Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane

“F”, as it turns out is a great letter. It makes a lot of words such as fun, friends, fortunate, freedom, and female, for example. And without it, my fidos, Fonzie & Fanny and my felines, Felix & Flint and I would have funny sounding names!

These amazing creatures were all rescued from various local shelters, and life has not been the same since they came to live with me in their forever home.

They teach me, entertain me and from time to time they inspire me to write another story or share some behavior observations.

I hope you enjoy reading about our lives in the F-Lane!

Fondly, (just couldn’t resist)
Fran

Hello, May I Have Your Attention?

Posted by on Jul 4, 2015 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

Hello, May I Have Your Attention?

We’ve all been there, sitting in the audience waiting for the guest speaker to come on stage. Or it could be at a wedding or even a classroom. The crowd is talking, laughing in a collective rumble, when suddenly someone notices that the speaker is on stage, waiting patiently for everyone to take notice. Sometimes you can hear the “shushhhhhhhh”, but within a matter of seconds the audience is in rapt attention….the silence is deafening. Compare that to the unfortunate speaker who tries to talk above the noise: “Excuse me, excuse me…Hello, may I have your attention?” I’ve found that the same, constant talking to our dogs, has become that similar white noise to them. We dilute their names and other important cues, because we don’t know how to get or keep their attention. For example, we use their name as the cue for everything we want them to do or not do: “Fido (sit)”, “Fido, Fido, Fido (come)”, FIDO! (no). And that’s just their name. We say things like “Down” when we mean “off”; “Sit, sit, sit” when one “sit” should do, and my favorite, “Leave it” as the dog is being reinforced by the thing he just grabbed off the sidewalk! Like I said, too much talking and not enough incentive to pay attention to our meaningless words. There are many ways we can inspire our dogs to tune into us. For one, we can teach them that their name means “look at me” by pairing their name with a treat. For those other times when we are having “conversations” with our dogs, use a nickname. When I want my dog to look at me, I use his name, “Fonzie”, but at other times it’s “Hey Buddy” which is just more of the “white noise”, but at least it’s not diluting his real name. You can teach your dog to come to you by calling, “Come” and run away so he has to catch you. Use a BIG reward when he catches you. Attaching the cue to the action followed by a reinforcer cements in his mind that you are the fun “squeaky toy”. This can be very useful in a highly distracting environment! But when I want the automatic default “attention” when we’re out walking, I’ve learned to stand very still in silence, waiting for my dog to check in with me. He doesn’t have to be sitting; all I’m waiting for is that moment when he looks at me. This behavior is immediately marked with a click and treat. I use this typically when we are at the gate in my yard, curb-side, traffic lights, and most importantly, around other dogs. Sure you could just yell your dog’s name (predictable white noise), or jerk his leash, but now you may have unwittingly taught your dog that the sight of a strange dog on the street, predicts some discomfort around his neck, much of which he’s most likely willing to ignore anyway unless you really hurt him. I’d much rather have the sight of a dog, predict that checking in with me is a highly reinforceable behavior. Suddenly, without words, you are the “speaker” and your dog is the audience member, totally absorbed with you. With this technique, you’ll rarely have to ask, “Hello, may I have your attention?” because your dog will come to expect that when you go “silent” something important is about to be...

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The Far Side Of Behavior Solutions

