Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Spreading the Good Word

I work at the library, and often, though perhaps not as frequently as you might thing, I have opportunity to talk with other dog owners. Today I had a particularly fulfilling conversation.

A woman came to the desk, looking slightly lost. She said "I've tried to look this up in the catalog, but maybe I'm spelling his name wrong? It's a dog trainer. Cesar something..."

As you might imagine, from reading my blog, I flinched a bit. But, I looked him up, and explained that the name wasn't spelled like "Julius Caesar". I gave her a piece of paper with the call number, took a breath, and said "That's where you'll find his books, but may I make a few suggestions? I find his methods to be more coercive than strictly necessary, especially depending on the breed you're interested in. I have a Doberman, and they're just so smart, that kind of thing isn't necessary, and might backfire."

The woman kind of cocked her head, but smiled. "Oh, that would be great! I have a month to look at stuff. I mean, we've had dogs before, but we're getting the puppy in the month. A Golden."

So far so good. We just had a pet display, however, and one of my "library friends" had come in on Saturday with news of a new puppy, so I'd given away a lot of my favorite books to hand people in lieu of Mr. Cesar.  But, I'm very familiar with my library's dog training section, and persevered. "Well, we have The Puppy Primer, by Patricia McConnell. And Reaching the Animal Mind, by Karen Pryor, which talks a lot about clicker training, which is really the direct opposite to those other methods. They don't have television shows, but they're great to read, and are Names in the business. Oh, and then there's Dog Friendly Dog Training." (I know I read this last one, but can't for the life of me remember a specific detail about it.

This patron was happy to hear about women in the dog training business; our Cesar is ubiquitous. She went off to look for her books, and the coworker who was on the desk with me commented that she was glad I'm the one who got the question, because it was perfect for me. I was happy that I didn't just seem like a pushy whacko, though I did end up giving her one of the business cards I have made for this blog; I hope she doesn't come here and think I'm a total weirdo for posting this entry, but I was just so excited to share those books that I like with somebody who's starting with a clean slate! I also mentioned (I couldn't help it) that I was thinking of doing the Foundations Course that the Karen Pryor Clicker Training Academy now offers, and that at least one trainer I knew of in our area does clicker training, if she found that was something she was interested in.

I wish I had known enough to start with the clicker, and with Pryor and McConnell style methods back when we first got Elka, but I know now, and am happy to talk about it any chance I get!


  1. Yaaaay! Good for you! I am so glad you could help steer her in a more dog-friendly direction. It's always so much nicer for the pup and the owner to work positively together than to bully your dog into submission. Paws Up!

  2. Everyone has to have that dog who teaches them the ways to train. Koira was that dog for me with flyball. Now she's putting me through my paces for obedience as well.

    Although, I want to point out, clicker training does have a tv show- Its Me or the Dog.

  3. @Kolchak Well, she did seem dubious about the trappings of Cesar, and mentioned that she'd watched some of his show....which isn't positive in any way, I've ever felt. I watched his show and thought that if anybody ever did that to my dog, we were going to be having words and more.

    @K-Koira Oh, I didn' tknow that Victoria Stilwell used a clicker! I don't have TV, so I've never watched her in action, unfortunately. Thanks!

  4. The Foundations course must be shorter and less intense than the actual Dog Trainer Program that I'm in. I tell ya, I learned so much so fast, I nearly lost my head. It was a ton of fun, though, for sure. I bet a 10-part chain wouldn't be necessary to pass Foundations, lol. Crazy KPA.

    So awesome you got such an awesome reaction from a new dog guardian!

  5. @Ximena the Foundations course is an 8-12 week online program (I don't think there's a in-person seminar component) that gives you the basis of skills and stuff that you would continue with in the main program. I'm not sure that (and can't really currently afford) the main program is what I really want, so the Foundations one seems like it would be a good thing for me to do. Still have to do the "test drive" that the web site has, before I commit, to make sure it's a good fit for how I learn.

    A 10 part chain? I am both intrigued and aghast. Then I tried to see how many parts Elka knows with things...I think she's got a 7, maybe?

  6. Sounds like you handled the question perfectly!

  7. Right on! Good for you on taking advantage of her interest and steering her in the right direction. You may have saved her a lot of future heartache. This is advocacy done right.

    Thanks also to the link for the Karen Pryor course. I'd read about it before but totally forgot and I was definitely going to look into trying it myself. Why not? One can never have too much information, right?

  8. @Pup Fan I was really happy with the outcome! She left smiling, and waved my card at me and said "I have you now, I can ask questions if I need to!" I said "Of course!" or something along these lines.

    @Kristine I don't often try to steer peoples' book choices, but when it comes to the dog training books, I try to do it firmly but diplomatically. I'm really glad that the Karen Pryor Foundations course is being offered,; it's a better cost and time level for what I can currently deal with, and information is always welcome! I'm always trying to learn how to be a better dog owner, and if that lets me help other people too, all the better.

  9. I wish I'd known about the clicker with my first dog. Don't get me wrong, he's a good dog, but you can see the difference between clicker training and unmotivated training.

    You tell Rocco to sit and he thrusts his butt out to one side, then to the other, and slowly sags down, hiking his butt back and forth all the while. "See? I'm sitting. Niiiiiice and easy."

    He's never had negative reinforcement, he just didn't get positive reinforcement.

    Leia was clicker trained. I got her at 8 months having never even been potty trained. Inside of one month, you say sit she slaps her butt down so fast you can hear it hit the floor!