My Journey to Becoming a Dog Trainer: Part 1

I had a dog growing up. I’ve loved dogs all my life. I worked at the humane society in high school, and then even studied Animal Sciences in college. But I didn’t really have an interest in training dogs until about ten months ago when it felt like a switch flipped. Since then, I can’t seem to learn enough about working with dogs.

With my childhood dog, a Wheaten Terrier named Barley, we used a shake can when he would do the wrong thing like get into the garbage. We walked him on a retractable leash and didn’t pay much attention to how he was invading our surroundings. We wondered why he acted the way he did around other dogs (he could be reactive) and why he wasn’t ‘normal’ like the ones who love every other dog they meet. We would scream at him when he would bark out the front window. But I figured that was Barley and that was the way you interacted and dealt with dogs. Looking back, I can now see why we didn’t have the closest relationship.


I remember bits and pieces of being exposed to training as I got older. Some of the first, I think, was watching Victoria Stilwell’s It’s Me or the Dog show on Animal Planet. I would catch it whenever it was on and was fascinated with how she could change a dog’s behavior by adjusting schedules, house rules and basic guidelines. Fast forward to college when I took animal behavior courses and companion animal courses (when we weren’t taking companion animal courses we were learning mostly about cows and poultry) and I got another glimpse of how animal’s learn. In our behavior courses we covered learning theory and discussed famous studies like those by Pavlov and others and how they related to why animals learn and act the way they do. We also learned about clicker training, though many of the examples we were shown that demonstrated clicker training used horses, donkeys or pigs!


People think that Animal Science majors get to hang out with dogs and cats all year. False. This is what I spent most of my time doing.

Despite all this background, I still wasn’t that interested in dog training. I started working at the humane society, and even fostering, and didn’t realize the importance in training past just basic obedience (sit, down, stay). Our shelter trainer, a CPDT and graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy (man were we lucky to have her), would chat with me about my fosters and basic ways to help any problematic behaviors popping up and, while I appreciated it and tried to follow through with her advice, I still just didn’t get the big picture of why dogs do the things they do and how I could change the way they behave.

My outlook changed when I attended the Animal Farm Foundation internship last September. Even though the course focused mainly on learning about how to help pit bull dogs get adopted from shelters, the most valuable lessons I took away from that week were the training ones.

Practicing shaping with Eli.

When we arrived Monday afternoon, I met our house dog Lady Bird (LB). She was an energetic little thing – way more spunky than I had ever really dealt with. Throughout orientation the first night Lady Bird kept trying to jump up on my fellow intern while we were all talking – something that was quite annoying. The intern simply stood up every time LB got on her lap, ignoring her the whole time, causing LB to naturally fall back to the floor. By the end of the time we were all together, Lady Bird had quit jumping up. No shoving, no pushing, no yelling… just a simple change of consequences and reinforcers.


The week continued with “aha!” moments like that, like when I realized I could pretty quickly teach a dog to sit while I open a door or not bark in the kennel – all using the same basic principles. I couldn’t believe it: the basics that I had learned in school and had watched others do for so long could be applied to behaviors across the board – with great results! I was hooked. By the end of the week, Lady Bird was a delight and I was a training-knowledge fiend.

Upon my return, I quickly realized that I had so many resources at my finger tips: Your Dog’s Friend, Beth the shelter trainer, other blogging friends, books, websites and so much more. I dove right in. While I am learning so much valuable information, I am also realizing that this is how it’s done, this is how people get into training. You’re not born knowing everything about dogs or wanting to train them (okay, maybe some have dreams to be a dog trainer as a kid, but not all of us), and you might not even wake up one day and just decide you want to be a trainer. Sometimes it takes lots of exposure to it or lots of trial and error or lots of exciting successes to get you hooked. Everyone’s story is unique.

Come back on Thursday to see how my dog training journey is unfolding. I am excited to share with you all where things are headed!


Looking Back On: That Time I Failed

I’ve often heard that when you’re working on or with something that it’s good to keep a journal. Keeping a written record of your journey helps to show yourself how much progress you’ve made.  Especially when working with animals, it is essential to have the ability to look back after a training session that didn’t go so well and see all the victories you’ve made thus far. That way you aren’t too hard on yourself or your animal when things don’t go perfectly one time.

