Not Post

Well, we had a tough weekend. The week at work was crazy but fine, as was Thanksgiving. But today really did us in. I’d like to do a proper post about my work week and my weekend agility trial, but after my own personal worst day at a trial ever (Forest had absolutely nothing to do with it, it was aaaaall me) and then Pete getting in a minor car accident wrecking up his truck and a neighbor’s wall, I’m just not in the mood.

Did I mention its also my birthday?

Good times.

See you next week.


Of Sharks and Foxes

So, I think this is how its gonna be for a while. Unfortunately. Until my brain and body adjust to this whole actually “working” for forty hours a week, and commuting, and with leftover time going to planning and shopping for meals, embarrassingly meager attempts at house tidying-up-ness, and sleep, we may be on the one blog post a week program. But I will stick to it, becuase I need to keep up what I have built over this last year, and record my new life goings on.

Like right now I have a self-induced 15-minute blog writing limit. Ack. And today is even sleep in day because its Monday and I just work straight through until my class starts at 6. But anyway…

Last week was good. Better in the me-feeling-semi-useful department. I think the biggest thing I learned was to think on my feet with how to handle each dog differently, primarily regarding rewards. I worked with a boot camp dog—a pretty, girly golden—who is so freaking sharky that she’ll chomp your hand for kibble rewards. Kibble!!! And on the opposite end of the spectrum, a spoiled shih tzu who usually wont work for any food, regardless of the amount of begging and pleading and cajoling. He is not over-threshold, he just doesnt give a shit. We pull out the big guns for him—ham-flavored baby food and cheeze whiz, either of which may or may not work depending on the day.

But, my biggest victory was with one of our border collie rescues. She is a soft, soft dog, and just gorgeous. Red and white and looks exactly like a pretty little fox, down to the white puff on the end of her tail. She is another picky one. Sometimes she’ll happily work for kibble, sometimes she needs a little extra something to entice her, and at other times she doesnt want any of it. So after getting mildly frustrated with working on loose leash walking where she didnt want to have anything to do with me, I decided to use running to her favorite place—the kennel room kitchen—as a reward for her mat stays. That kinda worked.

Later that afternoon I worked her again, this time in the training center. That is easier by far as there are less distractions and she is comfortable there, but I got her really revved up and excited to work, mainly I think by keeping my tone really bright, and also rewarding her sporadically with lots of pets and cuddling, which she just eats up. She was the most fired up I have ever seen her while working, and I was even able to call her away from a playmate and send her to her mat while being bombarded with play attempts from her friend, so that was a big victory for me.

That is a big leap for me, as when the clicker and food treats are out, my dogs don’t want me to touch or baby talk or god forbid CUDDLE them, they just want FOOD. Especially so in environments where they are less-than-comfortable. I think one of the reasons I am so exhausted at the end of every day is that I am struggling at this point to keep ahead of every dog and quickly adjust strategy to keep things moving along. And I may also have to accept the occasional session where I am not making progress, and not kill myself over it.

This week will be wonky with 3 days on, one off, then one on, then weekend, but maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in some more writing time then. In between Thanksgiving and a weekend trial. Hopefully.

Week One Down

We survived the first week. I hope that once I settle in and get a little more stamina worked up that I do a better job of keeping up with the blog. I will, but it has been so long since I have had a job that involves much other than sitting on my ass in front of a computer all day, once I get home I am completely wiped and writing about my exhausting day hasnt been the first thing on my mind.

I have been getting up early to make the 45-minute commute South to work to arrive by 8. I pack my lunch, my coffee and the dogs’ foodstuffs and trundle everyone into the car. Luckily we seem to be going the opposite way of traffic, so at least that’s not looking to be a regular issue.

Recovering from his first week at new job.

Forest and Diego go straight into small dog day care for the first 2/3rds of the day where they seem to be not too miserable. Unless like on Thursday, I end up sitting in the same room with them crate training another dog, which sends them spiraling into separation misery for the rest of the day. Out of sight, out of mind apparently, but if I am too present, they make poor Luann’s life difficult. They’ll settle in. I hope. We are trying to find an appropriate resting place for them in the afternoons, and as of Friday they are being crated in the training building office. It didnt go great that day, but again, hopefully they figure out the flow and no one will ask me to leave due to my yappy dogs!

I have been working with the head trainer on pretty much a little bit of everything. Their clients really run the whole gamut–day care dogs, short and long term boarding, two- and four-week “boot camp” dogs, and privates, both in-home and at the facility. Last week I dealt with a huge range of dogs–rescue Goldens, BCs and Aussies learning manners and general house rules, a young 180lb Great Dane that is the biggest canine drama queen I have ever seen, a gaggle of four spoiled, incredibly sharky pugs (ouch!!!), a Chessie puppy that is seriously OUT of control (his owners dropped him off for 4-week boot camp and acted like they couldnt leave fast enough), and a silly, smart but mad-as-a-march hare Aussie/BC/Chow mix.

I knew that Laurie and Wags did rescue and behavioral training, but I really didnt realize the scope of it. Maybe its not unusual, I dont really have much of a frame of reference, but the vast majority of dogs in their in-house training program are rescues, reactive dogs, or a combination of the two.

