Saturday, April 16

Moving (Sort of)

Hey, guys, I've moved over to Dogs and Tails where I am generally being a butt head and getting myself into trouble with my absolute need to question everything. Only three posts so far, and I'm not sure whether I'm going to keep the new site or scrap it; we'll see.

Check out the new posts!

Sunday, March 27

Lose Your Clients in 5 Easy Steps

If you are easily offended, don't read this;
unless, of course, you are looking for a reason to hate me..
in which case...
read away.

Kei biffs it in the tunnel.

Confession #1
I really don't like other dog trainers.
I hate having to deal with them on a client-to-professional basis.

Confession #2
I'm pretty crazy about agility.
But I don't have "the bug" like other people do.
The only thing I'm interested in competing against is mine and my dog's personal best.
People train their dogs for agility, learn the moves, and hit the course.
get in shape for agility. That means mommy does push ups, cuts her 10-sec 100 meter dash into less than half that, and figures out how to do precision, quick movements on the field. 
We video tape what we do, figure out where our hand signals, foot work, communication, training, etc, needs work... 
and we work on it.

And...that's just the tip of the ice berg.
So, let me repeat.
We are crazy about agility.

Case in Point:

There's a training facility that is pretty far from us, but was rated "best" in agility training for a few years running.
This is a two hour drive, at best, with toll roads along the way. Plus, to be honest, the prices for the place weren't what you'd call cheap.

So. Remember how I told you we're pretty nuts when it comes to this dog sport?
Yeah, we'd be spending $270/month easy on classes and the drive up there.
And we were totally willing to do it.

Here's a fun note: If you're good at what you do, people will find you... and they will be willing to drive to you.

But... not if this happens.

Bad Idea #1 
Roll your eyes.

Enter James with his aussie and Julie with hers. Take one look at the "fifteen-year-old" and roll your eyes.
Yeah, because that's gonna make me want to not only give you an entire paycheck, but also make me want to take your advice, and be nice to you.
Is this an agility facility or a popularity contest?
Do. Not. Be. A. Jerk. To. Your. Clients.

Bad Idea #2:
Insult the client

So, we're on an "assessment run" and I'm laughing because KodaBear is herding my legs. I have to stop. Laughing is a good option, because I want to scream. Four months of working that out, and I push her over threshold and it's the Breland Effect. Joy. (Instinct often wins despite training.)
I give a quick explanation that I can't deal with that, and won't run a dog who is herding me... but am totally willing to put as much work as it takes into getting her to realize that I am not a lamb, and agility is not about chasing the not-lamb that is me.
And by the way, coming from the traditional side, when I say, "I can't deal with that," what I mean is that I will lose my temper and likely do something stupid and mean to the dog. 
For being a freaking dog.
And I'm not willing to get mad - and I know I will - at the dog for being a dog, so I don't set her up to get so excited that she does that.
I am told that I need to get over it and deal with the dog I've got, and stop trying to beat the dog out of her.

Despite your opinions either way, not a good idea to insult the client. Yet again.

Bad Idea #3:
Make your client feel stupid.

Teach "hit it," a trick that involves your dog standing on a contact obstacle with  her two back paws on the equipment and her two front paws on the floor.
Okay, well, I don't agree that the dog "will never learn to hit the contact" if you don't teach this, but I'm still willing to teach it... and I don't want to argue.
So, I get KodaBear up, and tell her GOOD JOB! when she does it right. (Yes, a click or "yes" would be faster. I know.)
 Trainer: Good... what?
JJ: *totally confused* Good.....................d-dog?
Trainer: *rolls eyes...again!* Good HIT IT. How's the dog supposed to know what she's done right if you don't tell her?

Oh, lord. I hate "Good [repeat cue]" 
So, I simply say. "Oh. I see your point, but I was trained never to do that, so I'm not comfortable."
In my opinion, a good trainer explains why she does what she does and allows the client to make the decision as to whether she's going to follow... pending it's not going to put anyone in danger. (We don't use the word "stay" either, but I hardly yell at people who do. I do, however, explain why we don't use it, and let them feel it out.)