I am extremely lucky to have this blog to track my journey. With the click of a mouse I can access any date in the last 14+ months and see what I was up to on that exact day. Pretty cool, huh? What’s better is when I look back and see just how much I’ve learned.  It’s astonishing at times – I can’t believe where I was and where I went and where I am now.  And, just like I mentioned above, I sometimes find myself needing a little pick-me-up to remember just how far I’ve come (or, on same days, even just that I’ve come anywhere!).

Yesterday started my first week coaching a reactive dog class with Your Dog’s Friend.  As I listened to the instructor give a review to the students last week, I kept nodding in agreement to what she was teaching and thinking in my head, “Yes! Totally! Yes that’s the perfect thing to do!” for all these dog owners who have never learned a successful way to deal with their reactive dogs.  It really got me thinking: holy cow, I have learned so much in just the past few months. Since when did all of this become just engrained in my brain as common sense knowledge?

Just a few months ago I had a pretty rough run in with a reactive dog. Many of you might remember the post That Time I Failed (in fact, lots of you might remember it considering it’s gotten the most views of any of my entries – oy!) about a dog I was supposed to temporarily foster and had to bail on because he was reactive towards my dad and others. I talked about the reality that I didn’t know much about managing a reactive dog. Fast forward five months, and here I am helping to teach a class about it. So what changed?

What changed is that I learned about the way dogs think and why they act the way they do. I learned that reactivity is usually based in fear or frustration. I learned that most of the time when a dog is reacting, you cannot teach it anything because everything in that moment its brain has shut off except for what it’s focused on, and that you must remove the dog from the situation immediately. I learned that it makes total sense for a dog to be reactive towards something it doesn’t like, because when it barks and lunges the bad thing moves away. I learned that practiced behaviors get repeated. I learned SO MUCH and it all just seemed to click (no pun intended, hehe).


Because of all this, I feel the need to point out to myself (and whoever else cares to listen) what I did wrong with Mylo on the night that he lost it in front of my dad. So much of the way our dogs react is caused by the environment and circumstances around them, including their handler (and then of course their previous emotional opinions about things).  I’m glad I can now look back and see how badly I did not set Mylo up for success, and hopefully address these mess ups with any dogs I have in the future.

1.  I forgot to remember that change is scary for dogs.  I should have remembered how much transitions with a new dog can suck. Imagine being moved to a new place with new people you didn’t know – would you act like yourself?  We took Mylo away from his fosters, to Mark’s apartment and then to my home. Sounds like a plenty stressful situation to me, and certainly a good reason to act a bit unlike himself.

2.  I had him in a choke collar. I cringe even typing that. I had gotten instructions from his fosters to put him in a choke collar and, because I hadn’t learned much in the way of how to teach dogs to walk nicely using positive methods at this point, I went with it. Mylo had ZERO interest in letting this thing slow him down, so he was nearly choking himself the entire time. Discomfort adds to stress and can heighten a dog’s reactivity levels because they are redirecting their feelings about the pain.  If I had him today, I would have immediately put Mylo in a sense-ible harness to remove that element of stress.

3.  I introduced him to my dad in the dark and without any preparation. I will always and forever be more careful about introducing my pops to dogs because I have finally realized that when they don’t like him it’s not them, it’s him. He’s tall, he’s got a big beard, and he wears dark clothes. Recipe for disaster for a dog who is weary of large humans!  My poor dad – I didn’t give him any heads up about how to approach Mylo, so he went right up saying, “Hi doggy, hi doggy!” like he always does. Mylo didn’t like that.

Today, I would keep Mylo far enough away that my dad didn’t bother him (known as ‘below his threshold’), and then have my dad throw treats to him to show Mylo that father = yummy things (without putting the pressure on Mylo to approach my dad to take a treat from his hand!).  I would have told my dad to avoid eye contact or hovering over Mylo, and if he got to the point where Mylo wanted to say hi, to crouch down to his level without directly facing his body at Mylo – a much more inviting greeting for a dog!

4. I didn’t bring treats anywhere with me. Treats don’t solve everything, but they sure can get you out of a pinch when you need it.  A dog that’s focused on a high value treat isn’t as quick to focus on something else it might react to.  If I had treats from the get go, Mylo might have been more inclined to pay attention to me instead of his surroundings.

So I know that dwelling on the past isn’t always the best idea, but I think reflecting on it and reminding yourself of lessons learned can sometimes be very beneficial.  I would encourage you to start keeping a written log if you are on any sort of journeys of your own. I know there are plenty of times – even for non-animal related things like training for races – where I wished I could have written evidence of my accomplishments. Everyone deserves to give themselves a pat on the back every once in a while (or maybe get a high-five from your dog), and reflection can help to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to do so.


