About Me

My photo
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!!!

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Big Move

 There are some changes I'm working on and so this blog, the training blog will continue but will be moved over to www.downtoearthdogtrainer.com

The blog that will take it's place here, will be one that will explore my own personal journies with a psychiatric Service Dog.  

Let the journey begin!!  

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Kona Diaries - Secondary Fear Stage and Vet Visits

This morning I had a plan.  I was going to take Kona to Hollywood Feed for some social interactions.  Since spending all this time at home with the COVID-19 Shutdown, she has regressed a lot on her social skills.  My intention was to do some filming of her while we were out, however that was quickly abandoned.  At first, she did pretty well, she walked with me and would every now and then forge ahead of me but would come back to heel when I asked.  Not once did she try to take anything off the shelves though.  I was very proud. 
As we made a loop around to the front counter she caught sight of this sign spinning in the air and she just lost it.  She never once barked at it but she crouched down and her legs were shaking. 
We have definitely had a setback. 

After a nap to try and get some relief from a migraine that had started making me feel sick, I went out with the pups and found a huge blood smear on my patio at first I thought Kona had finally come into heat then I walked inside and saw more blood, and a trail of blood that finally led into my kitchen and looked as if some animal had been massacred. 

I found a picture frame that had been knocked over and some broken glass and realized what happened.  Yadi's feet were still white so I got Kona to stand still so I could look at hers and sure enough, she had sliced open her foot.  I called my vet and they said to bring her in. 

When we got there she was scared until she saw her Auntie Pam and got snuggles from her.  Then we
went back to the exam room and at first, she didn't' want to get up on the table when it had been lowered to the floor, but I just dropped a few treats on the table and she slowly stepped up there and got on the table.   She weighted 54.1LBS  As Dr. B raised the table she was very calm and her normal self. 
She let Dr B and Megan examine her foot and clean the wound, while she just stood still and watched them.  They took her to the treatment room to be able to put some staples in her foot, I was worried how she would react but Megan said that she was excellent.  I was so proud of her. 

We played some leave it games while waiting for Dr B to come back and mainly I was rewarding her for not barking at everything she was hearing behind the closed door. 



Once we were back in the car I realized that she is such a good girl and just has a few quirks we need to work out.  We will get there, it will just take us a little time.  I'm following her lead though and letting her tell me when she is ready to move on to the next task.  Right now we have to get this foot healed up. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Kona Diaries - Separation Anxiety

I think the biggest thing I have noticed since being at home during this COVID Shutdown is how wonderful my dogs are, but also how far we still have to go.  I've always been big on my dogs being able to entertain themselves.  This is super important for helping with Separation Anxiety, as well as just boredom busters.  As the readers of my blog know, Kona my Standard Poodle has real problems being away from me. 

One of the things I have noticed since being home with my dogs is how much they have chilled out.  Kona used to be very much a needy puppy that barked at me when I did not pay attention to her the second she thought I should.  Read she is a demand barker here.  She has gotten so much better about this, but when we are training she thinks I should be going at breakneck speed at popping treats in her mouth.  But also, that I have severely neglected their training.  I've tried to make up for some of that while being at home with them.  

We are working on a protocol to help with her feeling so anxious when she does not have access to me. She has gotten a bit better and will actually leave me to go inside when she is ready, but heaven help my blinds if I close the doggie door off and leave her in and I go outside.  

There have been times I've needed to block her out of the living room for one reason or another mostly so I
can vacuum without Yadi attacking the vacuum or her, or when she was trying to steal Ian's food all the time. She has really done a number on my door frames where the baby gate is.  I'm going to have to repaint them.  Not to mention figuring out how to get all the flaked paint off my hardwood floors without taking the finish off my floors because the paint is stuck to the floors.  I'm guessing it's latex paint.  

I even bought a remote treat dispenser to be able to give her treats from a distance for moving away from me and not being right under my feet.  Sadly Yadi is terrified of the noise it makes so I have to work on it with him so that it doesn't bother him so that I can use it with her on a regular basis.  

She has severely regressed in her socialization being stuck at home during this time at home.  I have to get her back out and start working with her again.  I'm hoping that we will have a smallish reset button when we start working again, so I can try to get her back to where she needs to be and stop barking at other dogs.  Thankfully I have a neighbor dog to practice with.  