Bad Idea #4
Be totally full of yourself

See that herding instinct?

Raise your hand if you're NOT guilty of this.
No hands raised? Thought that might be the case.
We're all pretty set in our own ways - our training protocols work for us, and they work for our clients.
However, it's one thing to be full of your training protocols, and quite another to think you're god's gift to dog training.

I don't like going somewhere and being made to feel like a lesser being, like I know nothing about dogs, like I'm somehow inferior and need to be fixed.
I have freaking agility titles for the love of dog; I'm not a complete moron.

But we opted to dress down - jeans and t-shirt (no company logo, either) and act like clients. Bring your "I'm a dog trainer" face to another dog trainer around here, and you'll face animosity. It's just not fair.
I didn't feel a need to put additional strain on the client-trainer relationship. I was going to learn, not to judge.

It's probably a bad idea to pin my dog to the floor and tell me that we're making her "relax" and that we'll wait for a yawn or a lip lick. 
That's how we were going to know she was "relaxing." Force my dog down and pet her over the head - which she hates, but puts up with if it's me - and wait till she gives you a fragging agonistic signal to let her go.
Give me my dog back, please; we're leaving.

Too boot, when James asked his dog for a down when he otherwise would have taken off like a crazy dog, she told him "don't force your dog into a submissive down."

Screw that, and screw you.
I'm not going to pay nearly $300/month to go to a place that treats me and my dog that poorly. Honestly. What did you guys do? Get all of your friends to vote for you in the polls, because you guys aren't the best at anything.

Bad Idea #5
Don't dress like a professional

Going to this place inspired that post.
One lady was dressed in jogging pants and a shirt that must have been ten years old.
The second lady to come in had so much makeup on that her face was orange, her eyeliner was melting, and she was wearing what I'm sure was supposed to be dress clothes, but...
I could see her panty-line, her shirt was waaaay too low cut, and ..
She looked messy.
Not professional in the least.
Remember the lady off the Drew Carey show who wore entirely too much blue eye shadow. Yeah, she looked good in comparison.

So here's the recap:
When you're meeting a new client, dress the part. This is a profession for most of us, so even if it's just a part-time-and-who-cares thing for you, don't make the rest of us look bad.
Treat your clients nicely - don't make them feel stupid. And if you take one look at them and think, "There's no way I'm ever going to like these people," keep it off your face. First, you don't know that. Second, it doesn't matter if you like them or not.
You aren't a dog trainer in order to make friends.
Last, but not least, don't be a dick.
I mean, really? You don't know everything - no one does - and it should be worth more to you to prove that you're right and know everything about dogs than it is to work with your client and get them on the same page as you.
If it is more important for you to be right and high-and-mighty, you won't be getting my money any time soon.
But don't worry.
I'll at least have the courtesy not to tell you to get your head out of your ass.... Not to your face, anyway.

Saturday, March 26

Put the Function in the Environmental Relationship

Koda doesn't like my new book. XD
Behavioral Science.

Uh. Well, you get the point.

Sitting there, listening to what behavior science is - outside, of course, of the realm of dog training - I got hung up on a term. It's just this concept that took me by surprise, simply because it was so obvious that it wasn't actually obvious at all.

We talk about nominal fallacies - putting names to things we don't understand and calling them explained, right?
But that something so obvious to me actually had a scientific term and definition swept my feet right out from under me...and I don't know why.

Functional Relationship.
Scientifically: It's the tendency of one even to vary in a regular way with one or more other events.
And I'm pretty sure that's verbatim from the book I'm reading, though I haven't picked it up in over two weeks.
(That book, by the way, is called First Course in Applied Behavior Analysis.)

I read that over and over again, because though I understand what that it - what a functional relationship is - I couldn't make the connection to the definition.

Simple reason why: too many variables in one statement. "Vary in a regular way" with "one or more other events." Ah, it sounds complicated.

