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Show ’em who’s boss – Obedience Training 101

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I love my dogs – I tell myself so at least three times a day.

Who's In charge? Dog pulling owner on lead.
Rather than me walking the dogs, the dogs were walking me.

When, for example, they jump on my work clothes and leave muddy paw prints that tell everyone just how much they missed me in the five minutes they were outside to potty. Or, when we are “walking” and they are barking at every blade of grass, butterfly, or gust of wind while attempting to pull my arm from its socket.

Yes, I dearly love my dogs.

You might have read my last blog post (from a few months back – lazy me!) where I raved over how cute they were (while sleeping) and expressed my enthusiasm for training at home. Right. Three weeks after we started learning “sit” we were still working on it and decided we really needed reinforcements.

After shots galore and a quick trip to the S.N.I.P. clinic, we enrolled ourselves in obedience training at Shamrock Acres Training Center here in Louisville.

On our first night, Zeus, as you can probably imagine, was barking and growling at everyone and everything, pacing back and forth and jumping on us. Basically, showing off just how untrained he was. Mom and I are desperately trying to calm him down and get him to sit still, when this woman calmly walks over and sprays Zeus in the face with water, saying “Stop. Stop it.”

Meet Ms. Nancy.

I won’t bore you too much with details of the training itself. That’s not my intention here. I do, however, want to express a few of the benefits we have already begun to see from our short two weeks of obedience classes.

Socialization
Training at home is fine and dandy if you can be consistent about it. Chances are your dog will do exactly want him to do – as long as you are at home and no other dogs or people are around.
Going to a training school will give your dog the opportunity to meet other dogs and people and will send a message that you still expect the rules to be followed when there are others present.
Zeus, for example, has learned it is not okay to bark at others and, he still has to listen to me despite distractions.
My sister’s dog Gunner, on the other hand, has not learned this lesson. I work with him at home and he forgets what we are doing to bark at the neighbors. It may not sound like much, but I notice the difference.

Guidance
It’s easy to read a training book and think you know exactly what to do, but obedience is just as much about training the owner as it is training the pet. Having someone to point out areas that need improvement or things you are doing well is great. I, for one, don’t always notice when I am reinforcing a bad behavior in the dogs. A good example – when trying to get Zeus to stop barking we tried calming him by stroking his head and using a soothing tone of voice. Ms. Nancy pointed out that this was reinforcing the behavior, telling Zeus that if he barks we are going to pet him. She showed us how to correct the behavior properly.

Linda, the primary trainer at Shamrock,  is great about letting us know what we’re doing well, reminding us to praise our dogs, something that’s easy to forget. She also helps us learn when it is appropriate to feed treats and when not to.

It is also wonderful to have someone to answer questions. I wanted to know why my dog showed progress at home, but not at the training site. I could  Google it (for the record, I love Google), but I know I can trust Linda’s answer because she has over 35 years of experience training dogs. I know I can trust Nancy’s answer – I may not be able to trust Bob C. from Anywhere U.S.A.’s answer that I come across on an Internet search.

Accountability
There are days when I don’t want to do anything. When I get home from a long day at work and just want to crash, the last thing I want to add to my to-do list is training the dogs. If I were training by myself at home, there would be no one to hold me accountable for that.
Linda has set a timeline for us. She told us that we and our dogs will have to perform, off lead, in just a few more weeks. She expects progress from us, and to get that, we have to work with the dogs 10-15 minutes every day. I don’t want to be the owner of the one dog who, after three weeks, still cannot “sit stay.”

There are many other reasons why training classes are great, even if you know the drill and have been through it before. A couple of things to keep in mind when choosing a trainer include:
– How much experience does the trainer have. Were they trained in a six-week course, two weeks ago? That might not be ideal for your situation.
– Have you heard of them before? Ask around – friends, family, co-workers – who did they use? What was their experience? Would they recommend who you have in mind?
– How much does it cost? There are a number of options out there. Retail stores, like Petsmart, might have a name, but can be more expensive with less-experienced trainers. The Humane society offers classes too, but may have age restrictions or limited classes available when you want them.  I’m not saying that these programs are inferior in any way, but they may not be what you need for your pet. Before you enroll, find out if what you’re getting is worth the cost, and if the program fits your needs.

We did a lot of looking and asking around before we chose Shamrock Acres. It has only been two weeks for us, and every day there is a little more progress. I can’t wait for the day I can walk my dog without having to ice my shoulder when I get home.

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The Hunt Begins – getting started on the pre-graduation job search

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Saturday was graduation day for many students at the University of Louisville. Sadly, I was not one of them.

While part of me may sigh and say that I wish it all were done and over so I could move on, the more realistic side says “Hey girl, slow down. You don’t even have a job lined up yet!”

