This time last year, the weather was just a bit warmer, although it was just as snowy. I had taken a couple of favorite dogs with me when I went snowshoeing. I rang in the New Year with a dog who was afraid of fireworks.
Over the past year, I have sat for around 40 different dogs, as well as some other critters. Of those dogs, about half of them are purebred and about half are mutts. Some come from shelters, some from good breeders and some come from less than awesome beginnings. Some of the dogs were friendly, love everyone types and some I had to approach a little slower. The smallest one weighed in at 3 lbs and the biggest was 195 lbs. But each one of the dogs I have met are well-loved, and dogs I am happy to call my canine friends! Dog sitting boomed this year, and what may have started as a hobby is quickly turning into something I love doing.
I've had some fun where training is concerned as well. I finally got brave enough to apply for Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional program and I got in! I was afraid of being rejected, but getting in was the easy part. As life often is, am I right? Dakota was my training partner, and he and I learned a lot together. He and I are more worldly, after our four trips to Calgary. My passport got some use and Dakota aced his border crossings. It was pretty pain free. He performed beautifully at the workshops, and helped me to pass my training assessment. Dakota and I both have a bunch of new Canadian friends!
The training journey is just started though. I still have one more step for certification. I have classes starting in the new year, and I couldn't be more excited to start them! I've worked with a few training clients this year, and love nothing more than to see people follow through with my advice and tell me it works for their dog!
Dakota and I personally had a pretty phenomenal year as well. We ran in six agility trials, and we moved up to the next class. Dakota, at 10 years old, is getting faster every trial! He loves it and I love it, and my heart hurts in advance the day we have to retire from it. I hope he tells me when it is too much. He earned six titles this year, and just continues to love the game!
We also earned a title in Musical Dog Sports Association Freestyle Dance. It was a class we too, that I thought would be a good way to pass the time a few winters ago, and we have found another sport he loves! It is a good retirement sport for him and it has upped our agility game by a lot!
We did our first barnhunt trial this year, and I truly went into it thinking I was doing it for kicks, but Dakota showed me! When he is feeling barnhunt, and he almost always is, he stands on the tube as an alert! It is pretty hilarious to watch and is fun for him. He is one Q away from a title, and I can't wait for the next trial.
Dakota earned his AKC trick titles this year, without a ton of work on our part. He loves tricks, and I am trying to think of new ones to teach him.
It may not have been a perfect year, but I charged forward in following my dreams and making them a reality. Dakota gave me a few scares, but he is a tough boy and is such a willing partner, I am forever wanting to improve myself just so I can be the handler he deserves. I'm finding myself tonight again hanging with a couple of my favorite dogs, one of them is Dakota, and I am so thankful for my 2017. I'm not where I want to be just yet, but I am well on my way there!
With loaded buffet tables, house guests who are not immune to sad puppy eyes,parties, treats under the tree and food left out unattended, there are lots of opportunities for your dog to get into what they shouldn't during the holiday season. There are foods dogs should never eat, foods dogs shouldn't eat much of and foods that we might not even think of as being dangerous. Remember that dogs cannot eat grapes or raisins, chocolate, onions and garlic, alcohol, cooked bones and nuts, especially macadamia nuts. They shouldn't eat meat trimmings, cured meats or gravy, because of the fat, salt and spice content. The artificial sweetener xylotol is toxic for dogs, and may be an ingredient in candy canes. Dogs shouldn't eat sweets and some are very sensitive to dairy. If you would like to give your dog a delicious and healthy treat this season, remember that raw turkey necks are a great choice for cleaning teeth and keeping your dog busy. They can have most raw veggies and fruit and can have lean bites of meat, as long as it is pretty lightly spiced. To keep them out of things they shouldn't have, try to clear tables after everyone is done eating. Try to avoid putting edible gifts under the tree, and keep counter tops clear of treats. Teach your dog a place cue, where the dog goes to a specified place while you are eating or want them to avoid temptation. If your dog doesn't have a place cue, this is a great time to invest in baby gates, or put your dog in their crate while people are eating.
It is debatable if the decorations are more dangerous to the dog or if the dog is more dangerous to the decorations. If you have a real from the forest or tree lot tree, try to keep your dog from drinking out of the water at the base, because it can upset their stomach. If you have an artificial tree, keep your dog from chewing on it. They also shouldn't chew on strings of lights or pretty much anything on the tree. To keep your tree and dog safe, consider a teaching a leave it cue. You can strategically put your treee in a corner or put an exercise pen around it. Also, don't leave your dog unattended with the decorations until you know how they are going to respond, so this is another use for baby gates and their crate when you can't attend to them.
