Monday, August 1, 2011

An interview with ............

This blog is also what I use for my training business website. I forget that sometimes. I write about dogs because I am obsessed with my own dogs and I do alot with dogs. And I like to share info with everyone, not just potential clients. Besides my info is all there in the sidebar for anyone looking. I admit I'm not the best at self selling. I give a lot of advicee away and don't do much in the way of marketing. I am working on getting my logo re-vamped however because I want to have some t-shirts to celebrate my 10 year anniversary coming up.

I was reading my APDT Chronicle recently and had this idea. Every month they profile a different member trainer to spotlight them. So I thought that I might do the same thing with their interview questions to post a little bit of info about me. Hopefully this isn't to cheesy. I will keep it simple and use the questions they used this month:

What services do you provide? I offer private in home training and behavior counseling. I also do phone consults for some of the rescue groups I am involved with.

How did you get started? The kennel club I was a member of needed to find a trainer to teach their group classes. I knew I didn't know quite enough to teach other peoples dogs so I found a trainer to apprentice with. It was a year long hands on course of work. I was fortunate in that I found a trainer who was one of the first of his kind (traditional trainers) to work with Dr. Ian Dunbar in this country. I came from a purely traditional background so positive training was new for me. While I learned how to properly use traditional methods (timing is everything in order to be fair to the dog) we worked mainly with the positive lure reward methods. I will always be grateful for that fabulous start in my training journey.

Are you involved with any dog sports or activities? I do AKC tracking for fun mostly with my pug. I think about trying for a title on occasion but haven't put in the time to be really serious about it. I have shown a couple times in traditional obedience with our frenchie but got bitten by the Rally O bug more recently. I find it much more relaxed, realistic and fun for me. I also have a new interest in Treibball that I plan on pursuing.

How do you get your business, and what is your relationship like with the veterinarians in your community? Well I currently work for 1 vet full time so I have a great relationship with them! LOL Most of the area vets know me pretty well since I have worked for 2 others in the past and am very involved with my local shelter. I get lots of great referrals from them. Most of my business is word of mouth or they see me on the local cable access channel. I appear on occasion answering training and behavior questions on the humane societies show "Reigning Cats and Dogs".

Do you belong to a networking group, or otherwise consult with/refer to trainers in your area? Yes to both. I actually started a group on facebook for dog trainers of ALL methods as a way to share information in a positive setting. It is a group dedicated to promoting positive methods but in a way that isn't condescending or negative. I think trainers need to be able to share information and help educate others AND continue their own education. None of us knows everything after all. I have no problem referring to other trainers in the area. I don't offer group classes so I like to know where to best send those people looking for that service. I also know what sports other trainers teach and their methods. Because I specialize in serious behavior problems and do private training only I do not feel I am in direct competition with the other trainers. We are different in what we offer which I think is very helpful.

What is your community's perspective in regard to positive training? I find most people who call are looking for a positive method trainer. I think we have the TV shows "It's me or the dog" with Victoria Stilwell and  "The Greatest American Dog" to thank for that. They really put the spotlight on the different methods and helped teach people that they do have a choice! It's not all choking and alpha rolls out there.

What do you believe are the three most important things to teach a dog? This is sort of a trick question because every dog needs different skills to live peacefully in it's own home. A 100lb dog who jumps on people would need to learn "off" while the 5lb dog could get away with that for instance. But in general it would be: Leave it, wait (going out the door, jumping out of car, etc) and the recall.

What cases do you find most challenging? What techniques or philosophies have you found helpful in dealing with them? The cases where people feel at their wits end. They have tried everything and want me to come in and fix everything in one quick session. I find that simply teaching them how to communicate effectively with their dog, and how dogs learn, is a huge help. Once they understand that part of the lesson it is much smoother sailing.

What advice would you give other trainers about working with dogs and their owners? Be patient! We make things look easy because we have been doing it for years. We understand how timing works. The client needs time to learn it and practice it. And, never ask a client to do something with their dog you wouldn't do with/to your own dog.

Can you offer a specific tip or trick for working with dogs or owners? My favorite trick to show clients is to teach a dog how to ring a desk bell. I find this is the best way to show how marker training works. It is also a great thing to teach a dog of an owner who wants their dog to have a clear signal for potty time. Win/Win!

What was your scariest moment with a dog? It was a second session with an aggressive shepherd. For some reason the clients did not have the dog on a leash when I arrived (tho they usually did) and he grabbed my arm as I came in the door. Fortunately he released me quickly and did not break the skin. I always remember to remind clients of aggressive dogs to leash them before my arrival now.

What are the top three things you have learned as a trainer? Never be afraid to ask for help if you are stumped. Always admit if you don't have an answer and then get the answer for the client. You need to take time for yourself or you will burn out.

What was the last training-related seminar you have attended?  Self Control and Focus Games with Dee Ganley CPDT/CABC/CDBC 

Are there any specific books, authors, DVD's, or seminars that have influenced you as a trainer?  There are SO MANY great books and videos out there now! For books: "The other end of the leash" by Patricia McConnell Phd is a top fav. "The thinking dog" by Gail Fisher is a brilliant explanation of clicker training and has great historical info on traditional training. "How to teach a new dog old tricks" by Dr. Ian Dunbar is great. I love his lure reward training for deaf dogs too. "Aggression in dogs" By Brenda Aloff has alot of great info. For videos: I love "The power of marker training" by Leerburg. One of my favorite parts though is Ed Frawly admitting he was wrong about clicker training. "The language of dogs" by Sarah Kalnajs is a must have for anyone who works with dogs. Nowadays you also have websites and youtube videos that are excellent. My favorite website is and for youtube training videos none are better than the Kikopup channel.

I think everything you read and watch influences you as a trainer in some way. And I have been to some fabulous seminars over the years, all of which has helped me in my training journey. I say read as much as you can and watch as many training videos as you can and attend as many seminars as you can. I think it all helps when it comes to becoming a better trainer. No matter how many years someone has been working with dogs, there is always more to learn!!

Any other questions??


Ashley said...

I really liked this post! It wasn't cheesy in the least. It was actually really enlightening. I love your "top three things you have learned." More people need to see that it's okay to not only ask for help, but that it's okay to admit you don't know something.

jen said...

this is an awesome insight into you as a trainer and dog owner. Very cool idea!

I just wish I lived closer, I could totally use your expertise with my foster dog right now.

Maybe if he's still with us in October we can arrange a meet!

Marie said...

Jen, I do free consults for rescues. E-mail me or call me sometime and we can chat. I am easiest to reach in the evenings between 7 and 10pm. or 207-354-6488
Happy to help!

Ashley, thanks!! :-)

JulieandCaleb said...

This was great, not at all cheesy! Thanks! :-)

lin said...

Not cheesy. As a client, if I'm looking at different sites, it's helpful to have things laid out, and this gave a good insight into your philosophy and attitude.

jen said...

Marie - I wanted to thank you for offering to do a phone consult. It meant a lot to me! I did end up finding a behavior trainer that I am SO happy with!!!! So, we're hopeful and in good hands right now.

Thanks again - you rock!

Marie said...

Jen, No problem. Keep my info in case you need it. I am always happy to help!!