Even Dog Trainers Train…

with other trainers. Although I own my own business, you’ll occasionally find my rig (with my Leash & Hand Dog Training sign on the back window) in the parking lot of another dog training business. And you’ll find me & Enzo inside, having a blast… Huh? Wha? How come?

Because it’s fun…

and I admire and respect my colleagues. I’ve had both the privilege and honor of working and learning side-by-side with two wonderful women–as both an intern during my classes and as a client learning with my own dogs. Helen is the brilliant trainer who helped me with Rose Marie. Dee was my mentor for several classes I took while attending CATCH Canine Trainers Academy and the AKC evaluator for Bess’s Canine Good Citizen test… both of them.

I stand on the shoulders of giants. I didn’t get where I am today by myself. I’ve learned from the very best in the world of animal training and behavior. Some of my favorite pioneers in the scientific field regarding how dogs learn are Patricia McConnell, Jean Donaldson, Frans de Waal, and Bob Bailey. Other favorites include Jane Killion, Denise Fenzi, and Nicole Wilde. I read, attend seminars, workshops, and webinars. And I will continue to do so. I love training my own dogs. I love helping clients train theirs… I love the mutual dance of attempting communication between two very different species: human and canine. There are no words to convey the joy felt when we ‘click’ and the understanding flows between us….it’s unscientifically magical.

There’s this joke in the dog training world: Q: What’s the only thing 2 dog trainers can agree on? A: That the third dog trainer is doing it wrong. However, that’s not been my experience, ever. In my previous life, I worked with several fine, gifted educators. We shared theories, ideas, and lessons we’d learned from our students. The conversations were respectful and enriching, as we sought only to improve our practice so that we could improve the lives and learning of our students. I’ve had the very same experience since my induction into the world of professional dog training. I love working with my colleagues–they graciously share their knowledge and expertise in order to improve the lives and relationships of our current students: the dogs and the human who love them.

I frequently video myself training my dogs. Next, I view the video. I look for timing errors, stress behaviors from my dog, and what didn’t go as planned. Then, I take notes on ways I can improve before the next session. Do I always video? It depends. I do when I’m starting to train a new behavior. I also video when things aren’t going well- when either Finn or Enzo send me signals of confusion or uncertainty, or when learning isn’t progressing. As informative as this process is, it’s also a lot of work and it takes time.

However, when I attend a colleague’s class, I have the benefit of immediate feedback–I don’t have to wait to view the video. I have her watching me train my dog–this instant, in real time. I’m able to make corrections and adjust instantly based upon her input. In addition my colleagues see me and my dogs through a different lens: theirs. The different perspective provides the opportunity to comment on things I haven’t considered, then offer up new ideas or techniques I haven’t tried. I also have the benefit of the camaraderie you get in a small, dedicated group of dog lovers, working together towards a common goal. Not only do I have either Helen or Dee supporting us, I have classmates cheering us on and celebrating our successes as well. I’ve met so many wonderful people through this venue.

Spinone Italiano training

My goal is to

always train my dogs with clarity, laughter, and love. My hope is to impart that same enjoyment to my own clients and their dogs. And my plan is to continue working with my dogs and my colleagues when I can, because it’s fun and it makes me happy.

Enzo & I, receiving his AKC Novice Trick Title.