Posted by on Apr 4, 2015 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

The Far Side Of Behavior Solutions

One of my favorite Gary Larson, Far Side cartoons, is a drawing of a girl reading a book about equine medicine with the caption, “Doreen breezes through her first semester of veterinary school.” The page shows a long list of possible horse ailments and only one antidote…shoot him! Unfortunately this is how a lot of people deal with their dog’s behavioral issues. And while symbolically shooting the dog may seem like the right thing to do, after all the dog is “behaving badly” and therefore needs to be taught a lesson; however using violence as a way to correct the behavior will not get the results you are after. Sure you may stop the behavior dead in it’s tracks because you have stunned the dog, but that behavior is only being suppressed and may resurface as a totally different and seeming unrelated problem! In some instances, you may have unwittingly created a ticking time-bomb! Dogs will do a lot of behaviors that have similar mechanics, so taking the behaviors barking and lunging for example, a dog may bark and lunge if he’s frightened or if he’s very excited, and while the physical behaviors are identical, the emotions “driving” the behavior are different, and causing pain to the dog is NOT the antidote for an excited and or fearful dog. In fact if you hurt a friendly dog he may become fearful; likewise, hurting the dog for being fearful is not going to make him courageous! Looking at some of possible reasons why a dog barks and lunges, (fear, agitation, excitement etc.) try to imagine jerking, hitting, shocking and or yelling at the dog and expecting that the outcome will be a happy or friendly dog toward other adults, dogs, children or whatever “thing” it is they are “concerned” about. A fearful dog may bark and lunge in order to get the “thing” to go away. A frustrated/agitated dog may bark and lunge to get within striking range of the “thing” A friendly/excited dog may bark and lunge to play with the “thing”. In all the above behaviors we should consider what is motivating the dog and then apply the appropriate technique to help the dog, not hurt him! If a dog is showing “concern” then it makes sense to condition the dog such that when one of his “triggers” shows up so does his favorite thing (food, toy or an activity). Over time, the dog begins to anticipate that the trigger is a predictor of the “good stuff” which changes the dog’s emotions. When his emotions have changed, the physical behavior will follow. And for the friendly/excited dog who is barking and lunging, while he may only want to play, if we do not set boundaries, we could end up with a frustrated, over the top excited, dog who just doesn’t know an appropriate response. By teaching him a new behavior, and rewarding it frequently, we now have a dog that knows what to do instead of barking and lunging. And by the way, “friendly” should be the goal of all the above behavioral issues, so it makes sense that once the dog’s emotional state has been successfully changed from “concern” to “feeling good”, that we also teach a new behavior response, for example, when he sees a former trigger, he looks at his person and is reinforced. This non-confrontational method not only gives the dog a different behavior to do, but also, it keeps his emotions stable because we have not hurt the dog in the process. The next time you’re inclined to “shoot the dog” because of...

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Don’t Stop That Behavior, Quit It!

Posted by on Mar 4, 2015 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

Don’t Stop That Behavior, Quit It!

In my “previous life” when I was a fitness and wellness trainer, I would coach my clients to making healthy choices. I learned back then about motivation, about what it takes to set a goal, but more importantly, I learned which goals are the kinds that will stick for the long haul and which are doomed from the start. It helped me empathize with my clients, as I used to be a smoker. Sure I had stopped many times by following a plan and then when I felt particularly stressed or anxious I’d start up again, but when I actually quit smoking, my emotions were very different because this time I not only followed a plan, but I found ways to change my stress levels. Whenever I see someone trying to force their fearful, anxious or agitated dog to do something, I often think of my smoking days and what that would have been like  if I had signed up for the “We’ll make you stop smoking plan”. Picture the plan like this: Light up a cigarette, and the “coach” punches you in the face. After a few punches, you’d probably stop the behavior, at least around the coach, but there could be fallout behaviors such that you’d be afraid to smoke in front of your coach, or that you just might retaliate and punch the coach right back! Unfortunately in this plan, the desire to smoke is still strong because the emotions surrounding the behavior have not changed. I see these “plans” all the time when someone’s highly emotionally charged dog is reacting to something in the environment (usually another dog) and the handler, implements the “I’m going to make you friendly towards other dogs, plan” by doing something unpleasant to the dog. Sometimes the dog stops the behavior in the moment, but sometimes he shows tremendous fear of the person who threatened him or he becomes even more agitated. The one thing I can promise you is that the dog didn’t quit this behavior! For that to happen, the dog’s  fearful or agitated emotions would have to be changed, and I assure you that no amount of threatening behavior from the handler, be it yelling, pushing, jerking or shocking the dog can accomplish that! So the next time you see someone’s dog being threatened for barking at you, your dog or something in the environment that “concerns” him, think of some of the behavior modification plans you may have tried to help you overcome an issue, and then think of how different the experience would have been if, for example, someone used the “We’ll make you stop drinking plan” by pushing you off the bar stool every time you’d reach for your beer! For our dogs to be successful, the goal should not be for them to stop the behavior, it should be for them to quit. They’ll quit when they no longer are feeling fearful or agitated through a well implemented  desensitization and counter-conditioning plan....

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Don’t Buy That!

Posted by on Feb 4, 2015 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

Don’t Buy That!