It is slightly overwhelming to be honest, but at the same time, that is exactly where a huge part of my interest lies. And, if the first week is any indication, it seems there is no shortage of reactive dogs out there with owners who are desperate to fix the problem. What is probably going to prove the most fascinating will be the never ending parade of dog-owner pairs, and reading the balance between where the reactivity comes from. I have already seen some instances where it is clearly the owners’ fault for not properly socializing or setting boundaries, but on the other hand, there are other dogs whose personalities are so intense that I don’t think 99.9% of the dog-owning population could handle them. Myself included.

So, it already has been a monumental learning experience. I am trying to absorb as much as I can. As I’ve already mentioned, its exhausting, but I am enjoying being on my feet for most of the day, and the mental challenge of having to switch gears for each and every dog. Every one is different and I am learning the “types” I like. I have already found myself having to check my impatience–one really soft dog would not sit at the door for me, even after I tried to wait her out for almost ten minutes. We got through it, but it was not the high point of my week. We also took dogs offsite to a high-distraction park for training, and it took me a few sessions with different dogs to figure out why I was failing at connecting with any of them… Stay off the grass, ask for small behaviors, quit on a high note when they start to burn out even if only after ten minutes.

So much to talk about and figure out on my own. This post is very rambling, I hope I can figure out a way to sift through the challenges and experiences. Also I am considering an offshoot blog to keep this one agility-focused and on topic. But, until I get into the groove and my energy levels sort themselves out, here I will stay.

Quickly on the agility front, I do have the awesome, awesome luxury of being able to sneak into the usually-empty training room at lunch or after work for some play time on my own. AND, we found the Magic Robot—aka the Manners Minder. Lets just say it was a hit. Diego bows down to the wonders of Robot. I will have to get a photo of him genuflecting to its glory—it is quite hilarious. Also, we trialed last weekend—I almost forgot as it was overshadowed by work—it went okay. Actually it went fine. Forest was happy and connected with me the whole time. We had some more weave issues, but I never lost him, no weirdness or shut downs or wandering brain fades. We did have one absolutely perfect Standard run, which Q’ed us into Excellent Standard. Eek.

Enough rambling, I will try to post more in an effort to avoid these massive brain dumps. Week two begins…

Next Chapter

And so. Things are going to be quite different around here. As of Monday, I will be leaving my position as Communications Director in the Sports/Fashion Industry, and starting as an Apprenticing Dog Trainer and marketer for Laurie Zurborg and Wags and Wiggles. Wow.

How did that happen? In some ways, I am still not quite sure. I’ve liked Laurie’s methods and training style since I started with her six months ago. What I liked most was the awareness of and consideration for behavioral issues in addition to just “training agility.” I also immediately noticed that her business was thriving with two large boarding, training and day care facilities in Orange County. I was impressed to meet someone that not only “got” dogs, but also had good business sense as well.

I meant to ask for months about her apprenticeship program in which aspiring trainers enroll into an extensive three part apprenticeship, working towards achieving their CPDT certification. But, I waited as I didnt know when, or how, I was going to be able to commit the time needed.

When I finally hit the wall last week and knew I was going to leave my job but wasnt sure when exactly or what would happen afterward, I asked her on Friday morning to tell me more about the program. She said, “Funny you should ask…”

She is in need of another full time trainer, and apparently has had her eye on me as a prospect. She also wants marketing help as she currently takes care of all of it herself, and needs to take it off her plate. So, in short order, we devised a plan that will allow me to go through the apprenticeship program while also supporting her marketing needs. Things will start out heavier on the marketing side, but by next Spring, she expects me to be pretty much up and running as a full time trainer.

I will be working with their day care, boarding, and “boot camp” dogs on basic behavioral training to start, and working towards teaching classes, apprenticing and ultimately getting certified so I can teach privates, etc.

Totally crazy. So, I am really, really excited. This is something I have been wanting to do for a while, and it just landed in my lap at honestly, a really good time. My family for the most part is less than enthused (and I am putting off telling my dad because I know he is going to think I am nuts), but my friends have been wonderfully supportive. I am so lucky to have lovely, creative, and big-thinking friends who know that this is an opportunity that I can’t pass up. And honestly, that why I took it. If I stayed on my current path, even if that is more financially secure, I know I would always regret not taking this opportunity. And Diego and Forest aren’t complaining either.

So here I am. I start Monday. A very sudden change of course, but I am ready.

Its Official…

…I am crazy. As in quit-my-job crazy. I couldn’t, just couldn’t, keep doing it. It’s not fair to my own personal and mental health, and it isn’t fair to them for me to be sitting there—reading dog blogs and writing my own blog and occasionally banging out a work bit here and there—and collecting a paycheck.

I had a very good, grown-up girl job lead that was red, red hot, like they took me and the Mister out to dinner with the whole team hot, and then… It has been radio silent. No news is good news, right? Erm, not so right.

And then, in the depths of my annoyance and drowning in work misery last Friday, I had a most unexpected offer. So not even close to what I was thinking was realistic, and yet exactly what I have been wanting. Its not official-official, and its possible still that the big girl job could materialize, but I am leaning toward this possibility of total awesomeness. Which might just be interesting to you, my three dear readers, as well. Lets just say it would provide more blog fodder. Or even warrant a blog of its very own.

So, sit tight. Things could get very interesting here in the next week or so.

Trial this weekend! Hooray!