Photography Week: Intro & Basics

After a year and a half of messing around with my Canon EOS 40D camera, I can finally say I am in full blown I-love-you-and-can’t-live-without-you mode with photography.  I find myself not only working every day to improve my own photos, but also studying every aspect of photos I see in my every day life, from advertisements to the portfolios of professional photographers, and noting what I like or dislike about them.

I am still amateur, and most of the time I feel like I’m the most amateur of all the amateurs, but the truth is that I’ve learned a TON over the last year about how to work your camera and capture a good photograph.  This week on the blog will be dedicated to photography. I will cover many aspects of photographing animals, starting with the basics to post-processing and end results.

I would never have gotten anywhere without starting with the basics when photographing my foster dogs.  I think it was Love & a Six-Foot Leash that first turned me on to some of the best petography tips I’ve learned, and they’ve stuck with me ever since.  It doesn’t matter what camera you use at this point – a point & shoot or a DSLR – these tips are mostly about controlling aspects besides your camera.

My top tips for photographing pets are as follows (and a lot of them you’ve probably heard before, like on Kate with a Camera, whose awesome blog is much more photography-based than mine):

1. Turn your flash OFF!  Everyone’s gotten a picture of their pups (or cat or bunny) looking like a demon with bright, reflective eyes. Not only does the flash screw with the light in an animal’s eyes, it often reflects off their fur and, in my opinion, creates an unnatural shiny look.  To make sure your photos still turn out well without a flash, move either outdoors or into a spot in your home by a window with lots of natural light.

With a flash: Zee’s fur is shiny and if she looked at the camera she’d have reflective eyes.


Without a flash: Zee is much more natural looking, and you can see more of the soft details or her eyes and fur.


2. Use lots of treats! Or squeaky toys, or tennis balls – whatever your dog will fixate on while you quickly capture the shot. In general, I put the treat in front of their nose with my left hand so they know I have it and then bring it up directly above the lens so that they are looking right at the camera.  The bait has to be pretty high value so that it keeps their attention long enough for you to get a few good photos.  This is how we catch those dreamy “I could stare into your eyes forever” pictures – you know, the ones that really draw adopters in ;-).

In addition to treats, I often use very high-pitched, odd noises to get the animal’s attention. You look like an absolute lunatic screeching and squealing at your subject, but it really gets good results. In the same vein, I try to avoid using their name – I’ve heard and noticed that they’re more inclined to ignore their name quicker than a noise they’re not used to hearing.


3. Be aware of your background – and try to make it as distraction free as possible.  Sometimes you don’t have control over your background, but if you do, see if you can take photos somewhere with a solid backdrop (which is tough to do) or at least a clean and clutter free location.  If I’m outside I really like to shoot against the green grass or even fallen leaves because it makes most dogs pop out of the photo. If I’m inside, I try to avoid areas of my house that are very messy. The shot below of Baxter is cute, but I find the background very distracting. The one following it of Sinclair is an example of how you can use a natural backdrop for your photos.

floor5 01

Sinclair is still waiting for his forever home! See how perfect of a dog he is in my posts about when he stayed with my family for a few days.

While those three tips are simple, they can make all the difference!  Tomorrow I’ll discuss some advanced adjustments for a DSLR camera.  Many people shoot in auto because they don’t understand manual options, but once you learn about how the settings work and how they can improve your photos, you won’t ever want to go back to automatic!

Must Read Books for 2013

It might appear as though I am jumping right into tackling one of my New Year’s resolutions to read more, but the truth is that I’ve had this post about dog books planned for ever since I got my fingers on the Kindle that Mark got me for Christmas.

I’ve unfortunately never been a big reader except for a book here or there that really caught my attention. Over the past year or so that small list has expanded ever so slightly, especially since I’ve found myself wanting to learn about more topics in addition to reading fiction stories. Whatever the reason, there are a few books that I’ve read or plan to read that I absolutely have to share with you!

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce CameronA-Dogs-Purpose

I cannot say enough good things about this book.  It’s written from the perspective of a dog, and the author does a fabulous job of putting to paper what we think our dogs would say if they could talk. It’s funny, endearing, and heartbreaking – and it touches on a lot of sheltering issues that are close to my heart. If you love dogs I so, so recommend this book for you to read. The sequel, A Dog’s Journey, was just released and is just as good.