The other day I was not able to get out to buy groceries, so I asked a friend if he’d mind picking up some items for me. I handed him a list which looked something like this: Don’t buy the following things: Bananas Cauliflower Cereal Soy milk Swiss cheese Cherry soda So my wonderful friend came back with a bag of potato chips, apples, chocolate bar, eggs, whole milk and hamburger buns. I told him I didn’t like any of those things either. Well he was a little upset, but being the sweet, loyal friend, he went back to the store and brought back chocolate chip cookies, oranges, popcorn, hot dogs, brie cheese, and vegetable burgers. Now I was getting upset. What didn’t he understand about my shopping request? Okay, so in the real world of communication between humans who speak the same language, my friend would have looked at the absurd list and asked the obvious question, “What do you want me to buy?” Too bad our dogs can’t ask questions because when it comes to behaviors, we give them similar vague lists like this: Don’t do the following: Jump up on people Potty in the house Chew my “stuff” Bark at the mailman Pull on your leash Chase the cat Left to their own devices, a dog will “buy” a lot of enjoyable behaviors (that humans consider undesirable); this is similar to turning a kid loose in a grocery store, where he’s likely to run down the snack aisle and toss all the candy, chips and cookies into the shopping cart! So instead of playing the guessing game with your dog, here are a few helpful tips to play the training game. 1. Keep your dog (and kid) away from temptation. Manage the dog’s environment with gates, crates, leashes and or tethers. 2. Give them a list of the things you’d like them to do and then teach them. Simple behaviors like, sit, down, come when called and stay have a multitude of applications that can be substituted for a “don’t do that” behavior. 3. Reward the heck out of them for doing desirable behaviors. Catch them in the act of doing the behavior you like or request them to do a behavior you like. Either way, the more you reinforce these behaviors, the more likely they are to repeat them. 4. If the dog really wants to do something that’s not on the list, ask them first to do what you want (loose leash walking) in exchange for shopping in the candy aisle (chasing a squirrel up a tree)! So remember the next time you’re tempted to yell something off of your “Don’t buy” list, try your “Do buy” list instead. Not only is it much clearer, but if it’s his only choice, then he’s going to bring something you want and maybe even surprise you with a desirable behavior he picked out by...

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“Only You Can Prevent__________”

Posted by on Jan 4, 2015 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

“Only You Can Prevent__________”

That slogan, which has been delivered for over seventy years by the iconic Smokey Bear, is so familiar that we automatically finish the sentence with “forest fires”. If Smokey had said, “Only you can put out forest fires”, the message would have been very different; as well, some might have been compelled to submit applications to their local firefighting training academy! As I walk around my neighborhood that is heavily populated with dogs, I see time and time again, the human trying to “put out the fire” that is the dog’s behavior. The dog lunges, and the human reacts by jerking the leash. The dog barks and the human screams at the dog. The dog jumps on visitors and the human pushes the dog away. This knee-jerk reaction is the standard repertoire in most of my clients’ homes, so when it comes to guiding them, I always teach “fire prevention” as part of our behavior plan. What this means is we do NOT give the humans (or the dogs) an opportunity to engage in these “fired-up” behaviors:) So Let’s take the behavior lunging at other dogs or distractions while on leash. Because I’m trying to prevent the human from being a reaction to their dog’s behavior, I teach a preventative move that I call “fire drills”. Just like preparing for an emergency exit from a home or office, we shouldn’t wait until the building is on fire to figure out an escape route. My “fire drills” teach the human what to do before there is a “fire” and that is to call their dog and walk briskly/jog away from the distraction or trigger. The key to being successful however, is not to practice only when there are distractions, but instead, to call the dog randomly while out for a walk when there are no immediate triggers. So for example, the human-hound team are out for a leisurely walk and suddenly the human cues, “Fido, let’s go!” and then they run together for a short distance. The behavior is marked (YES or clicked) followed by the delivery of a generous high-value reinforcer. To be clear, it doesn’t matter what you are naming the behavior of “running together” as long as there is consistency; and the beauty of this behavior is both the human and the hound are doing something fun and constructive. This replaces the “Leave it!” cue which ultimately turns into a command (threat) because the human only uses it when the dog is about to do something or is already “fired up” and the human is static in her delivery. The “Fido, let’s go!” not only alerts the dog that something fun is about to happen, but more importantly, it insures that the human will move instead of standing while screaming at their dog! And if you’re wondering whether this works when there are triggers or distractions, the answer is yes, because of all the daily practice prior to the “fire”! To be clear, this is only part of the plan, as the human needs to first learn about (and the dog to experience) the triggers or distractions at a distance, but on walks, we can’t always have the ideal set up, so when an “emergency” comes at you, having practiced the “fire drills” over and over tends to keep the level of anxiety down, as the human-hound team are well prepared. “Fire drills” can be practiced as a way to rehearse all kinds of new behaviors; it only requires that you identify the “fired up” behavior that you’ve both been doing and then establish a different behavior...

