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……



Recalls to side

IMG_3214Figured I would shock everyone and write two days in a row! Scoop, Ace and I are home from the trial. We had fun, but yesterday Ace and I were perfect, and today I pulled him off a weave entry:(   Don’t you just hate it when your dog is obedient?

Scoop was a bit better today, we hung at ring side for at least an hour and he was quiet while dogs were running. I worked a class jump bar setting and was able to leave him in a down while tied to an immovable object while I went in and set jump bars. There was always someone with him, don’t worry….. I did not leave my puppy tied at ringside!   I was happy that he let me get up go in the ring and waited calmly with them while I was gone for a minute. And he didn’t  mob too many folks today, however we went through 4 sticks of string cheese making sure he happily sat when I asked. Scoop seems to love everybody which is good and bad news when I am trying to keep his feet on the ground and his attention on me. We did lots of heelwork and playing and overall had some nice training moments.

Back at home yesterday I practiced doing recalls to side from a sit stay. I trust now that Scoop will sit and stay without scooching around even if I am 30 or 40 feet from him. Granted, this is in home field without lots of distractions. I always used to return to his side to release him, I have not done that many recalls from a sit stay with a lot of distance. I have done lots of sit stay and release to tug with me while I am reasonably close by, maybe  no more than 10 feet. I have been building this slowly so that we don’t have errors, and still let him drive with enthusiasm to me. If ever he moves a foot after I leave him I return to release him, he will not get to move towards me at a distance after an error on the sit stay.

So yesterday I lined him up, dropped the toy at my side, stepped away, called him to my side, rewarded, then spun with him and said get it, to let him have his toy. No problem on multiple attempts from a short distance with treats as a reward, and a Riot stick as the toy. Then I got out the soccer ball and the results were a teensy bit different.  Like this…Scoop lines up nicley, he is staying, I drop soccer ball, I step away, I release him  and he goes direct to the soccer ball. Whoops. So we built this slowly. More recalls to side with cookies, low level toy again, then very casual placement of soccer ball at my side, and we had success.  I am going out to train and see if I can add another level of  progression to the game today. I will let you know how it goes and show you the next step, next time. I hope you have as much fun training this game with your pup as I had with mine!


The game went like this:Scoop toy1

Creativity Games

That header may not accurately describe the creativity sessions I have with my puppy. I am not shaping anything, expecting anything or training anything. I am just spending some time sitting on the floor in the kitchen or my office, or out in the agility field. I make sure there are some toys available, or just some stuff, like water bowls or boxes. And then I just watch him play. I engage only as much as he wants, he comes crashing in to sit on my lap, or bring me some stuff and he cuddles or tugs. Or we just “hang”. It is 10:30 at night and I just sat and watched him go cracker dog in my office for 10 minutes. My office isn’t large but he did the butt run, and carried and threw around a metal bowl and a henrietta chicken toy. He squeezed under the shelfs and drug out some empty boxes which he proceeded to jump on and push around and generally just had a good party with. And then he crashed. Sound asleep in 10 seconds after hitting the floor.

I like spending some time every day with no goals, nothing to accomplish. Just see what he wants to do and spend hang out time with him.  He is fun to be with and he is a time thief.

I want to train the fun stuff, but am trying to focus on recalls and playing and really necessary puppy stuff. I put him on the grooming table every day and do little cc stuff with handling and brushes and the drommel. He has a tendency to put up a bit of a fuss about grooming and handling and I don’t want that to be an issue of course. After many training sessions he has stopped biting at the brush, and stands nicely for handling and grooming. I need a helper to do his nails with the drommel. I could force the issue but I don’t need to. If Jim feeds him cookies I can do all his toes pretty quickly without a problem. On my own while he is on the table I pick up a foot, treat, handle each toe, treat, touch a toe with a drommel, treat etc. I feed him for not reacting to me picking up the foot or touching his toes. If he fusses I stop, but no cookie. I do less the next time and praise and treat him for being compliant. I like to keep the treat bowl where he can see it, but not reach it. This works for him, but could be too distracting for some dogs.

I was in Oregon at Robert and Lisa Michelons teaching over the last weekend. It was my second voyage in the RV and so much fun staying at their beautiful home, parked out in a lovely grass yard with views of the mountains. Scoop,Oregon 002









Ace and Scoop had a great time. I really used my treat and train a lot. Scoop stayed in an expen part of the time by the RV and I put the machine in the pen with him. I could reward him from the agility field where I was teaching, what fun for both of us.

He spent much of the last two days with us at the seminar, hanginscoop sleepg out with his new friend, Cheryle Davis. She took him for walks, and let him socialize with some of the other pups, and of course let him have afternoon siestas on her lap. On two evenings we went into town for dinner and Scoop came along so that I could get him into the city for some socializing. One of the restaurants was right on the Rogue River, and was a bustling tourist area. The boats were on the river, and the kids were out with skate boards. Lisa Robert and I had a table on the deck, so as soon as we ordered our dinner I nicked off to get Scoop and had a walk that took us through the patios and dinner areas. He got to see waterfalls, lots of people, and walk up and down 100 steps. His first impressions were just slightly worried about all the goings on. I walked briskly with him, giving some cookies and encouraging him to tug on the leash. I put him back in the car while we ate, then got him back out again for another trip around the area. The second time he was great! Tugging, playing, wanting to jump on the rocks in the landscaped areas and walk through the water in the fountains. I am going to remember this two step process the next time we go somewhere he might think is a bit noisy or stressful. Make the first pass fast and fun and then leave. Go back a second time for longer strolls and focusing on what is in the environment.

Scoop and Ace got a bit crazy digging in mole holes one evening at the Michelons. I was wondering what Scoop would look like as a tri and now I kScoop,Oregon 008Scoop,Oregon 007now.










Time for bed for both of us. I am home for a week now and hope to spend some time writing more about our adventures and training this next week. I love my silly, wild, pushy, cuddly pup, hope you love yours too.