As of September 20th, 2014 I am the Upper Peninsula's only Certified Professional Dog Trainer and while I'm trying not to brag I couldn't be happier. When I set out on my journey to becoming a dog trainer, I knew I wouldn't be happy until I could answer any question and be the best! Well being the best is A. a lot of pressure, and B. Impossible-because it's all about opinion. But if I could somehow prove that I knew what the heck I was talking about beyond earning my diploma I wanted to do it.
If you go online searching for dog training tips and tricks, most articles will give you lots of information and then they'll say something like 'for extra assistance contact a Certified Professional Dog Trainer'. While I've always been more than happy to help out anyone I can, I realized how will they know how to find me if I'm not certified? I immediately wanted to earn that title, but here's the thing. You actually do have to be a dog trainer for a minimum of 3-5 years with over 300 hours of experience as a lead trainer before you can even sit for the test.
Then came the hardest part, getting a veterinarian recommendation...Yikes! This was scary for me. How do I ask my vet to recommend me? I'd only just changed vet's offices due to convenience and had maybe 1-2 appointments there. But I brought the paperwork with me and sheepishly asked if he'd be willing to sign off on it. He told me he thought it was great and that the community can always used good dog trainers. So I got that paperwork filled out, it was specific and asked for ratings 1-5 on different skills (honestly, how was he supposed to know?)and surprisingly he rated me 4 out of 5 on all counts! I was very happy with this and really couldn't have expected much more. So then I just had to wait for the new year and therefore the next application period to begin....Then they changed the paperwork required. I asked if I could still submit it and they very dryly said "Nope, you'll have to do it again." Are you kidding me??? It was scary enough asking the first time, now I have to go back and say "Sorry, I screwed up can you still recommend me?" The next time my dog had to go into the vet the original vet wasn't there but I casually mentioned it to his staff and they were happy to advise him, and I added a little note as well. I got it back 2 days later and ultimately it turned out the paperwork was much more simplified and only required a signature/license number...Phew
Okay, now the pressure was on. I couldn't ask a third time for a recommendation so I had no choice but to submit my application. (BTW I forgot to mention that I put it off for over a year as I could have applied in 2013 if I'd wanted to, but anxiety got the best of me that year). I submitted the Application and the payment (not free to test, not free at all) and waited... In the meantime I was reading new books, learning new things and trying to make sure I knew what I was talking about... I finally got back a post card to say they'd received my application and approved me for testing. Then it'd be up to 6 more weeks before I'd hear anything further about scheduling. If you know me at all, then you know my patience with dogs is incredible, beyond that I'm pretty impatient, and boy did those weeks drag on...
Finally, I got an email to schedule my testing. I made the ultimate decision to take the test once I made sure we had a testing center here, and the dates they gave me showed nothing available for our location. With that said I'd have to go to Green Bay and add travelling costs to the list, as well as time off of work, etc. 'You've got to be kidding me right?' Not at all. I was so frustrated. My husband Rick took over the process and made some phone calls. He's always so nice to the people on the other end of the phone and his patience is so solid, so between him and the testing service they kindly got me hooked up. Turns out it wasn't typical for our location to offer this test simply because they've never done it before! But they got it taken care of for me and I appreciated it so much!
After months of prepping and worrying I knew it was down to this. Nothing more I could do but try to relax and take the test. It was very official. You go into the center, they take all of your belongings and put it into a numbered bin. They give you a piece of paper and 2 pencils incase you'd like to use it to figure anything out. (Note: there is no math on this test) You're given 4 hours to complete the test. I got thru it in about 90 minutes, but then I spent another 60 reviewing my answers. I also did something a little quirky and totally me: I started marking down a tally for every question that I wasn't 100% convinced I had right, just to make sure I had a passing grade in the end.
The guys at the testing facility thought it was so cool that I was doing this never before seen (there anyway) certification test, and they were so bummed when the results printed out, even though I already knew... "Results will be processed within 6 weeks of the end of the testing period." I could tell they really wanted to tell me then and there. I was told they typically get results right away on the tests that they give so they were shocked. At this point nothing surprised me though.
