what I know now and wish I knew then…

At 4- That my passion for dogs would turn into a career.

At 18- How I wish I had taken a path to an advanced degree in animal behavior, I would surely love to have that piece of paper now!

In my 20’s- To train every behavior long before you ever need to use it. It took me some time to discover that you don’t train door/gate behaviors when you want to go out the door with four dogs crowding you to go for a walk. That you don’t train stays when it is imperative that your dog do so. That you don’t teach recalls when you really need your dog to come to save his life. You don’t wait to train your dog to tolerate physical exams while you are at the vet during an emergency. Train it BEFORE you need it.

30’s- That training with compulsion will take you three times as long as training with rewards.

  • First you lose the time you took while trying to force your animal to do something
  • Next you lose the time it takes to rebuild your relationship and reestablish the trust you destroyed
  • And now it still takes the time to teach the behavior the right way using reinforcement, right after you extinguish all the bad behavior and start back at zero


  • That teaching my students to play with their dogs would be way more important than teaching them to weave
  • The importance of goal setting and record keeping. I wish I had a better paper trail of where I have been and what I have done to teach skills to my dogs and what I was thinking at any given day, month or year in my career. I’d have started keeping better training logs and diaries.
  • Don’t bother to teach the dog what you don’t want him to do, just teach him what you DO want him to do. It takes twice as long to teach while moving in two directions at the same time.
  • I wish I had been able to look into the future and see where one short trip to Europe with Scud in 1996 on the AKC World Team would change my entire life!

Mid forties- I would have jumped on the first plane to Arkansas to train with Bob Bailey, instead of waiting 10 years

Late forties- That foundation and groundwork is the most important part of agility training, obstacles are easy.


  • That standing still would be one of the most important lessons I would take away from my first week of training with Bob Bailey.
  • That Chicken Camp and Bob Bailey would be the most valuable of ALL my animal training lessons!
  • That training is a mechanical skill. (Bob Bailey)

Mid 50’s- That any dog can learn to retrieve if you understand how to use a clicker and some cookies.

Late Late fifties- How important massage is to my dogs’ and my own health

Last year – That my youngster Scoop would seem to be recovered from all his health issues and look as good as he did in training today.

Two months ago- That a sure fire way to insure that he stays sound would be to get a new puppy that I really was not quite ready for!

Last month- That focusing a little too much on food training and tricks can set back your game of tug with your puppy.

A puppy?

Last week-That even though I didn’t give her 100% of my heart for the first month for a variety of reasons, that it would be inevitable if I brought a puppy into my life that she would be mine and I would not be able to give her back.

Yesterday- That I might as well introduce her to everyone since she’s here to stay!

Meet Pie.

Photos of Pie by Lali Miramon

This post was inspired by blog action day on the subject of “If I knew then what I know now”.


I hope your career with your dog mostly has you looking forward not back, but sometimes it is fun to dream……



Scoop OAJ

I can hardly believe that Scoop will be three years old in a month. I want my lost year back! Ok, enough whining:) Scoop and I went to his first competition in almost a year and he did really well. No Q’s on day one, but on the second day he got his third open jumpers leg to finish the title and this weekend he will run in EX jumpers for the first time. His last time in the AKC ring was exactly a year ago, his 2nd open jumpers leg was on 2.12.2011, almost exactly one year between open jumpers legs!

Here is a video of the jumpers run and the EX standard Q we almost got till I dumped him in the weaves and had to pay for it with his departure.

Scoop is still getting weekly massages and last week he got one on both Friday and Saturday, Maybe that was why he was good on Sunday!

My student Mary VanWormer sent me a link to a really interesting article on why massage heals. I found it an eye opener and it has even more confirmed the need to have body work done on my dogs. I am now trying to adjust the time I spend working on Scoop myself so that I save time after training and not necessarily before. I really don’t think I can make time for both! Warm-up, stretch, train, then a least a little time devoted to massaging his tightest parts.

I hope our success continues and am really looking forward to this weekend instead of with the trepidation I have felt for so long on his progress.

I hope your youngster is right on track and that you make some time and same some money to spend on those valuable massages for your competition partner!


cautious optimism

Scoop, 1.15.2012, Mia Grant Photo

That is what I am experiencing at the moment with Scoop’s health. For almost a month I have been actively training him, and we have not really had one bad day. YAHOO! Scoop’s final diagnosis it seems is another one of those health problems (like aspergillis) I never really wanted to learn about. Scoop has “bunchy muscles” I am told. The MRI and ultrasound and multiple x-rays all told a story of good structure and nothing to even consider that can be seen on a diagnostic machine. The ultrasound given by an incredible radiologist, Dr. Craig Long in Sacramento, showed no tears of any of the muscles in the rear, Ilio psoas just fine and all the rest as well.  So, since he really had no injury to rehab, we went back to training.

What in the world are bunchy muscles I ask? Apparently not the kind of long and soft kind I want. When I look at him it just does not sound right. He is lean and long and doesn’t look like he has some kind of chunky muscle builder muscles. Actually he does seem to be one big long muscle, but I thought that was supposed to be good. Scoop is moving better, jump freely, and not showing the obvious discomfort of the past 9 months. I think this is because he now gets weekly or semi-weekly deep tissue massages by my human therapist.

This is the same masseuse that cured the foot ailment that almost derailed MY career last year. Each week Scoop is found to have incredible tightness and knots in different areas and the therapist is slowly working his way through eliminating them. I don’t know if we will reach a point that maybe a monthly therapy will be enough to keep him moving well, but that is what I am dreaming about.

I know he is getting better because in the past Scoop had gigantic bar knocking issues, and seemed to never be able to hit a weave entry, for this past month he has rarely taken a bar, and maybe only missed a couple weave entries, and I can tell you that I am trying hard to find every tough one there is to train.

I know the weave issues have not been training ones, he simply could not bend his body around the first gate. Especially on 90 degree entries, on a left hand entry he would make the first gate and have to skip the second. On a right hand wrap he could not get wrapped around the first pole, he always entered the second gate. The difference now is totally remarkable. And his A-frame at the moment is the one I dreamed of when I started training. Scoop could just never seem to get the oomph over the top of the frame that would drive him deep into yellow. I am asking the universe to let me have this dog, this frame, these weaves and his nice jump style!

Scoop is wild right now in training. I am having to work as hard on all the foundation skills as the agility work. After all the months of hit and miss training his excitement to be back in the field really working has him almost “off his stick” as they say. Stays and lineups and self-control are all high on our training list.

I took some photos of Scoop at Precision Body Therapy with his therapist, Edward.  Scoop seems to really love the sessions and actively participates at times stretching into the work. Interesting to observe the interaction of dog and therapist. I am sure Scoop knows that Edward is helping him.

Hope your juvenile agility dog gets to experience this kind of great therapy at some point in his life. I for one can’t wait till I can go back to spending my massage money on ME:)