So, go turn off your lights. (It is, by the way, currently Earth Hour as I'm writing this, so all lights are off, but the computer is on.) 
That's one event.
"Varies in a regular way."
To be honest - something usually happens when you flip the switch, but that doesn't mean it will. There's always the possibility that your fuse box doesn't work, the light bulb has blown, or you don't have any electricity in your house.
But something usually happens when you flip the switch.

A functional relationship is a functional relationship because of ABC.
ABC (not the animal behavior college, but antecedent -> behavior -> consequence)
Have you ever thought about why it's not ABP?
Bet not.
Antecedents have postcedents
and behaviors have consequences.

But the fact is, not many of the connections we make between antecedent and consequence are actually postcedents.
So, what I'm trying to say is that very few things in this world have causal relationships.

Why couldn't I put my finger on this functional relationship thing?
Because a functional relationship is a correlation.
And it was so obvious that I was oblivious.

Know the difference?
A causal relationship. This is one one thing causes another thing to happen. It's very black and white. 
In Koda speak, sitting in front of the door usually causes mom to let her out.
A correlation is a functional relationship.
Koda speak again: there's just something about putting her butt on the floor. Good stuff seems to happen. doesn't always cause something good to happen. Sometimes nothing happens. But usually, that event (butt on floor) varies in a regular way with one or more events (food, going outside, love from mom, or a good chew toy).

Guess it's a little funny. I was over thinking it.
And doodling while I was supposed to be listening, but doodling helps me listen because I have very little in the way of focus. ^-^;;

This blog is not Koda-Approved. Koda would very much like for me to pick up her dang leash and take her for a walk. Darn it.

Wednesday, March 16

I Think I Failed the Personality Test

I get dogs. I even like dogs - they're fluffy, adorable creatures with enough bite pressure and speed to kill me in a hot second. Plus, they see and process sight faster than I do, may think more like autistic children, and generally do things that make my brain light up with enthusiasm.

Dogs and I, we're a team.

People and I....


Hi, I'm JJ. I'm a bit of an idiot, some-time savant, IQ-ranking somewhere between smart and genius, and it's taken me seven years to learn how to communicate with humans. As in everyday conversation. As in, I can't really be that smart because I can't even have a normal conversation.

And I speak their language, know the culture, and have been immersed in their goings-on for ... Oh, I don't know... 23 years?

And I don't get them.

So, my next adventure is going to center on quite a bit of learning, branching off somewhere between knowledge and tolerance. 

Me? I have very little of the latter. I can't stand what I think of as "stupid" people, don't deal well with differing opinions, extremists, or even everyday conversation. 

I think I'm just fragging weird or something, but since I have to live with me, I figure something has to change.

In the dog training world, I've got this. I can take the role - like a character in a play - and do my job, communicate where I need to, and generally  have a good time with it. Even with dog trainer friends, colleagues, and enthusiasts, I don't have so much of a problem with the communication or the tolerance.

But it doesn't seem to translate to the rest of my life.

...Not that I'm an insufferable, judgmental prick or anything. It's more that... when it comes to the outside world, I just can't empathize. 

People make bad decisions. They do dumb things for dumber reasons... and as someone who has spent her entire life with her nose in a book, the closest I come to relating is poking their brains with questions intended to do a little information gathering.

I think like a behavior analyst, not like a psychologist, and certainly not like a friend. Talking to me is probably the equivalent of talking to a brick wall with a good knowledge of active and passive listening, who offers nothing in the way of personality back. And you KNOW that I'm plugging everything you say into a little brain-powered computer program that's going to lead me to conclusions about you and your actions that I have no interest in sharing.

Doncha just want to be friends with me now?

Best part: I'm bubbly while I do it.

I'm unable to think like most people, and can't decide if I want to.

I figure, at the very least, I can learn HOW other people think, and maybe that will come close enough to relating to cut it. 

Do I... sound like a robot to anyone else?

I'm seriously thinking cyborg, here. (What? It would be fun. Really.)

Wednesday, March 2

Trainer's Block

If you've ever been a writer, you've probably experienced what they term writer's block.
(Used to happen to me only around deadlines. Go freaking figure, right? Oh, the pressure of being twelve...)