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Get Your Paws Off My Plate!

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

Get Your Paws Off My Plate!

It was my first day on the job and I was sitting in the cafeteria at a table with other new employees. This was an exciting time, not only beginning a new job, but also the opportunity to get to know more people. As I was attentively listening to the woman’s conversation on my left, I couldn’t help notice that the gal on my right was taking food off my plate and eating it. As I whipped my head around in her direction, she smiled at me, like there was nothing wrong and I turned back to the conversation with the other woman, all the while a bit stunned that a stranger would have the gall to take food off my plate. But that was not the last of her antics, as I happened to catch her taking another French fry. This time I turned with a cold hard stare and held her gaze, for what seemed like forever. Didn’t she read my body language? And she smiled again like we were best buddies and continued to ignore me. When I turned back to the other conversation, needless to say, I was getting furious. The nerve of this woman taking food off my plate. Why didn’t she buy her own food or pack a lunch? But when I caught her taking another fry I lost it. I picked up my fork, yelled “Hey” and stabbed her hand as she reached for my food! Oh now I had her attention! And she apologized saying that she didn’t think it was such a big deal, but couldn’t believe I reacted so violently towards her. Okay, it wasn’t my finest hour and strangely, she eventually became one of my friends, but now many years and careers later, when I am called to a client’s home because their dog is guarding something, I always remember what if felt like when my oddball friend took my food. If I had been a dog, I might have been hauled off to the shelter, put to death or worse, been the subject of a certain celebrity trainer’s video where he’d jab me in the neck while I’m eating my dinner just to see my reaction! Yes, I understand the seriousness of a dog that guards food or other coveted items, but the idea that it’s perfectly okay to take things from an animal and expect a higher standard of impulse control than you would from a human is just a bit off! There are many ways to show a dog that it’s fun when people approach his food (toys, kleenex and other coveted items) because he will get something WAY better than what he has, and sometimes he’ll even get his things back. There are many qualified force-free trainers who can set up a program that builds a positive history such that your approach is good news to your dog. Of course you could just approach your dog while he’s eating and jab him in the neck, but what do you think he’ll do the next time you’re near his “stuff”? Many dogs in homes are shipped off to shelters, or never make it out of the shelter because they’ve been labeled “resource guarders” and yet who among us, would tolerate the antics from strangers or even loved ones if they invaded our dinner plates? I know what I’d...

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How To Talk Dog

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

How To Talk Dog

Dogs and humans have been friends for thousands of years. In fact based on some of the latest studies, it is estimated that dogs evolved from wolves almost 40,000 years ago. But what is most incredible is that science, until the last decade, hadnʼt been interested in studying dogs; after all why bother with a common domesticated animal when there are so many exotic species to study? But they couldnʼt have been more wrong, as it is domestication that sets these amazing creatures apart from other animals and as such has made dogs so in tuned to humans, that if they had our language, they would finish our sentences for us! Brian Hare, professor at Duke University, has a program that studies canine cognition. There, his group of scientist set up specific “puzzles” for dogs to solve and the data is collected and compared to other dogsʼ test results. The program at Duke is called Dognition. As Dr. Hare explained in his recent book, The Genius of Dogs, dogs have spent a lot of time “studying” human body-language, and in fact are the only animal that understands our gestures, such as when we point. (Even our closes relatives, chimpanzees, do not understand our point.) So what this means to the average dog owner is that while we speak in our native language to our dogs, (and think that they understand us), our dogs are watching our gestures, posture and of course the tone in our voices. This is a blessing and a curse for dogs. For example, the human will “command” the dog to “sit, sit, sit” (each time getting louder and the posture encroaching on the dogʼs space). The dog, responding to the threatening posture and tone, eventually sits, giving the human the faulty sense that the dog knows “English”. Whatʼs problematic of course is when the human thinks the dog “knows”, but is spiteful, willful or (the latest word to describe ALL inappropriate behavior) “dominant”! This unfortunate ignorance has caused many dogs to be abused or dumped at a shelter. Of course dogs can understand some words and typically can learn a few hundred. There is a famous study on a Border Collie named Chaser, whose owner taught this dog over one thousand words and this dog could not only distinguish one toy from another, he could remarkably make inferences when his owner asked the dog to retrieve a toy, when the dog had not learned its name! Generally, dogs learn by making associations to things and they learn by consequences. So for example when the owner picks up the leash and asks, “Want to go for a walk?” The dog has made a positive association of the happy tone in his personʼs voice and the leash, which predicts a walk. After a while, even without picking up the leash, the human could utter the same sentence and the dog would understand the association; although, he could just as well say “Yabba-Dabba Do” to elicit the excited response to the walk! To prove that point, Iʼll often ask my students to cue their dogs to “sit” and when the dogs sit, (usually a response to the person leaning into the dogʼs space or the tone). Iʼll then ask them to tell the dog “pink”. Most dogs will sit, for the same reason they did for the word “sit”; they are responding to the body-language. When we teach a deaf dog, we canʼt use words, but it doesnʼt hamper their learning, as they learn like other dogs, by following gestures and movements and of course theyʼre given a...