The weather outside may be frightful, and your dog may not find it delightful. Some dogs are made for cold and snow and others say no thank you. Be careful not to leave your dog outside for too long at a time if they are not feeling the cold and snow. If your dog tends to get snow build up in their paws, first, ask your groomer to help you cut the long hair in between their toes and if that doesn't help, consider investing in boots or paw wax. If your short haired dog wants to join in the fun, they might need a coat. The road salt and ice melt isn't great for your dog to ingest, so be sure to wipe their paws after a walk. Know that the cold can hurt an older arthritic dog, so limit their time outdoors. And, invest in some enrichment toys, training classes, and indoor activities for those days that it is too cold to play outside.
Too many guests can overwhelm your dog, which can cause your dog to forget everything they have ever learned. They could jump all over guests, traumatize small children, or even react by growling or biting. Again, management is key. If your dog has a place cue, this is a time to use it. Consider teaching your dog to go to their place on the doorbell sound. Work on a calm default behavior that is incompatible with jumping up. Learn to read their emotional signals and get your dog out of the situation if they are feeling stressed. Baby gates to give your dog a safe space and crate time can help your dog to decompress. If possible, exercise your dog before guests arrive, and if you can't, consider a dog walker. Give your dog puzzle toys and items that take them longer to eat. Spend some time on enrichment with your dog. A bully stick or raw bone to have in their safe space will help them to decompress. If you put your dog in a safe room, be sure to remind guests, especially kids, to leave your dog alone until the dog is calm again. Remember to be your dog's advocate and keep them safe!
The first thing you need to know is, what is a clicker? The clicker is a small box type item that either has a button to press or a thumb indentation. By pressing the clicker, it makes a click sound. Hopefully that makes sense to you, but if it doesn't, here are a few of types of clicker you can buy.
The first type is a box clicker. These are the most basic, and often the least expensive, but price is a relative term, as the most I have ever spent on a clicker is maybe $5 for one. These ones will do in a pinch, but are often the loudest sounding clickers, and are clunky. I was working my dog with one a few weeks ago, and missed a couple of behaviors because I couldn't get the clicker to sound.
The second variety are the big button, iClick style. These are the ones Karen Pryor Academy (my dog training Alma Mater!) sells and reccomends the most. These clickers are probably the best sounding, easiest to use, and have a spot to attach them to a wrist coil, which is invaluable! My one problem with these clickers is that the top part where the wrist coil connects breaks fairly easily. The clicker is still usable, but you have to hold it in your hand instead of letting it hang on your arm. It's a pretty minor problem to have.
My person favorite type of clicker are the button, tear drop shaped clickers. I like how sturdy these ones are, because in my training journey, I only have broken one of these. They sound sharp, but not too loud and attach well to a wrist coil. Funny enough, the only one I ever had break on me was also my most expensive clicker.
There are other clicker variations, such as ones that attach right to your finger, ones that have a volume control and clicker/target sticks, for advanced clicker trainers. I like the clicker/target stick, but also know you could make one yourself if you want to get to this level of training.
This is where a little bit of psychology 101 comes in. The clicker is what is referred to as an event marker or a secondary reinforcement. Often, I am asked, what does the clicker tell the dog. I even saw a trainer in a particular local big box pet store using the clicker as a cue rather than as a marker. For the clicker to work, it needs to first be paired with a primary reinforcer.
A primary reinforcer is something that the learner (in this case the dog) finds to be reinforcing without having to be taught. Most often this is food, but can be toys, and sometimes praise, although it is uncommon for a dog to initially find praise to be super reinforcing. The clicker has to be paired with food, using classical conditioning.
Classical condtioning, coined by Ivan Pavlov is conditioning in which the conditioned stimulus (in this case the clicker) is paired with and precedes the unconditioned stimulus (such as the sight of food) until the conditioned stimulus alone is sufficient to elicit the response. This is called charging the clicker, where you click and then give the dog a treat without asking for any type of behavior. Most dogs understand the click means a treat within 15-20 clicks. But pairing the clicker isn't enough, and this is where opperant conditioning comes in to play.
Operant conditioning, coined by BF Skinner, is conditioning in which the desired behavior or increasingly closer approximations to it are followed by a rewarding or reinforcing stimulus. In this case, once the dog is conditioned to the clicker, and either click when the dog does something desirable on its own, interacts with an object you placed in the training area or you lured, and then immediately deliver a treat. Once a dog has learned one or two behaviors through clicker training, they will begin picking up behaviors much faster.
You can use the clicker with just about any animal. It can and has been used with any animal that has a central nervous system. You can clicker train fish, turtles, bees, bears, tigers, whales, cats, frogs, and hyenas, just to name a few. It is commonly used in zoos for medical procedures and to move an animal from one area to another.