Right now, I've got something like that, but we term it "burn out." 

Trust me, I could write things to annoy audiences for days and weeks...and maybe even for the rest of their lives. No writer's block for me.

The problem is... I can't keep up with my usual dog blogs, dog books, dog.... 

I will hang myself if I have to go on.

(I feel like this is you guys. =P)

I'm sick of it. I can't read about dogs, I don't want to write about them (not that I ever do, mind you), and I need  to learn something new to get my mind off of the fact that I will throw myself on the floor and scream if anyone tries to make me read another dog anything.

How do you guys do this?! It's an all-day-every-day thing that I can't wrap my mind around. There is, at a point, a brick wall that you will come up against where no more new information can be gleaned, absorbed, shared, etc. (Yes, this is true, especially for dog training specifically; when adding in behavior, the story changes ... but only slightly.)

 We're stuck in a world where little to no information has changed/altered in quite a while

Well, there's always the excitement of the different religious factions of dog training, but I'm not one for politics, please. Give me cold, hard facts and I'll be happy as a clam.

So, dear dog training, I think we are breaking up. I am taking everything I learned from you - the beginning (and yes, I do mean beginning as in 1+2=3 for dummies) of learning theory, body language, and behavior analysis/modification and stop just "doing something with it" and actually learn more.

What gets me about a lot of dog behavior consultants/trainers is that they have certifications. And experience. .... And not a whole lot else. 

Those things are great, and so is being able to help a dog - save his life, really - and help a family... but we get hung up on "this works" because "this has always worked" if we stop being students and start being teachers. 

There's no room for growth if you "know everything."

(I can see a former me in this cartoon. I'd argue with someone until I passed out from lack of air. Now, I just say "What an interesting perspective" and secretly roll my eyes when their no longer looking. What? One step at a time, guys.)
Nuh uh.

Not gonna happen to me, here. 

I want to build on what I know. 

And that means that I have to leave dog training - which is wonderfully limited - and learn things that can help me build on it. 

It means that I'm going to learn stuff that will make me better at my job, because I love my job... but these things will have little to do with dogs themselves.

Wish me luck. =]

Thursday, February 24

How Dumb is the Dog Trainer?

Welcome to a Social Media Event in the Dog Training World.
It's scary.
And, in fact, it's pretty fragging brave. (That was my attempt at not swearing today. I don't know that that actually counts. What do you think?)

Enter in a few kids - adults, I mean - at a "round table," having a doggy discussion with the public.


First, it's a marketing gimmick - everyone has pamphlets and smiles plastered on their faces. Kind of makes me want to throw up - the fake smiles, I mean.

We have vets, dog trainers, groomers, daycare people, and the like. You also have "positive" or Truly Dog Friendly people and traditional trainers. 

Does anyone else see this going south? And fast? 
Like really fast?

It's an entire event, laid out before the public, of trainers undermining each other.
In front of a crowd.
And cameras..

Pause the event for a sec, here.

Ever been to a seminar with positive dog trainers?
Worst flipping atmosphere I've ever had the misfortune of being part of. Really.
There's a niche within a niche in dog training, brought to the forefront during social gatherings.
And it doesn't make you look good, guys.

So, this niche.
This niche is the Truly Dog Friendly folks, and people like they. (Yes, that is proper grammar. If I say "people like them" it means that people think they're cool, and that's not what I'm trying to say.)
They center themselves in the middle of the room, chatting amiably... with anyone who agrees with them.
Don't agree with absolutely every morsel that the Queen Bee at the center of the center does?
Don't approach.
I repeat: Do NOT approach.

And don't you dare have your own ideas or opinions about dog training.
You try and present rationality (or what you think of as rationality) to that crowd...
...Well, you'd have better luck trying to break a brick wall with your face.

It gets worse.
There are a lot of dog trainers in this world, but there aren't a lot of dog trainers who ...
...Okay, whatever... I'll be the one to say it.
There aren't a lot of dog trainers who know their ass from a hole in the ground.
Sure, they can train a dog, and they can even train you to train your dog.
They know next to nothing about operant conditioning. (Come the eff on, people. "I don't use positive punishment." Really? Ever said "No" to your dog? Application. Of. An. Aversive. IE: Positive Punishment.)