Wallace by Jim Gorant

WallacebookOH MY GOSH I fell in love with this book before I even read it thanks to following Wallace the Pit Bull on Facebook.  Wallace is beyond adorable, and his personality shines through in every single photo of him, which is why I felt like I knew him before even opening the book. The book was so much better than I expected (probably because I didn’t know what to expect). It tells the story of Wallace, a dog who did not do well in a shelter setting because of his high energy and prey drive, and how those exact traits turned him into a flying disc dog champion thanks to two people who didn’t give up on him, Roo and Clara Yori.  It’s a heart warmer for any dog lover, and sends home the message that each dog is an individual no matter what they look like. I love love loved this book, and REALLY think you should read it too.  Since the book was written, Wallace has become a doggy brother to Hector, one of the Vicktory dogs.

The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant

lost-dogsWhile we’re on books written by Jim Gorant, I have to add The Lost Dogs. Most of you probably know this is the book about the Michael Vick dog fighting case, but the amount of information I learned from reading it blew me away. I had no idea what went into this investigation, and how truly monumental it was for dogs from fight busts everywhere.  It’s not for those who can’t handle too much animal cruelty, as it goes into some graphic detail, but it’s eye opening and certainly reminds you why we do what we do to help animals.  I was more motivated as ever after I read that book to go out and remind the world that every dog is an individual and should be treated as such, no matter where they come from.  The Bad Newz Kennels bust and aftermath set the precedent that dogs from fighting operations should be evaluated instead of immediately euthanized, and that many, if not most, can even be adopted out as loving family pets – and the book outlines how that was achieved.

This book is also extremely close to my heart because it focuses a lot on the dog Jasmine who is pictured on the book’s cover. Jasmine was Catalina Stirling’s dog, the woman who started Jasmine’s House, the rescue I write so much about on this blog.  It’s an absolutely amazing story.

The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell

This is a non-fiction book that I’m only part way through, OELand reading for the book club I mentioned yesterday. It focuses on our relationship with dogs, and how our behavior affects theirs.  McConnell breaks down canine behavior and psychology, writing about how to create the best relationship you can with your dog without using dominance or force-based techniques. I’m only about 30 pages in but have already gained a wealth of knowledge and know the rest of the book will continue to be just as educational.

You’re smart to read anything by Patricia McConnell.  She’s got books on separation anxiety, leash reactivity, bringing a new dog into a home (wish everyone with a dog was required to read this one!), and many more. You can see all her books on her website.

I’m a Good Dog by Ken Foster

pit_bulls_book_i_am_a_good_dogI haven’t read this book yet, but it’s definitely on my list because of how much my pit bull dog loving friends have raved about it.  I can see why by reading the reviews – all glowing – about how Foster shows pit bull dogs in their best light through stories and photos.  I feel like it’s a book I shouldn’t just download to my Kindle, but one I should get in hard copy to see the fabulous photos, so I’ll pick it up next time I’m by a book store.

Little Boy Blue by Kim Kavin

little-boy-blue-cover1This is another one I haven’t read all the way through yet. It’s the true story of a puppy adopted from a high-kill North Carolina shelter and Kavin, the dog’s owner, sets out on a mission to figure out why this seemingly perfect dog was so close to being euthanized.  Kavin’s journey touches on many harsh issues in today’s sheltering world, including extremely underfunded and overcrowded shelters, gas chambers, and the world of private rescue groups. I know it’s going to be a tough but very interesting read, and I’m looking forward to finishing it.

So that’s just a few titles on my list, and I know there are many more I need to read! What good dog books do you recommend? I will try to add them to my pile for 2013, and write about them in a later book review post!


(Yes that is little Zee enjoying a good book over a year ago.)

If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done. . .

A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions. A lot of people don’t. Some see New Years as a fresh start, and some see it as an annoyance that will make the gym more crowded for the first few weeks of January. I see it as a reason to take a moment to think about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.

2012 was an interesting year for me. For the first time in my life I wasn’t transitioning to something new. I didn’t enter a new grade, I didn’t start a new job. I had a consistency that I wasn’t used to, but welcomed. Outside of my job, I heavily expanded my extracurriculars, mostly with activities having to do with dogs and documented through this blog.  I met a lot of really awesome people with the same intense passion for helping animals that I do, and surrounding myself with them helped me realize that together we’re each making a difference in our own way.  I feel like I grew up a lot because of the unique balance of consistency and new experiences that I found myself with in 2012.