Advantages of Clicker Training
Why is clicker training effective? There are many dog handlers who like to use a marker word instead. It follows the same idea, and is another tool that works well. So why chose another piece of equipment? For starters, the clicker is precise. If you are trying to capture (click for a behavior that the dog offers naturally, such a s tongue flick or head tilt), the clicker helps you to capture that exact movement that you are looking for. The clicker sounds the same, no matter who is working with the dog. It is a novel sound that the dog probably isn't hearing all day long. For example, sometimes I use a marker word with my dog, such as when we are running agility, because I am not allowed to use my clicker during trials. Our marker word is "Yes." However, if I am talking to a friend, and say yes excitedly, my dog is right there, wanting his treat. The clicker also carries no emotion from me. I have days where I am super frustrated with the world, and my dog picks up on it. The clicker provides just a bit of unemotional feedback. Plus, it has been proven that dogs who learn a skill with a clicker will retain that skill for life. It might get rusty if not practiced, but the dog will quickly pick it up again. Also, dogs learn slightly faster when using a clicker than a marker word.
Here are some common issues people having with the clicker and how to solve them.
It turns out, for a human, I am pretty well trained. Dakota has made sure of it. One time, a friend was at my house. She was astonished when I was sitting on the floor, petting Dakota and knew that he was asking to go out. Or, later in the evening, when I knew that he was wondering if he was going to get a chewy that evening. What she didn't understand is that when he has to go out, he keeps looking to the door. When he wants a treat, he licks his lips every time I stand up. I can tell by the way he is watching me that he wants to be closer to me, and I can tell when he is content to just be. He is sensitive to pressure, and I am pretty good about knowing how hard to push him to get him to move in a certain direction.
However, sometimes, I don't pick up on these cues as well. I just recently realized that Dakota doesn't care to have his collar grabbed, even though the only time I grab his collar is when I put his leash on him for walks or car rides. He LOVES both of those experiences. Thinking about it, he also leans back, backs up, breaks his sit, when I grab his collar. So, I started a counter-conditioning plan to get him more comfortable with me grabbing his collar. I feel pretty terrible that I didn't realize that this was even a cause of discomfort until recently.
I'm lucky I have a patient human trainer in Dakota. He never loses his temper with me, and he gives me lots of second chances. I can read that he likes ear scratches, but doesn't like being patted on the head. I understand that he comes to expect walks or training sessions in the evening. I know when he wants food, play, outside time, water and sleep. I would say that I usually know how he is feeling, and try to keep him safe when he is feeling worried or anxious. I know his ear twitches, tail position and facial expressions. I can see the moment that he understands what I am asking of him and when I am moving him too fast. As much as I have taught him, he has taught me just as much.
Now, my next step of being a well-trained human is learning to read other dogs. I know Dakota well, just because of the connection we have. But I am pretty good at reading my client dogs too. I have one that is fearful of skateboards, even though he barks and growls at them. I have one that wants to be near to me all the time, but doesn't want me to look at or touch her. I have one that wants me to go to bed at 9:00, because he is ready to cuddle for the night. Of course, I usually can read when any of them want to go outside or are begging for supper and treats. I appreciate all of the dogs in my life that are willing to train me to be a well trained human.
It all starts with the dogs I have shared my life with and the lessons learned from them. I'd say, I've been crazy about dogs since I was maybe seven or eight. My parents were not dog people, and we didn't get one, until I fixated on getting a puppy. Shadow came home around my tenth birthday, and we were in completely over our heads. Shadow was an oops puppy from our neighbor's spaniel. Her other half was some kind of herder, most likely border collie. Shadow had boundless energy and not a ton of outlets to use it. This was back in the day when training books were full of information like pushing down on the dog to make them sit, collar pops, rubbing their nose in accidents, punishing a dog for failing to recall and that dogs are supposed to listen just because we are their masters. We might not have been that bad, but there were mistakes made. Even writing it out, I am cringing so hard. Yet, Shadow still loved us. I taught her to do tricks for treats and impulse control by sitting before I threw a tennis ball. Teaching her stuff was super satisfying and I did learn a lot from her.
When I started college, I missed Shadow, and this eventually drew me to the local animal shelter. Of course I ended up with a dog, Miss Marley Mae. She was magnetic, and I was drawn to her. I took her home, and she was a wonderful dog, in spite of me and my mistakes. I was still a believer in making her follow my commands because I was the alpha. I read books by a particular celebrity trainer who cemented that view point. She never did walk nicely on a leash and walks were frustrating for both of us. She was smart, driven and loyal, but never had a great outlet for that intelligence. I loved this dog with all of my heart, and when she ended up with aggressive cancer, I was devastated. I managed to teach Marley some life skills, and I know that she loved me, but I look back over her time with me too, and I am full of regrets.