Here's the deal: I can make, fix, and build cars. 
That doesn't make me an ASE Certified Mechanic, the same way that being a certified mechanic doesn't necessarily mean you can fix cars.

And what really gets me is when people memorize this shit. That's the latter of the mechanic metaphor. 

Example: Negative Reinforcement = delaying of a punisher. 

This threw some people right off their game when it was posted on some CPDT-prep group on Yahoo, and no, I'm not linking you to it. I wouldn't waste my time.

Point: If the people who threw such a hissy fit had bothered to learn - NOT MEMORIZE - what R- is, they would have nodded their heads and said, "What an interesting way to define it."

So, here you have dog trainers - PROFESSIONAL dog trainers - who memorized a bunch of shit for their tests, passed, and now believe that their credo is the Word.


And it's not that I disagree with their credo, though now if you're still reading this, you're probably too pissed off to care whether or not I agree with it. 

The thing that will get my goat every time is this: When you join the religious faction of positive dog training, you close yourself off to any other ideas. 

And even if you were to say, listen to another idea, you're going to be ostracized by your own little "community." Don't believe me? 
The APDT routinely tries to kick people who don't agree with their credo off the board.
Still don't believe me?
Ask Ian Dunbar, who founded the damn thing. It's him that they keep trying to boot out.
Mostly because he points out that they don't know learning theory, and that it's all but useless.
And they just don't want to hear that.

Put it to you this way: I am a "By any and whatever means necessary" type of trainer. I'll spend 700$/mo on medication, holistic food, and behavior modification if I believe that's the way to go. On that same note, if I truly thought the best way was to put a shock collar on the dog, turn it all the way up and hold the button until the dog was incapacitated, I'd do it.

With the latter, you will never find me pre-planning that situation, because there is always a better way. 

(Although, I used the latter example because I've done it. Repeat: I've done it. As a positive - well, cross-over - trainer. Of course, the couple already had the collar turned all the way up and on the dog, and it was either drop the dog or offer my condolences to the family after he ripped out their three-year-old's throat while I stood there and did nothing about it.)


So, I'm a crazy, open-minded, cross-over trainer who hasn't crossed all the way over.

And I'm sitting at a round table discussion with a bunch of trainers who are all trying to puff themselves up on their religious credo.

Can I...

Can I just get to the point?

When you're in the midst of a public event, trying to undermine everyone else because you're credo is correct and everyone else is misinformed... 

You aren't impressing anyone except yourself. And if you're attending a public event to impress yourself, there's a problem.

Self-deceptive enhancement is only enhancing when you're talking to yourself, standing in front of a mirror. Not so great when there are cameras and media personnel, all looking at each other like, "You've got to be &*^&ing joking."

If you're a good dog trainer, people will come to you - through word of mouth as much as anything else. It won't matter what your credo is, or how you explain yourself. 
You wouldn't treat a client who came in with different opinions like you do trainers who have different opinions. So stop treating other people, who have different opinions like inferior beings.
My point: Get the eff off of your high horse. Please.

Oh, and the traditional trainer?
Oops for him. After he explained that his shock collar was "a muscle stimulator" (duh) that "didn't hurt at all" (yeah, okay, sure...) he said that his dog was happy and confident, and then went on to redefine what another trainer said about stress signals, just to prove his point further.
If his dog was stressed, he'd be yawning, licking his lips, and tense.

His dog's tail carriage was low, his body tensed while he scanned constantly, licking his lips and yawning repeatedly.

I've got to say it. At least when I trained traditionally, I didn't give some bullshit speech about how it "didn't hurt." I said, "Yeah, it hurts like hell; that's the point." 

And then I learned that it's just more fun to train without it.
And my dogs love me more.

The End?
Feel free to scream, insult, curse, call me an idiot, etc.
And, just to add insult to injury, I'm not going to reject you or your views/opinions/beliefs just because mine are different.