So that's about where we are right now.  Just trying to make a little progress every day.  This last week, she turned a year old.  While she has grown so much she is still such a puppy.  She has no idea how big she is, she thinks that she is Yadi's size.  

Happy Training!!!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Training Responsibilities - The Human's Role

I wish there was one special quick to read book that told all the secrets that it takes dog trainers years to learn, and no I've not learned them all yet.  A store place of knowledge that tells us, humans, all the things we need to do in order to make our dogs happy, lazy (and by lazy I mean tired on a regular basis), and well-behaved pups.  Sadly there is not, maybe I'll write some of it one day, but for today I just want to talk about a few of the things that we SHOULD be doing on a regular basis for our pups. 

Our dogs need a stable environment with boundaries and rules that they need to follow.  It makes their lives much easier.  If we as humans didn't have any rules or Laws that we needed to live our lives by, think of how much chaos we would be in.  Those boundaries should only be things to help improve their behavior. 

Such as: If you are out walking your dog, and you know your dog is going to bark at a stranger that you pass along the way, BE ready for it.  Have a high-value reward, your focus on the walk should be looking for other people and making sure you get your dog's attention before they can react badly.  Being PROACTIVE is key.  If our dog is already behaving badly we have missed the chance to reward them at that point.  Once our dog is behaving badly, when it's a trigger that we knew could come up... but we didn't think to be repaired for it, well who is really at fault? 
I'll give you a hint, it's us.  This is one of OUR responsibilities, and it's a major one, that we are ready to train our dogs at any given second. 

One of the major issues I have with my Standard Poodle Kona is that she will from time to time counter
surf.  No matter how often we work on her not jumping on the counter, and don't get me wrong she does great in the training sessions.  If I forget and leave something where she can reach it, it's like it is a challenge to her to see if she can grab it.  

When she does grab something, it's not always her fault.  It is partly my fault as well because I left it out where she could get hold of it.  There are two ends of the metaphorical leash that bonds us with our dogs as well.  Whether we want to admit it or not everything our dogs do we are in some part responsible for.  Either we have rewarded them at some point for doing it, or we have allowed them to do it so much they have made it a habit.  
It is our part as the human to look at our environment and manage it in a way that best supports our puppies for the success they need to build confidence and an inquisitive personality That will help them build an outgoing and social personality, instead of being shy, fearful or reactive when something in their environment changes.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

When Your Dog Trains Your Kids

This morning for the umpteenth time I called Yadi over to me to give him a treat in trade for whatever thing he had grabbed off the floor that belonged to one of my sons, it occurred to me that other people probably have the same thing going on in their house as well. 

Yadi learned early on that if he grabbed something he wasn't supposed to have, one of the boys would get really excited about it (start yelling) and play chase with him (try to get the item back)  sometimes it was even me trying to get the item back.  Often it resulted in him bringing things to me to show me what treasure he had found in exchange for a treat if he would give it up without a chase. 

So for him, this became one of the best games ever, and he loved to play it so much he trained my boys how to play it with him.  He would find something that they were repeatedly told not to leave on where he could get it and make sure they saw him with it.  Much like the pose in the picture. 

When Connor first moved in with us we left him home alone with Yadi while we went to pick up Ian from daycare and when we got home Connor was yelling at Yadi and scared him.  That afternoon Yadi started to view Connor as a threat and even bit him on the rear end for messing with Ian that night.  He has since displayed heavy herding behavior with Connor. 

I tried to get Connor to train with Yadi to get him to listen to Connor and start to follow his instructions.  I thought it might help with hearing behavior.  Connor however did not follow my instructions and allowed Yadi to take advantage of the situation and actually trained Connor to just treat him for nipping at his heels.   So now Yadi has Connor trained that if he takes a step and Yadi barks he will give Yadi a treat so that Yadi doesn't nip his ankle.  This is where I don't know if I should laugh, or shake my head, and most days I do both at the same time. 

Yadi is ever watchful of my boys and I'm very grateful for that, but he is also a very smart dog.  I heard a saying a long time ago that has stuck with me throughout all my years as a trainer, and Yadi is definitely an embodiment of this saying.   I wish I could remember who said it but...

Every second that you are with your dog, someone is being trained... whether it's you, your dog. 

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
crate
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!!!  

The Big Move

 There are some changes I'm working on and so this blog, the training blog will continue but will be moved over to www.downtoearthdogtra...