Gunner was my second shelter dog, and far away from Marley. Gunner had been in the shelter for a long time, and probably hadn't been socialized before that either. Gunner was afraid of his own shadow, was standoffish for a long time, and had major separation anxiety. I knew I couldn't use fear, punishment and intimidation with this dog, and I was lucky enough to start clicker training him. This was my turning point. At the end of a six week class, where Gunner had spent most of it hiding under a chair, he had learned more behaviors and would offer them faster than Marley ever did. It wasn't that he was smarter, it was that he was being allowed to make choices and was gaining confidence. We started agility, learned some tricks and I saw his confidence increase and his anxiety lessen. Gunner also left me too early, but I was a believer in positive reinforcement and clicker training. The summer we were home and working on stuff, I even taught our cat how to sit and spin!
Then, there is Dakota, my third shelter dog, the one I made promise that he would stick around for a few years. When I brought him home, he immediately bonded to me and wanted to work! We learned our basics through clicker training, earned our Canine Good Citizen certificate easily and started agility. Dakota is food motivated, enjoys pleasing and loves to learn new things! It makes him almost as happy to be right when learning a new skill as the treat does. Through our almost nine years together, Dakota and I have spent varying degrees of time working, but it has always been something that gives me an incredible amount of satisfaction. I live for working with him, teaching him new things and taking classes together. While I am proud of what we have learned together, sometimes I still feel badly and wish that I was as good of a handler as Dakota deserves. I know I have made mistakes with his eduacation too, but I also know that with each new dog that comes into my life, I am a little bit better of a handler than the last time. It was this realization that led me to start looking into becoming a professional trainer myself.
For the past three years, I have read every dog book that has been recommended to me, with a never ending wishlist of more that I want to read. I follow trainers on YouTube, read their blogs, hang out with dog people and have a hunger to learn more. I've watched several online webinars and have taken a few online classes, with a bunch more I want to take. I ended up enrolling in Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional Program, and one of the first thing I realized is that there is still a lot that I don't know! I think the desire to learn more is what is going to keep me sharp. I know I can dwell heavily on my regrets of mistakes I have made with my past dogs, but I would rather look forward, look at what I shouldn't do and keep on learning. As you can see, this has been a journey and a passion of mine, not a phase. I want to keep learning as much as I can, with as many dogs as I possibly can meet.
Hmm, you may be thinking. Real Terms Dog Training Solutions? That's an unusual name for a dog trainer business. I'm sure it is eating you up to not know why that is the name. Well, are you ready? I'll tell you!
It all started back when I was finishing up my bachelor's degree. I was living in Dillon, Montana and I was seeing the finish line! I had changed my major a few times in college, but finally and happily settled on a BA in English Lit and Communications. I was convinced that I was going to be a journalist. It was the latest career choice in a long line of career choices, but that is a story for another day. I was doing an internship at the local paper, and my editorial column was...Real Terms!
After graduation, I put in lots of applications at newspapers, and not a one of them were terribly interested in me. The one that interviewed me told me I needed more life experience and to get out of my little corner of the world. The others all wanted me to have a masters degree at least. Looking back, I am glad I didn't pursue it, an expensive degree in a dying industry.
I took that one newspaper's advice and did get out of my corner of the world. I ended up spending a year in Tanzania, working in an orphanage and expanding my comfort zone. I finished that experience and that was how I ended up in Billings, to make a long story short. I work with kids all day and dogs are my reward. But, as much as my heart bleeds for kids who have it rough, I feel at my most whole when training dogs.
I pursued a certification program as a dog trainer and continue to learn all that I can. Sometimes all that teaches me is how much I still have to learn. I want to work with people and their dogs and I want to help them out.
Does that explain the name yet? No, but it kind of gives you an idea of the journey I have been on to find the name. First thing first, know that I am not recycling my old newspaper column name. Yes, I am using the name again, but it is not for lack of a better name.
So, how did I come up with that name? It is actually pretty simple. If you take my name, Rachel Tremis, you can find the words Real Terms. I think that's pretty cool! This is me, trading one dream in for another, and the name is that reminder to always go for what I want, and to remain true to myself.
You put it all together, and you have me. I want to help regular people learn how to be the person their dog deserves and I want to keep dogs in their loving homes. It makes my heart grow three sizes when someone takes my advice, acts it and then tells me it worked for them! I want to find the answers to all of your dog training problems and I want to be able to give them to you in an easy to understand way. I want to be that friendly, genuine person who you and your dog both enjoy. I want to be a source you know you can get easily understood information from. I want you to be glad you picked me and to appreciate my name and training model!
Hi, I'm Rachel. I'm crazy about dogs and want to see all of them living the best life possible. Most of my free time is taken up by dogs, but when I am not working with my own or others, I also enjoy cooking, volunteer work, reading and Netflix in my pajamas.