Thursday, May 15, 2014


I had blog posts I wanted to write this week. A whole fist full of them.

But it's been an . . . intense month. And one by one I've forgotten everything until I can barely tell up from down.

So I think it's about time I spent a week out in the woods.

See you all after the holiday.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Polka Will Never Die

What are we up to now? Seven? Eight? It's probably a bad sign that I've lost count.

Well, how's this - if we're counting my dogs, he doesn't even exist.

Last fall, my best friend since forever broke up with her boyfriend and needed a place in the cities to crash while she finished school. Since she's the only one who has ever slept in our guest room anyway, it made sense for us to offer the spare room to her, and Friend Roommate been with us ever since (Laura Logic need not resemble the logic of the standard population).

Friend Roommate is a Horse Person. She was riding horses before she was born (literally), but she had to leave them behind to come get educated in the big city. I think I kind of know what she's going through - I had to leave my dog behind for a few year to go get educated in the little city, and without getting into too much detail about my broken-brain conditions, it wasn't pretty. So when Friend Roommate asked if she could get a dog of her very own, well, FFS look at my house. What's one more?

I mean, it's not like I can fit a horse in the backyard.

So this is Butters. Butters is . . . well, he's Butters. He's kind of lumpy and slimy and not my type, but that's okay because he's not mine, and I'm pretty sure my type is "crazy" anyway. Butters came from St Paul Animal Control, so we don't really know much about his past. His hobbies include aggressive snuggling, drooling, and running through doors. I'm hoping he comes out of his shell a bit more as he gets used to living with the horde. But in the meantime, he sure is easy to live with.

Shit, you guys - how is this something I agreed to?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

So, I'm Kind of a Big Deal

It took me a long time to admit that I am a dog trainer - long past the time when I started teaching classes. When I was a youngin', I practically deified dog trainers. What they did seemed like magic, and it took quite the mental overhaul to realize that I might be allowed to join their completely, imperfectly human ranks. Part of the difficulty was that there was no right of passage to becoming a dog trainer. To become considered an adult, I had to live to be eighteen. To be a nurse, I had to go to school and then pass the boards. But all I had to do to become a dog trainer was say "I AM A DOG TRAINER" loudly and frequently.

It didn't quite sit right.

This March, I took and passed the CCPDT's certification test to become a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Now I get to put the letters CPDT-KA after my name (someday, I'll have almost as many letters as Piper Ann). Of course, I am pretty sure that I was a dog trainer before I took the test. But I also feel pretty strongly that professional certification is important for dog trainers.

Photo by Paige.
Currently, there is no standard of behavior or training for dog trainers. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer and as a result, there is a huge variety in the skills and ethical practices of dog trainers. If you're searching for a dog trainer, it's truly a case of caveat emptor. However, by searching for a trainer with a certain certification, dog owners can be more certain of what their money is buying.

For example, by finding a trainer with CPDT certification, a dog owner can be fairly certain that their dog trainer has met certain standards. To apply for the CPDT test, I had to show that I had at least three hundred hours of experience in the past three years and provide references from people who had worked with me. I had to pass a knowledge test covering multiple topics including instruction skills, ethology, and learning theory. And then I had to agree to a code of ethics. I felt the code of ethics was a particularly important part of the certification process - there can be a lot of cruelty done toward both dogs and people in the name of dog training and following a code of ethics based on humane treatment of canines and humans alike can help guide a trainer through difficult decisions.

To maintain my CPDT certification, I will also need to maintain a certain amount of continuing education. You guys, continuing education is so important in dog training these days. This is a really exciting and fun time to be a dog trainer: scientists and dog owners alike are looking at dogs in a new light, trainers are sharing information more consistently than ever, and new, more effective, and more humane training methods are popping up just about every day. If your dog trainer isn't keeping up with all the current information, you really aren't getting your money's worth.

Dog training, ninja style.
Photo by Paige.
By becoming certified, I wanted to support professional standards for dog trainers. After all, you wouldn't trust a doctor without a medical license or a lawyer who hadn't passed the bar exam. Do you really want to trust something as important as the relationship between you and your dog to someone who hasn't proven themselves able to do the job?