The whole point of college (for most people) is to earn a degree and obtain a job that actually pays a decent salary. There are many jobs that do not require a college degree, but everything I have in mind does. So when I catch myself eyeballing retail stores and fast-food restaurants as a potential second job, I really have to take a step back and ask myself a few pertinent questions.

1) How will this job help me reach my goal?
I may be looking for a quick way to earn some cash, but in the long run, I know I’m going to have to make connections between all the jobs I have held and where I want to go in life.
If my goal is to own a chain of fast-food restaurants, then working in a burger joint would be a great (and essential) first step. But, if I wanted to be an astronaut (yeah, right!) it wouldn’t make much sense would it?

2) How does this job incorporate the skills I have learned?
Reading and talking about some random theory in class is one thing, but applying it out in the real world is something completely different.
While writing up a contract for my internship this last semester, I realized that I have learned quite a bit (imagine that!).

After studying for over four years now, I would be selling myself short if I took a job as a receptionist  who just answered phones and filed all day (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
I would much rather work in a job that uses those skills I have paid so much to learn.

3) If I get this job, will I love it?
My current job has very short shifts – 3 hours at a time –

and some days it can be very stressful. On those days that three-hour shift seems to last a year. Other days, it goes by too fast. I have been at this job for several years now and while it may not pay the big bucks, I love what I do. I have said many times that the best way to find a job you’ll love is to think of something you already like to do and then figure out how to make a living doing it.

Personally, if I get hired on for a job I hate I am going to be miserable all through my shift, but more than that, I will be miserable as I am getting ready to go to a job I dislike and will even be upset at the end of the day thinking that I have to go back to that awful job the next day.
No, that’s not the life for me.

So I may not have graduated on Saturday, but my time will come. When it does, I’ll be ready to find the job that leads me to my dream career. Will you be able to say the same?

Headed to California…

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How many songs to do you know that have something to do with running off to California?? As I write a multitude of songs run through my head. Pink, Sara Bareillis, Jo Dee Messina… the list goes on and on. Just for kicks and giggles, I Googled “songs about California” and I must say, I was surprised at how many showed up on a list on wikipedia. So many songs singing about the ups and downs of that state. Listening to any one of them makes me wish I could take a vacation.

Something about a steady, predictable weather pattern is vastly appealing right now. In my small corner of the world it has flip-flopped from freezing temperatures to balmy breezes from one day to the next. Some may call it global warming. Others call it Kentucky.

Even without the unpredictable weather,  I am so ready to pack a suitcase and be off. Don’t get me wrong, I love all that I’ve gotten myself into, but sometimes enough is enough. It has been years since my last vacation – and I’m taking a real vacation here- not a working trip or a visit to friends and family – as much as I love those trips. Yet, I have to imagine a real vacation being more about relaxing and unwinding than worrying about being somewhere on a deadline or dividing my time between wanting to see everyone in a short span of time.

I was being interviewed for a class project once and although I do not remember the specific question, the topic of vacations came up. At the time I said I could never be happy on a vacation where I had nothing to do. I told my classmate that I would get to antsy and not be able to relax. That was back in January. Four months later I’m saying “bring on the lounge chair.”

Graduation is my first priority right now. I’ve still got a bit of work to do and I have  decided to plan a great vacation for my post-graduation celebration. I have not decided where I want to go or what I want to do, but I am almost positive the highlight of my time will be doing nothing. It may be a year away but already I’m selecting a playlist of vacation tunes and the Beach Boys are high on my list. 

Fair Weather Fan

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After a long bout of icy temperatures and treacherous roads, I for one am ready for spring.
Snowy Winter Day

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Snowy Winter Day PicturesPictures
I will admit to having missed groundhog day, only remembering the holiday exists the day after. Normally, I would be waiting with baited breath to find out how much longer the weather is going to freeze my fingers and ears. How much longer would it be until my car is, once again, fully functional?
Well, if the weather over the past few days is anything to go by, not much longer at all.

The sun is barely breaking through the clouds today, sadly it doesn't look as poetic as this picture.

Kentucky weather has never been something I fully understand. One day it’s 17 degrees and the next it’s 52. The day after it drops, yet again, to something resembling the Antarctic. But over the last week the temperatures have climbed steadily into the 50s. I am not complaining. Today, there is a high in the 70s and I imagine myself standing outside basking in the sun. Or, I would if the clouds ever go away.
There was once a time when I would not step outside my house without a heavy coat, hat and gloves if the temperature dropped below 40 degrees. After living here for nearly six years I have traded the heavy winter artillery for a light jacket.
I find it interesting and wonderful and already look forward to living somewhere where the temperature never rises above 80 or drops below 60.

Sunshine and blue skys all year round - something I could definitely live with.