I don’t like to set unreachable goals for myself in the form of New Year’s resolutions, so I steer clear of the drastic stuff (example: “I’m going to the gym every morning at 6 am in 2013” – talk about setting yourself up to fail).  Even though I shouldn’t need the changing of a date to make me do this, the New Year is as good an opportunity as any to take a solid look at what I can improve upon in my life.  Like one of my favorite quotes says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”  If I don’t make the effort to step it up and make myself better when and where I can, then I’ll lose opportunities to grow as a person.

With that being said, here are four of my goals for 2013 to work towards always improving myself.  They’re pretty general, but if I look back at this time next year and have continued to do all four, I will be happy.

1.  Learn, learn, learn.  I’m soaking knowledge up like a sponge right now. I feel like I can’t get enough, and I love it.  I’m going to continue learning about dog training, photography, animal behavior, business and more.  I’m already signed up for a few more photography courses, dog behavior seminars and a business marketing class – and that’s just during January!

2.  Continue to foster as many dogs as I am able. Here is one where I want to be realistic for myself. I stuck “as many as I am able” in there instead of a specific number because I know how many different factors go into fostering dogs, and if I’m only able to take in two this year then I will still be happy. If my circumstances work out that I can help ten find new homes, that would be great too.  But I know I definitely want some temporary four legged fur babies back in my home at some point!

3.  Read more. In addition to reading for my first goal, I really want to tap into the massive amount of awesome fiction books that are out there about dogs. I’ve already started a few thanks to my wonderful boyfriend giving me a Kindle for Christmas, and I can’t wait to keep going.  I even joined a book club with Your Dog’s Friend that meets once a month to discuss dog books, both informational and fiction. I’m so excited!

4.  Stay positive. I know, can’t get more general than this. But 2012 showed me a lot about the benefits of positivity, both for rescue and my personal life.  Everyone knows that animal rescue can be a really crappy field to work in. You lose your faith in humanity and you lose animals you love. But staying positive helps to combat that, and in the end can actually really benefit the animals.  I’m going to continue to try to look for the good in every situation this coming year – and I think that will be easier than it seems.

So they’re sort of standard and obvious, but I like to make the reminders to myself anyway. What is anyone else doing for 2013? Any big resolutions? I’d love to hear! And, as usual, thanks for being with me for this kick ass past year. Can’t wait for 2013 with you!


Guest Post: “What Fostering Has Taught Me About Dating”

As if you didn’t see this guest post coming from my friend Sarah as she cares for her first foster! She’s sarcastic, funny and a great writer, so I left the topic up to her. Check out what she’s got to say.

Hi all! Sarah, foster mother of Jack, stepping in for a guest blog. As Juliana has mentioned before, not only is this my first time fostering, it’s my first time taking care of a dog period. I grew up in a household obsessed with our cats; they were given complete lay of the land as we watched their little personalities with amusement. I’ve always loved any and all animals (I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with pigs, goats, monkeys, sloths and most of all, sea otters), but specifically have always envisioned myself with both cats and dogs when I moved out of home.

The decision to foster didn’t take much time or hemming and hawing. I knew I wasn’t quite settled enough in my life to adopt a dog and make that 15-year commitment, but I was settled enough to provide a loving temporary home for a little furball who needed it. I live in a clean, big apartment in the very dog-friendly area of Arlington, VA. My apartment building has multiple dog parks around it and even in our lobby there is a bowl of mints for humans and a bowl of dog treats next to it. I work as a journalist, which affords me a reasonably
flexible schedule, including working at home occasionally. With my schedule, living conditions and desire to take care of a little one, fostering was a no-brainer.

My experience with Jack has been interesting so far. I joked with Juliana the other day that fostering has taught me a lot I can apply to my dating life, but it’s surprisingly true. Being single-ish in a big city like Washington DC, you experience a lot and meet many
people. Here are some of the biggest dating/relationship tips fostering has taught me:

Actions don’t always reflect feelings

I fell in love with the little Jack Rabbit the minute I saw him. He’s such a handsome and sweet little guy, it’s impossible not to. It took a few hours for him to warm up to me, but once he did, I was his. He follows on my heels when I walk into another room and will happily jump up and curl his little body next to mine when I sit and watch hours of Law & Order:SVU…errr.. I mean when I’m researching political trends throughout history for my upcoming book.