I went on a small rant about my inability to wait on Facebook and then 3 days later I got a big envelope in the mail. Surely, a rejection letter wouldn't be this big and this heavy... Big Grin... I couldn't stop smiling for 2 days after.
So I know this blog post sounds very whiny, and it probably is. But the point is that it's worth going over hurdles and getting a little uncomfortable to get recognition that you deserve. I am now very proud to tell you all: I am CPDT-KA certified! The KA stands for Knowledge Assessed, and now the next step is getting Skills Assessed. I'll save that for next summer, maybe another blog ;-)
Below is an upload of my "Press Release" written and provided by CCPDT. It will further explain what is so special about being certified through them...
Check us out on UPAWS Minute with the Expert for August 25th!
CLICK HERE to see us discuss Jumping!
It is the season many puppy parents dread. The loud booms, bangs and screeches that many and most fireworks put off can scare even the most typically docile pooches. Keep a few safety tips in mind.
-Keep your dogs in doors! If they are comfortable and conditioned to use a crate it's another great way to keep them calm. Play classical music and offer safe and healthy chews and/or treats.
-Puppies should be allowed to experience a subtle version of the season's noises. If encouraged to keep calm through the sounds now, they will be less likely to develop fear in the future.
-If your dog needs to be outside make sure the yard and/or collar leash is 100% secured. Supervise your dog so that if he/she does get freaked out enough to break off their collar or jump the fence you can be there to quickly save the day.
We're seriously thinking about being a part of the Marquette 4th of July parade, and we'll definitely be inviting calm & well trained dogs and helpful volunteers to join us. My mind is overflowing with ideas but anyone is welcome to contribute ideas, especially if you have good organization skills!
It'd be a great way to promote our Pack Walks but also I want to make pet safety a big part of our purpose especially since it's the time of year when dogs run off and get lost most often due to the scary sights and sounds of the holiday.
It may be possible to have individual dog "floats" that they can ride on, and obviously they can be walked. Regardless, the dogs welfare is a huge concern of mine and I'd like to be able to some how give the dogs a place to take a ride if they need a break from the hot summer sun to get a drink of water and rest their feet.
Roles to consider: Decoration and Prep, Dog walkers, Treat/information distributors, Poop Patrol, Banner/Sign carriers, etc!
I know it's over 4 months away but I can't help but to plan way ahead!
Where did the word TacoMo come from? It's really a nonsensical hybrid of our 2 dogs names. I've realized as more and more people encounter the word, that I did not spell it very well phonetically either. I pronounce it Talk-aMo, most others see it as Talk-Oh-Mo. So even though it's a word I created, I must accept when others say it the way it makes sense to. ;0)
When we got our first puppy 8 years ago (yikes!) in 2005, I knew I'd have to use my creativity and originality to come up with a name no one else had given to their dog before. We received pictures of that cute little girl at 3 days old, and you could clearly see her tri-color coat. We went for a walk on the bike path and were trying to think up a name. I thought of all the inspirations out there that many people use, favorite sports teams, movie characters names, food, etc. Rick and I are absolute food addicts so it came to the candies and desserts section (as of course she was destined to be a sweetie pie). Thinking of her colors, Oreo came to mind, but it was a name I'd definitely heard used before. Now even still what I came up with does not accurately represent her colors. I tend to say she is Marshmallow-white, Graham Cracker-Caramel, and Dark Chocolate- Black/Brown, did you catch where I was headed? She was a little S'more! Therefore to customize her name further, she became Smorzy.
Who the heck actually calls her that these days? By now almost no one. I'd read somewhere after having had her for a few months that dogs don't process the sound of the letter 'S' at the beginning of words very well. We kind of used that as an excuse to drop it when calling her name, and though she is technically still Smorzy, she became Morzy.
If you're familiar with her story, you know by now that she was a naughty little puppy. We found ourselves too often saying "No, No!" (Absolutely inconsistent with our now educated dog training practices) and Morzy hasn't always slid off of the tongue so easily. Her name then was often shortened and mixed in with the sentence "MoMo, No No!" It's an incredibly silly adventure her name took, but she is referred to quite often as Mo (or Morzy in daddy's serious tone of voice) which contributes to her half of the Taco-Mo name.
