WINGING IT: OUR SMALL SCREEN DEBUT

Never a dull moment over here. A few weeks ago I had the exciting opportunity to take positive training on TV!

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Being that my full time job is in marketing, I’ve been on TV plugging fundraising events a handful of times (the first time I hung out with Johnnie Cash was when I took her on the news to promote our annual gala!). This time was different though – I secured the gig myself on behalf of Dog Latin and decided the content for the five minute segment. I pitched a “Clicker Training 101” angle and I was so excited to use this opportunity to spread positive training to the masses.

After I got confirmation that we had the segment, I realized I didn’t have a dog to come with me… oops. Minor detail, right? Luckily Dog Latin had just started working with this a-maz-ing client, a six-month old golden retriever named Scarlett. Despite being a young puppy, Scarlett was the absolutely perfect dog to bring with me to show off what clicker training can do. Her owner has been teaching her different manners, behaviors and tricks using the clicker since she was just eight weeks old! Not only does Scarlett have a large repertoire of behaviors, but her focus is unbeatable – especially for her age.

To prepare for our taping, I took Scarlett out on the town to work around distractions. As I’m sure you know, your dog’s ability to respond to cues out in the “real world” is a whole different ballgame than in your living room! The last thing I wanted was for her to see the studio, the cameras and all the people and freak out or be unable to work. So we went to PetSmart and to outdoor town squares and I did my best to create challenging environments for focusing – and Scarlett rocked it each time. We went into our TV debut with a bangin’ reinforcement history.

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We were appearing on The Pet Show with Dr. Katy. I admire Dr. Katy because she’s so successful in what she does – helping the public with their pets – and she has a blast doing it. She also doesn’t compromise who she is just because she’s in the public eye. Her twitter handle reads, “Veterinarian, Mom, Writer, Rabid LSU Fan. Snarky stiletto loving country girl rockin’ the big city.” Love it, girl – you do you!

Scarlett and I showed up to the studio armed with roughly one zillion hot dogs and pieces of cheddar cheese. I knew my reinforcer had to be a goooood one if I was going to keep her attention over the crazy sights and sounds of the news station. I was so relieved when she still had her sparkly, perfectly attentive face on at the studio.

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I was a little nervous, but once the cameras started rolling all of a sudden it became easy. As I settled in and started talking about training, I immediately relaxed. I had plenty to talk about – from switching to functional rewards, to how to get behaviors we like, to showing off Scarlett’s tricks – the five minute segment flew by. Scarlett did unbelievably well, and Dr. Katy was a gracious host.

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So, like I said, never a dull moment! I am so beyond thankful for this opportunity and the many lessons learned from the experience. I look forward to making next time (because there will be a next time!) even better.

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Technology wins again and I can’t figure out how to embed the video, so to watch the clip you have to head to the website. We start at about 8:10!


Pittie Princess, TV star

I love my job because I get to take pretty little dogs like this, bust them out of the shelter for a few hours, and have a girls’ day out.

Yesterday’s adventure started at the studio for channel WUSA9 here in DC. Angel, the sweet pittie pictured above, was getting her time in the spotlight! Angel loves people, is easy going, and looks great in a dress, so I knew she’d be the perfect adoptable candidate to brave the cameras for a day.  Boy did she work it! Angel soaked up the attention, behaving as just that – a little angel – for our live 45 second clip on PetLine9. You can check out the video on their website. We got to chat about our upcoming gala, The Love Ball, as well as little miss Angel.  Notice that I talked about Angel as an individual, and didn’t relay assumptions based on her “breed” – only about what I’d observed myself. I was able to be honest with potential adopters, and didn’t have to use any generalizations based on what kind of dog she might be.

After winning over everyone she met at the studio, Angel took her talents to the streets. The shelter was having a fundraiser at a local boutique, so we stopped in to say hi and help do some shopping. Angel can now also add to her resume the positions “personal shopper” and “professional tail wagger.”

The adventures left Angel totally exhausted, and she passed out on the ride home. She looked like such a sleepy puppy, even though she’s closer to one year old. Her efforts to keep her eyes open as we drove home were so endearing.

Angel is a dog who doesn’t show well in the shelter because of her sometimes extreme hyperactive puppy behavior, but turns into a close-to-perfect dog in the “real world.” She walked well on her leash (using a Sensible harness – my new favorite walking gear!), she greeted strangers politely, and she picked up quickly on basic behaviors I was asking of her in just the few hours we hung out.  If the stars align in a few weeks, she is well in the running to be my next foster – though hopefully she’ll be adopted by then!

Spending the day with such an awesome dog was a great way to head into the weekend. Hopefully someone noticed her and her snazzy dress on the news and will come to the shelter to visit her! In the mean time I will continue to spend time with her every day to spoil her with treats and well-deserved attention.

Hope you all have great weekends adventuring with your pets!


Positive Pitties in the Media

I love working at a non-profit because of how many amazing, new, and often unusual opportunities it presents me with. Many of you from the non-profit world know and appreciate what it means to “wear many different hats” because of limited staffing and a lot of responsibilities. At my job I try to jump at opportunities to get my hands on different projects in order to gain experience wherever possible.

My most recent exciting opportunity was taking two adorable pit-type mixes on the news. Taking animals on tv – live or recorded – is always a hoot. It’s pretty much a shot in the dark when picking a “tv ready animal” because no matter how socialized and comfortable they are in the shelter, the minute the robot-controlled cameras come out, animals often freak. It can be stressful, but with the right animal it can also be a lot of fun!

This time I brought two dogs, Boudreau and Ruby, and they were absolute angels. At this particular tv station we get a lot of camera time, meaning around 3-4 minutes instead of about 45 seconds like some others (note: we are appreciative of any on-air time, regardless of length!). The reporter Annie and I got a lot of conversation in and covered a wide range of topics. I even got to stick a short “don’t judge pit bull type dogs” spiel in.

Check out the video of how well Ruby & Boudreau did on the news station’s website (hint: hold “control” down when you click on the link to open a new window).

Boudreau, the gentle giant who stole the show by being absolutely adorable, is a staff favorite. He is a total love bug, inviting himself on to your lap any chance he gets. He is food motivated so he is a quick learner, as well as calm and collected under most any circumstances. Unfortunately, he has been adopted out and returned three times due to his severe separation anxiety. His most recent home worked out well, until the family’s alpha male decided he didn’t approve. All Bou needs is a girlfriend to keep him company while his family is away from the house. We always say he would be the perfect firehouse dog because he could just hang out with his firefighter buds all day every day.

Ruby came to us as a stray and I am head over heels in love. She is an easy sell: young, energetic, well-behaved, and loves other dogs. When we went to leave for the shoot, my coworker opened her trunk to get a sheet out for her backseat and Ruby jumped right in her trunk! It was so cute. She is going to get adopted in no time.