the “Fake Service Dog” stuff going on that we are scared to death our dogs are going to do something and be labeled as fake, then where will we be?? 

Well here is my take on it, the difference between a “Fake Service Dog”, and a “Service Dog in Training” is all about how we the handler’s deal with issues that come up.  
Service Dogs are not robots. 
They are going to make mistakes.
They are going to have off days.
They are going to not know how to handle things.
What matters is how we help them though these trying times.  Remember we are asking our dogs to conform to our society and what we think they should be doing, it is our RESPONSIBILITY to teach them to succeed in this area of life. 

There is very little chance that you are going to be able to think of every single situation that you and your SDiT might find yourselves in to try and train it at home, and if you did by some miracle there is no way to know that your dog is going to be able to handle the situation the same way out in public that they did at home. 

The best advice I can give is to be prepaid for an anything to happen.  Riley is still under 8 months so I know we are going to at some point have a potty accident somewhere.  I’m hopeful now that I have her off of all chicken it won’t happen EVER again (yes I said again because it has happened before). Though we never want to think about it happening, at some point our dogs are going to have an accident. 

I usually carry some sort of bag with me when I’m out training, I try to always make sure that bag has the following things in it:
Unscented baby wipes/Antibacterial wipes
Hand sanitizer (great for cleaning the floor too)
Extra roll of poop bags
Water bottle and/or bowl
A small lightweight blanket to use as a place mat

So recently I’ve come to Realize that raising Riley with to Corgis she thinks she is a small dog too.  She is actually fearful of dogs her own size or bigger.  If I take her out to work with her and she barks, is she a fake?  Or is it an untrained reaction? 
She does the Tasks I need most from her, she interrupts my self harming behavior, and brings me back from Grey outs.  She has also learned to circle me so we are working on her doing that when we are in a crowd of people.  Does that not fit the definition of a Service Dog?  With just those few things, not even the things that we are still working on learning, has she not helped to significantly ease major portions of my life that have caused me from interacting with other people, helps me to deal with my PTSD in a health way that does not leave more visible scars that the invisible ones?  To me, the answer is Yes, so she can’t be a fake.  She still has areas where she needs to train of course, she will for the rest of her life, but she is a Service Dog in Training.  She has the chops to do the job, and she is such a wonderful girl.  I can teach her not to be afraid of the other dogs, and train her behaviors. 

There are going to be things our dogs have problems with, but we have to help them learn how to deal with it.  We have to teach them the appropriate and acceptable responses to stimulus that they come in contact with.  When you go out with your SdiT if you feel nervous because of people judging you, or that someone is going to say something to you, stick to the dog friendly but not heavily dog populated areas.  Focus on your dog and what your dog needs to be doing, and that you need to be communicating with them.  Remember to make the outing about your dog and not let other people get under your skin they all have opinions and your never going to please everyone so don’t worry about them, just think about you and your dog.    

Silver Linings

It has been almost a month since I have been working from home.  My own pups have come a long way in their behavior at home.  We still hav...