I have definitely shared Rico Suave's story of life, and his path to Taco is still much shorter. He became Rico Suave because of his gorgeous long eyelashes (now that we know his DNA includes Cocker Spaniel it makes a lot of sense). We lived in Texas at the time and surely we ate a lot of Mexican food, but I actually started out calling him Pico Paco as a nickname (weird and ridiculous, I know). Somehow that morphed into Rico Pico Paco Taco. Taco is now his official term of endearment, but he also goes by his given name as well as my baby puppy (yes at 7 1/2 years old he's still my puppy), Puppa, Taco Broccoli, etc.
Not long after we had Rico and his nickname shifted to Taco, we'd have to spout out both names to call them in or away from something. By accident we each said Tac uh? Mo when we weren't sure who's name we were calling. Once we realized we were both doing it, it was funny and we often used it on purpose. It became a word in our vocabulary.
Before I had even graduated with my diploma I had long thought about what the name of my eventual business would be. A lot of things crossed my mind, but once I thought of applying that silly nickname to my dog training, it clicked. I'm hopeful we'll have many more years with these 2 sweet and crazy dogs, but beyond that we'll never forget what an impact they've had on us, and all they've taught us.
Both of our dogs respond to multiple nicknames as I'm sure yours do too. Feel free to share!
If you've read any of my previous blogs, specifically the letter I wrote to Rico Suavé, you may get the sense that not only is he my baby dog, he is my dog that requires behavior adjustment! What this means is that he has behavioral issues, mainly reactivity associated with fear of strange dogs and sometimes people. Because I've known (although not "owned") him since he was 6 weeks old, I've always seen a shy fearful dog in him. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have made a much stronger effort to socialize him to the world. Regardless of his past, I fall into a category that many dog parents do. We have dogs that:
-are unreliable or unpredictable in others' care,
-can't be off leash around strangers as they may lunge or flee,
-barky dogs that we are embarrassed to take into public areas,
-and the list goes on.
You may fall into this group of doggie parents if you had a shy dog who was under-socialized as a puppy such as Rico but you may also have inherited or adopted a dog from a shelter that came home with reactivity issues. Regardless, we can't change the past and instead can only look forward to a brighter future. Every time I meet a reactive dog my heart melts for them. When I first meet these dogs, they may bark or growl at me, run away or sit shivering in fear, but I immediately love each and everyone of them. If you take a moment to look past the symptoms, dogs that are categorized as reactive are some of the sweetest and most loving dogs of all. They are committed to their family, and work well with praise and attention as rewards. These dogs truly want to please, but for whatever reason they see the rest of the world as a massive threat.
In my Taco's case, once he gets to know someone well, and feels he can trust said person, they become great friends. He will whine and get excited if you mention that persons name, (i.e. "Grandma" is his favorite person to visit). He used to be so scared of my niece and nephew but now he is excited when they come to visit and he could play and cuddle with them all day! His favorite strangers are the ones that want nothing to do with him and that's because they don't approach him (he loves to sneak sniffs when no one is looking though). I am this dog's mommy! He loves to cuddle with me (as long as his "scary" sister isn't around to sneak attack him, -she never does but he has an irrational fear that she is out to get him) he loves to play ball with me, but ultimately he is just happy as long as we are in the same room together. This puppy has followed me around -like a lost puppy- ever since I decided to make him mine. This bond is extremely common in reactive dogs.
I have yet to meet a pup-parent that doesn't love their nervous dog to pieces. Because these dogs are so fearful of the real world, they look to their family for security, and are often extremely affectionate to the ones that care for them. This obviously makes them very easy to love, but it doesn't mean it's a fun experience. In fact caring for a reactive dog can often be very frustrating. You want to trust them and give them chances to grow and change but if they mess up it can have very serious consequences (i.e. injury to your own dog, other dogs, other people, potential euthanasia :0( ), and this then turns us into fearful owners.
