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Friday, January 7, 2011

I am reconnecting with my blog and will try to post frequently. I'm still thinking through just exactly what I want this blog to be so bare with me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I believe, as humans, we would all do much better if we remembered we belong in the animal kingdom. All life is miraculous and, no, it does not require the belief in a higher being to know this. Actually, we are the higher being if you connect the dots. Our dogs are as soulful as we are.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Principals for training

First, when I train I must be patient and positive. I must show my dog exactly what the task is while providing positive reinforcement. Sometimes this is done through shaping which means I wait until the dog displays the behavior and then reward her. I might be waiting awhile. During that wait time I continue to smile and be positive. With humans, this means catching children or adults doing great things and then telling them so.
Next, I need to make sure I am clear about what I want. If I want a sit then I wait for it and reward. If my dog does a down I must wait for a sit. I don’t put a word to it until she offers the behavior quickly and even after a command is put to the behavior, I must not assume this means she knows it. How much slack do we allow our human companions when learning a new task?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Each Dog has a Lesson for You

In December I lost Garnet, my beloved 12 year old German Shepherd. She was a patient kind animal who loved all of the dogs in our pack and all of the humans. She hated it when I helped her. I used a towel under her tummy to assist her going up and down the stairs. I also had to monitor how she drank water in her old age as she had a deep, barrel chest and would often drink so fast that she'd throw up. There was a chance that she could flip her stomach which would mean death for an old dog like her.
I took care of her and monitored, but often I would feel irritated and angry, cursing the care I gave her. When that final day arrived and I knew she was suffering terribly with kidney failure I took her to the emergency vet. It all happened on a weekend so I had no time to plan to have my friend come and help her ease out of this life like I usually did.
I sat on the examining room floor with her head in my lap and fed her cookies and told her how much I loved her. I sobbed and tears and snot ran together down my face. My two daughters just handed me tissue to sop it up.
I thought back on my life with her. Garnet was beyond loyal. Her love was overkill. If I went away for a few days she'd lie by the gate if my daughter put her outside. If she was inside she'd lie by the door. When I was home she followed me into every room. Have you ever tried sharing a tiny bathroom with two German Shepherds? Well, I learned to use the time spent on the toilet as an opportunity to share a good ear or tummy scratch.
Garnet was obedience trained, but she hated to show because I was always a nervous zombie when I went in the ring. She always wanted to leave the ring and go home.
What did I learn from her? When someone loves you embrace it. I wondered many times what she saw in me, but apparently she saw beauty beyond anything else on earth. I am grateful that another sentient being found me to be so wonderful. I learned that to help one through old age takes grace and self reflection. It makes one face their anger and frustration and understand how useless it really is.
I miss you Garnet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Become a Better Human: Train a Dog

I love my dogs and I think they love me. Over the years I’ve worked in almost every dog sport, mostly to keep my dogs fit and happy. What I’ve realized over the years, though, is that doing this keeps me happy. In order to do dog sports I have to stay fit so I do a lot of dog walking. This, of course, makes me a better human and a happier. Here are a few other qualities I must maintain in order to do a good job of training: be patient, be positive, be clear so my dog knows what I want, if my dog doesn’t do what I expect reflect on what I did wrong, never correct unless I am sure the dog has learned the task, when teaching your dog to come to you it must always be positive and happy to have your dog near you, and visualize how you want it to be. Finally, have fun. Now, can you imagine how loved we would all be if we used these principals with humans.