Friday, June 27, 2008

Halloween in June • Modeling Redux

Another day of modeling...not as appealing as the day at the lake but you gotta make a living. This one was for a Halloween circular for Joann Fabrics to be printed in September. I had to drive my poor Trip 2 1/2 hours each way to Columbus, OH to pose in a Halloween Pumpkin Outfit.

While I have in the past dismissed owners suggesting their dogs act humiliated by stuff I had to say this wasn't just calming signals of distress by my poor boy, but true humiliation at having to wear an outfit that was ill fitting. If only he could blush! He did have a sense of humor though. They wanted him to sit. He knows how to sit. He'll sit if I ask him from 20 feet away with my back to him. But in this case, due to the fitting of the cape, he would stand and he would lay, but sitting was a challenge. That being said, we did get in and out with suitable shots for their project within 1/2 hour!

Upon our return the pooch crashed in the sun and dreamt of finer things (wishing he had the lake gig?)!

We dog trainers have no pride! But again, I wouldn't have it any other way!!!! For those of you out there doing dog training, I heartily encourage you look into this as a source of fun and income. If you have questions about it, feel free to write rachel@abetterpet and ask.

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's the Longest Day of The Year

It's the longest day of the year as the summer solstice kicks in in the Northern Hemisphere; the opposite down south in places like Australia but even the shortest night of the year feels long if your biorythm is disturbed by a not yet housetrained puppy or a dog with digestive upset or get the picture.

Take the time to note your own dog or pup's biorythm so you can be proactive about getting it out during last potty call (right before you go to bed) on the substrate you prefer to have your pup prefer (smooth hard like wood or concrete; soft and absorbant like grass or carpet)and give lots of kudos, rewards, joy, happiness to the pup for doing what you want him to do where you want him to do it and then go back to bed. Don't isolate the pup in a room away from you in a crate but bring him into your own space tethered on a short non chewable lead near you in your bed (not you sleeping on the couch in the family room to keep the pup company) so you can enjoy the passive activity of bonding and have him enjoy sleeping later so you can enjoy the summer evenings.

HAPPY SUMMER! (or Happy Winter for you Southerners and we'll throw barbies on our grill while you chill!)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Life's a Beach

One of the coolest things about carving out a career as a professional dog trainer is the potential for diversity and the sheer fun of it all. The longer I do this work -- going on 10 years as a paid professional -- the more experience, contacts, knowledge and opportunities crop up. Certainly running one's business has to include a sense of recklessness and fearlessness, especially when coupled with the costs associated with raising 3 children as a single parent. But the payoffs can be oh so cool. Interspersed between the private trainings and organization for the upcoming "by invitation only puppy class" which starts in a little over a week, I had a chance to zip out to the shores of Lake Erie earlier this week beginning in the wee hours of a hot sunny almost summer morning to perform as a handler for a dog I worked with for a client who said "sure, take my dog, have a great time" on a photo shoot for a catalog cover where good ol reliable stable funny as hell laid back yellow lab Boomer was going to endear himself to a beautiful young model who was showing off for the advertisers' buck a nifty black knee brace. I showed Boomster the ropes and handed him over to Shelly The Model, cute and perky and a real dog lover. Poised to fetch, lapping waves behind and stretch of beach under his paws, Boomer posed over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. I watched with pride as he did take after take. Unruffled and highly food motivated, Boomer won the hearts of all and earned me a couple hundred bucks. He earned a swim in the Lake and a new argyle martingale collar! And a big hug and a kiss. Not a bad way to spend a morning!

I love my job!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Under New Management

I'm having one of those 1 am moments where I'm trying to sleep, deftly placed inbetween the trajectories of a ceiling fan, window fan and one of those big floor based cyber fans to be cool enough to sleep and the cacophony of wind makes me feel like I'm sleeping on an oceanside beach without the discomfort of sand in the wrong places but alas, I can't sleep. All three dogs, splayed yet again like pancakes on the floor, are snoring away.

I'm lying here thinking about my current home improvement project -- the back hall. It's a small space off the kitchen, with a small landing, a curving wooden set of steps against 2 brick walls leading to another door (with a doggie doorway cut out of it) into the driveway, garage and large enclosed backyard.

There are multiple steps to this current project but the one that has me stumped is how to manage the dogs when I get to the painting of the wooden steps. I'm lying here thinking about how long it will take to dry before I can let the herd of three clang in and out, usually leaving their requisite shedding hairs that I sweep up several times every day in the heart of the house -- my dining room office, kitchen and living room but also periodically in this back hall.