However, if I had my druthers, I’d want him to be a snuggle monster 24/7 and that just isn’t the case. He likes to have his time to gnaw on his antler or repeatedly break the imaginary neck of his elephant. No matter how much I cajole, sometimes he just isn’t in the mood for the whole cozy thing. In similar situation with human males, I’ve been known to over-analyze, worrying that even though they seemed to like me the day before, this one instance clearly shows their feelings have changed. However, with Jack, I know he still adores me, he just wants his alone time.

Love really does mean letting go if it’s in their best interest

I think the most difficult part of fostering is inherent: you will eventually have to let them go. I came into this knowing that part of the fostermom description, but specifically it’s taught me that, like in relationships, you should cherish every moment with that other half. You never know when it will eventually come to its natural end, and when that time comes, instead of wallowing in the feeling of loss, it’s better to focus on the fact that it’s for their own good.


You all said it well in your tips you wrote on PL&F’s facebook page. There is an incredible amount of patience needed to take care of and love another living thing. Jack may be wonderful most of the time, but he doesn’t always do what I want him too, nor can I expect him to. I’m not a morning person (not as in I dislike getting up at 7, more along the lines of anytime before noon gets me extremely hostile), however for Jack’s well-being, I need to take him out much earlier than my normal wake up time.

Also being a dog, he doesn’t have as much control over situations, or his body. Can I get upset with him if he pees on my carpet because he’s nervous? Forgiveness is key when paired with patience. I can instruct him to not do so in the future and provide incentive and praise when he uses the bathroom outside, but I can’t get angry. This carries over to dating too. If a guy is wonderful most of the time and screws up once due to things out of his control, there’s no point in getting upset. Even the most wonderful guy, human or furry, sometimes pukes on your carpet, and love is what makes you clean it up at 4 am.

What You Don’t Know

Last weekend I attended a free seminar about dog body language by Your Dog’s Friend, a non-profit committed to decreasing the amount of dogs who end up in shelters by educating owners. If you’re in the MD/DC/VA area I would absolutely recommend checking this organization out. Some upcoming free workshops they’re giving include how to address annoying behavior problems (digging, barking, jumping, etc.), dealing with an aging dog, and what is/is not aggression – all beneficial topics for any dog owner.

In just a two hour session, I learned more about dog body language than I had in a whole year. It was fascinating. That is where I’ll stop though, because I did not learn nearly enough to start regurgitating it back to you.

My reason for bringing up this seminar is because of another idea they covered during the lecture: the concept of learning. The speaker, Jules Nye from Sit, Stay, and Play, outlined four stages of learning:

1.  You don’t know what you don’t know

2.  You do know what you don’t know

3.  You do know what you do know

4.  You don’t know what you do know

I’ve found that as animal advocates, we usually find the most frustration with people in category #1 – those who don’t realize what they’re being clueless about. The person who lets their dog run up to your reactive dog, not realizing that not all dogs are social butterflies. The person whose pet’s nails grow super long because they don’t realize they need to cut them. The person who uses retractable leashes in busy places because they don’t see the problem with the lack of control. While many of us see these things as common sense, there is a true learning curve for those who don’t realize the consequences of their actions.

This is why the part of advocacy that is so important is education. We cannot expect everyone to just know all the ins and outs of being a sensible dog owner.  Were you born knowing the importance of spay/neuter? When you got your first dog, were you sensitive to every single other dog owner you came in contact with? What about when you first started training your dog, did you automatically know how to do it? We have to remember that those in category #1 that drive us so crazy (“I can’t believe they would let their dog do that!”) often just haven’t been informed of alternatives to what they are doing. Most times all it takes is one easy conversation to move someone from a category #1 to category #2 – and what a difference that makes! Then, even if they still don’t know it all, at least they are aware of what they don’t know.

So just remember: if you don’t know what you don’t know, you can never learn more. Help others help their animals by opening their eyes to what they need to learn. So many people are willing to improve themselves, they just don’t know how they should! It’s tough for us in category #4 (on some topics, not all) to realize that we know what we know because we’ve learned it and that it hasn’t just always been common knowledge to us, so we should be more understanding of those who are not yet where we are.

Just one year ago Little Zee was adopted, and I thought I knew so much. But the truth was that I knew only a small fraction of what I know now, and a miniscule amount compared to what I plan on learning over my life time. Every time I get preachy or self-righteous, I have to remind myself of that. I am always learning!

“The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant.”  -Plato

Photo cred to Love & a Six-Foot Leash