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How long will I have to treat my dog?

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

How long will I have to treat my dog?

Of all the questions I receive, “How long will I have to treat my dog?” tops the list! It seems that some humans are resistant to give their dogs “treats” during training; their opinions run the gamut of “Dogs should do things because I say so.” to “I don’t want my dog getting fat (spoiled, sick, etc.) Not so long ago, I’d hear the question and launch into a tirade (in my head, of course); actually, I’d start explaining the fundamentals of animal training and wouldn’t stop until their eyes glazed over and they begged me to stop. But now a days, I don’t torture my clients (or myself) and instead when they ask the question, I smile, recalling a poster in my dentist’s office that read “You don’t have to brush all your teeth, only the ones you want to keep!” This sage advice applies to behaviors too, so I pose a similar question to my clients and ask which behaviors they’d like to keep because, feeding the behaviors they want and starving (preventing) the ones they don’t want is central to understanding positive reinforcement dog training. But I personally think it’s time to move beyond the, somewhat, contentious dog-training debate of whether our dogs are better off working to get something “nice” or working to avoid something “nasty” and instead concentrate on providing our dogs with enrichment. I am fortunate to have friends and associates who are animal trainers in our local aquarium and zoos. Sure the public sees the entertainment value of training a dolphin,  however, the real purpose of training is to provide the animals with mental and physical stimulation and to teach animals a particular task so they can be examined by their handler or veterinarian. Our dogs too require enrichment and thanks to the recent research on canine cognition, we now know that our dogs solve problems in a variety of ways which has lead to enrichment options like puzzle toys, Boomer Balls, the creation of an expanding list of dog sports, and of course doggie play-care type of facilities where dogs play, swim and or hang out with their dog-friends while their human is at work. There are so many ways we pet-parents can enrich our dogs’ lives, starting with mealtime. Our dogs are stimulated by solving a problem, and bowl feeding is solved in one gulp:) Try instead filling a Kong with your dog’s kibble and watch as he bats it around to make the food come out. Once Fido solves that problem, he is ready to be more challenged and you can dump his kibble into a bowl of warm water until it is soaked; drain the water, add a little peanut butter (optional) to make a stickier substance and pack the ingredients into the Kong and freeze. Your dog now has a new challenge to remove the frozen meal. As mentioned previously, there are numerous puzzle toys that will also challenge your dog’s brain by putting kibble or other food in the puzzle compartments. How about a fun activity that you can do at home? Sure, it would be great to be involved in the numerous dog sports, but in addition to a class, you can make up your own games. Save empty cereal boxes and put some treats inside. With your dog in another room hide, in plain sight, the “food box” (if it’s too difficult, he won’t be able to solve the problem and will quit.) Now bring your dog back in the room and ask him to “Find it!”. Run with him and give a few...

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My Dog Is A Sociopath!

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

My Dog Is A Sociopath!