Sunday, January 23

How to Dress a Dog Trainer

What do you see in your mind's eye when you hear the term "dog trainer?" 

I see this. It makes me want to hit someone.

If you see a professionally but appropriately dressed, well-presented, emphasis-with-repeated-word-here, professional individual (and you live in Ohio), know that I'm laughing at you. Most of the dog trainers I see look like the guy above and trust me when I say I wouldn't buy a word he said, no matter how right he was.

Because of how he's dressed.

Scratch that. 

Dog trainer, yes. Check mark and all that beside the term. 

Professional dog trainer, no. No check marks, no stars, nothing.

And I certainly would not call you a pet professional.

Every time I check out a new dog training faci--- You know what. Let me rephrase. 
Every single POSITIVE dog training facility I have ever toured has been presented to me by a dog trainer who is, for lack of a better term and because I can think of nothing more insulting than this - sloppy

No offense, but I've worked with the traditional and military boys, and they dress nice
It may be because they're pushy jerks and they HAVE to have some redeeming quality....

What's the problem, here, ladies?

Never done. Or if it is, you should sue your hairstylist. There is a hairspray limit, just like there's a drinking limit. Find it.

If it's there, it's caked on using the incorrect color for your complexion, way too much blush, eyeshadow, mascara, or eyeliner... or it's just not there.
Most of you .... should go without.
I don't care how much makeup you wear so long as all I think when I see it is, "I wish I had that complexion! Her skin glows!" 
Can't pull that off?
Avoid the damn makeup. 

(These girls are just barely overdressed. Nix the heels, the white, and the sports coats, and you might be on to something.)

Here's my pet peeve.
LADIES, if I can see your panty line, either you're wearing the wrong pants or the wrong underwear and one of them has GOT to go.
I've never been so annoyed or unwilling to listen to someone's advice as I am when someone is marketing to me that they are a professional anything and don't look like they know what the word entails.

Don't worry; your clients think that, too.

You should, 100% of the time, be dressed better than your clients
Especially if you're a woman.
That means: You probably shouldn't be jeans and a t-shirt.
It also means that your clothes should not be baggy or tight enough that I'm giggling because you have a muffin top and should really consider buying the next size up in your so-called pants size.

Really, it's really hard to take a person seriously if she looks like she doesn't take proper care of herself.

So, take the damn time to make your hair look half-way decent. Ponytails are long as I can see more than just frizz... and don't require a lot of effort. 
Skip the makeup unless you plan on making it look like you don't have any on. Really. Really, really. Even if you're good at wearing makeup, you should probably opt to look like you're about to teach a dog training class, not out with your friends.
And the clothes. Oh, the clothes. My recommendation: Go with something earthy and professional. And go with top-of-the-line. Cheap dress clothes look like shit.
Repeat: If you're wearing cheap dress clothes YOU LOOK CHEAP.
And top of the line here means that if you're going with earthy, I-am-a-dog-trainer type of clothes, go with Carhartt. If, like me, you work with a very conservative crowd, you may consider Express or Gap or some other annoying name-brand hoo-hah.

(These are Dockers. Dockers are freaking amazing.)

Also, take the goddamn time of day to match appropriate undergarments with the appropriate professional outfits. I don't want to see your bra straps. Or your bra. And while I really, really don't want to see your underwear or panty line, I especially don't want to see your pants riding up your.... 
I'll stop there.

Personally, I recommend Victoria's Secret. They have everything for everyone - size, style, etc - and it's cute to boot. Your husband will thank you.
(You don't want him thanking me. I'm her size.)

Professional is professional, and there isn't some fine line or broad spectrum. If you call yourself professional, dress the damn part.
(Like the irony of having that line right below a Victoria's Secret model? I did!)

Make all the excuses you want. 
Yell at me and tell me why I'm wrong and it's okay for professional dog trainers not to look professional.
Or yell at me and tell me why you think jeans and a t-shirt or the wrong sized clothes and too much make up IS professional.

Point is, this is a professional career, and for people to treat it as such, you really do have to dress better than your clients.
And here's the kicker.
You have to act professional, too.