And I think about all the puppies I've seen lately and I think about the delivery of my 3 hour intense single session in teaching people how to teach dogs to do what they want to do and have the dogs want to use them using a combination of the full understanding of concepts like distraction, distance, durations, socialization, structure, training and management. And I thought about the recent family with 2 young sons, the younger one, 5, a little spitfire of a pistol who clearly liked to get his parents attention by rousing the black lab puppy they have had about 4 weeks and screaming that he was being eaten alive, or at least his new tennis shoes were!

And when I asked the parents what they wanted the puppy to do when the child was around and they started to try to tell me what they didn't want and I said, "no no no, I want to know what you do want" and then proceeded to teach them how to get it. They were stunned by the simplicity and power of the solution.

And now I figured out how I'm going to manage the crew when I get to the painting of the steps. I hope it works out because a later summer project is the panting of the wooden kitchen floor, a much more daunting project. I'll update when ready!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Beating the Heat

It's an early heat wave in late spring in NE Ohio and the heat, humidity and sunshine are putting the scramble on me to access the full cross ventilation benefits of living in a nearly 100 year old house with creatively placed windows that if only I could pry open those that have been painted shut for what are probably dozens of years by now could help really satisfy my need to be content that I do not possess the modern convention of air conditioning.

The dogs press themselves into pancakes on the wood floor and pry one lazy eye open watching me as I use a hammer and a screwdriver as a chisel to do the dirty deed. Even Grace the Cat is stretched out flat and inert to maximize the cool somehow obtained by them low down and on the cooler surface of wood.

This must be what they mean about the dog days of summer. Too bad it's not even summer yet!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Thinking About the Weather

I was talking on the phone to a guy in San Antonio, TX today about toolbelts and after we were done talking about my wanting aprons and a toolbelt we talked about the weather. And then later it rained. And then I wondered about whether dogs ever think about weather or have a calming signal about weather to educate other dogs about things like rain and snow and ice and hail and tornados and floods and droughts. Now I'm surrounded by 2 sleeping cats and 3 sleeping dogs and in two other rooms 3 daughters are sleeping, presumably dreaming about school being over in less than 48 hours -- gulp -- and this guy in Texas, John, mentioned that he has a Malamute and there was a night sometime this past winter where snowflakes fell (gasp) briefly and he took his dog out to see if it triggered some instinct since the Malamute has always lived in San Antonio, TX and has never seen snow and I thought about how my animals seem to revel in snow, warm up by a crackling fire, stretch to take the breeze coming through half opened windows on these recent cool but comforting spring nights and wow, if they didn't experience the four seasons, would they even know it existed?

Then I thought about those S. American Tribes that are being observed from the air in order to protect them from loggers and illegal developers and they don't know about cell phones or cars or even the internet and blogging. Wow. I think I should get some sleep.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Puppies Puppies Puppies

I have had the pleasure of working with what feels like dozens of new puppies lately. Spring is segueing into summer vacation for kids and a lot of couples, families and single folk are taking advantage and taking that puppy plunge this glorious time of year. I know I have no temptation to acquire a puppy anytime soon, so I get my puppy fix teaching others how to gently mold pups into stellar canine citizens. Although I do think and store in some deep recess of my gray matter that IF and WHEN I next acquire a pup -- whether for me or as a service dog in training, that I do it this time of year, not in the usual dark and dreary and cold, not to mention often very snowy winter time which seems to have been my lot in life for the last umpteen puppies I've had underfoot!

Since I have had this rush of pups and somehow the intricate network of them has allowed one of those six degrees of separation situations where they all seem to know at least one of the others, I agreed to hold a private by invitation only puppy class. A client who just acquired the 8 week old full biological sibling to her 3 year old amazing black lab asked if I was planning on it. I answered that I would if I didn't have to worry about the space or registration and lo and behold, she offered me her amazing yard -- 1+ acres of lawn, pool, more lawn, some woods and lo and behold a pond! -- to hold it in AND, bless her, to handle the registration process. She will be the one who will have to explain how the class will work, take registrations and fees, organize the class list, and all that other administrative stuff that I really wish I could hire someone to take over -- and I'm only allowing in those who have seen me privately, will see me privately, are biologically related to people who have seen me privately, or who get to me at a vulnerable moment and I say yes even if they don't qualify for the above requirements. I even have one person who wants to be on the list who doesn't even have a puppy yet -- but I'm working on it for her!

It should be a rousing fun time and I have to admit, I'm looking forward to a summer filled with observing growing pups -- both in size, coordination and, if I do my job right, cooperation and bliss. I'll keep the blog posted and hope to have some video and photos to share on this summertime journey.