Well he must be because Iʼve never seen that “guilty” look on his face when I come home and he has destroyed something! Apparently most dogs are very guilty creatures. Just Google “guilty dogs” and youʼll see an array of photos and videos, some of which have gone viral. Heck, Good Morning America invited Denver the Guilty Dog on their program, along with his housemate, Macy, who was not a guilty dog, but a “sneaky dog”…hmm. It is just my luck to have a dog who doesnʼt cower when I come into the house, or feel bad about any of his mischievous acts. I cannot tell what heʼs thinking, because Iʼm not a mind reader of hounds (or humans for that matter), but apparently a lot of people are because if you listen to some “experts” theyʼll tell you the dog feels guilty (for making a mess) or superior (when he walks in front of you…kind of like one of those arrogant sled dogs, I suppose). Iʼve watched dogs yawn when their person asks them to do something; Iʼm wondering if thatʼs a sign of boredom? Iʼve also seen dogs flick their tongues, could this be defiance like a child saying “nah, nah, nah”? Dogs are, after all very close to humans emotionally, such that they tend to respond to our actions, especially when they feel threatened. One recent experiment by Alexandra Horowitz (author and psychology professor), showed the following: The experimenter had the dog-guardian put a treat on the ground and give the dog the “Leave it” cue before exiting the room. Upon returning, the guardian was told the dog ate the treat, even if he hadnʼt and sometimes told he was “good”, even though the dog had eaten the treat. Whether or not the dog had the “guilty” expression was dependent on what the dog-guardian was told, as the guardianʼs body language was a sure fire way the dog could tell he was in trouble (even when he hadnʼt done anything wrong)! We do experiments in my home too, but unfortunately I am the unwitting subject of my dogsʼ trials! I came home one day and I saw, much to my horror, my leather jacket lying on the floor; the pockets had been savagely removed, and the treats, that had been concealed inside, were consumed! What fiendish criminal mind was behind this act, I wondered? My little dog greeted me at the door with a big grin that only a sociopath could muster and happily went on ignoring the poor ailing jacket on the floor. No, I donʼt know what he was thinking, but it wasnʼt “guilt”, for sure. I went back to watch the video of “Denver the Guilty Dog” so I could see what the expression of a “normal” dog looks like when he has done something bad. Well, according to the dog guardians, “Denver has a criminal past, but for the most part Denver is a dog who, from sun up to sun down, lives to please.” “Please”! This is another trait that my dog is lacking, but then what sociopath has a “I want to please you, gene”?...

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Drill Sergeants Not Needed

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Fido Blog: Life in the F-Lane | 0 comments

Drill Sergeants Not Needed

I’ll never forget the first (and only) time I ended up in a law suit. It was many years ago and I was young and terrified. I had given my landlord a 28 day notice to vacate my apartment, but a 30 day notice was the law. In his complaint, the landlord additionally sited me for tossing out a (moldy) vinyl shower curtain and urine-stained carpet from the previous tenant’s cat. We met at the court-appointed mediator’s office to resolve the issue and it was there that I got to explain, that while I did toss out his items, I replaced them with new items and was leaving them in the apartment when I vacated. Well the landlord would not relent; he didn’t want the new shower curtain and new carpet! When it was clear that we couldn’t come to an agreement, he started pounding his fists on the table, a move that was reminiscent of the late, Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1960 took off his shoe at an assembly meeting in New York, and started banging it on the table while ranting, “We will bury you!”. (Actually that quote was from another time, but that’s how I remembered it, when I was 7 years old) And in the office that day I was just as terrified as that child when the landlord screamed, “Okay, we will go to court!” [and I will bury you!] This was no ordinary case; this was MY case and it was going to take the fortitude of a super-hero with a big “S” on his shirt. I needed the big guns of the legal world to win this case against my newly found arch enemy, “Lex Landlord Luthor”, so imagine my surprise when my dad’s attorney, a “Pee Wee Herman” type man who who specialized in these “criminal cases” met me. He was not stylish, or imposing, and he didn’t have an “S” on his shirt, and I was dreading our court appearance. But fortunately “Pee Wee” knew the law very well, and we prevailed that day! This was a valuable life lesson on so many levels, and as I think of all the conversations I’ve had about training dogs over the years I’m reminded of my early perception of what a good attorney should have looked like (or other stereo-type professions) as well as the public perceptions about dog trainers. The history of dog training has some early roots in the military which I’m sure lends credibility to trainers who advertise “boot camp training” or who are known to have experience with K9 police units. Fear is a powerful motivator and just as I was convinced that only a legal super-hero was capable of defending me against the evil landlord in my “criminal” case, some dog owners are told that their dog’s behavior is criminal which of course requires the force of a drill sergeant to “whip the dog into shape”. I was conducting a class at a beer garden recently, where my wonderful participants were reinforcing their dogs for lying calmly on their mats (a behavior that we were practicing for the Canine Good Citizen exam). One of the bar patrons came outdoors with his dog, wanting to watch what we were doing and then proudly told me that he too had hired a trainer to “make his dog into a therapy dog.” I asked him why he choose the particular trainer and he said that the guy used to work with “Army dogs” and he felt he must be knowledgable. And so it goes, the notion that it...

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