Being an anxious owner of a fear reactive dog turns into disaster when our emotions rub off on a dog that we are trying to teach to relax. Scientific studies have concluded that dogs can sense fear in humans, unfortunately the reason they sense it from us is not yet determined. This means we can't fake feeling secure in ourselves, our dogs will know. It will take training our inner selves to relax when our dog may begin acting reactive, and not having a negative reaction that will only worsen our dogs' current state of mind.
Like I said I love these dogs to pieces! I love the parents who love their reactive dogs! Because of this I am working on developing a growly dog class for the new year. This may seem like a long way off but it's coming fast. This class will be low-cost to cover supplies and encourage people to join. However because of the low cost I will be accepting participants via an application process and first come, first serve basis. I will update with more info ASAP but don't hesitate to get your foot in first!
Thank you all for loving dogs as much as I do and I look forward to hearing from you all soon!
Summer is finally here in the U.P. I'm practically melting as I type this blog in a room with little air movement, and an exterior temperature of at least 82- did I mention how humid it is? Okay enough whining but really, summer has come along and brought with it a desire for us humans to invite new furry friends into our lives. I'm talking about puppies! Who can resist snuggling and playing with a little thing that has features too big for the rest of it's body? I know I can't! But in all seriousness I'm writing this out because I want all puppies to have a positive start in their new lives.
First point of the day- Never "dominate" your puppy!
It does no one good to physically assault a dog of any age. Despite popular belief dominance is also not a solution for dogs, why? Because for one thing we aren't dogs, and dogs do in fact recognize that we are not just 2 legged dogs (see article here). "Bites" on the neck and back from humans do not mimic other dogs. Dominance in general is a lifelong battle, where whenever the "lead" gets old and tired out, the new "leader" breaks him/her down and takes over. This is not practical for us to always be on top of things. It is best to properly train a dog to behave on their own with out constantly instructing them, and instead interacting with them in fun and positive ways! This doesn't mean we have no way to punish puppy, but we only do so by taking away things they may like (such as a toy they were demolishing).
Make training part of your routine and lifestyle!
When puppy comes home, (or preferably before) sit down with your family and/or friends to set a list of rules. These should be things like whether or not puppy is allowed on furniture, if table scraps are acceptable (side note: any table scraps should not be given from the table, should be safe for your dog to consume, and consist of less than 10% of your dogs daily food intake), what types of rewards you will use, etc. It's also important to remember that some activities (although seemingly cute) shouldn't be considered cute if they won't be acceptable when your dog is full grown, i.e. jumping on people, whining, toe nibbling. It's easy to avoid these behaviors becoming habit, simply ignore your puppy and/or walk away to signal to them that you didn't like what they did so you are leaving. In addition if your puppy offers behaviors you do like to see, harness them and mark them with praise and rewards. Make every interaction with your puppy a mini-training session and you'll have a well rounded adult dog in no time (seriously, they get big fast!).
Socialize, socialize, socialize. Oh by the way did I mention socialization?
Exposing your puppy to all sorts of things is the most important thing you can do for their development. Take them everywhere they can safely go (Like I said-it is summer, don't leave dogs in hot cars). Let them meet all walks of people, dogs, other animals. Have them listen to sounds they will hear throughout their lives and play audio of it if it's not readily available (fireworks, snowplows, birds, chipmunks, cars) meanwhile creating a positive association by offering treats or toys. Start with muffled or quiet sounds and slowly increase their volume. Now with all that said, in a social situation it is important to not force greetings. Do not hold your puppy to another person/or dogs face if they are trying to wriggle away. It is important for your dog to learn that if something scares them, they can walk away and leave the situation. If they feel forced to face situations they aren't comfortable with you may not like their reaction, this often leads to fear aggression in dogs.
All in all raising a puppy can be a fun and rewarding experience, and we'd really love if you joined our TacoMo family. Summer puppy private sessions are now only $10 for dogs 4 months and younger!
Okay so for starters, Rick and I always joked that we would name one of our kids pumpkin someday because our last name is custard (and when we were younger we used to love pumpkin custard pies). Since children still aren't in our immediate future, we can instead use our humor toward an innocent baby doll!
In light of friends starting to have babies as well as TacoMo participant dogs with child socialization issues, we got her as our new little helper. No, she doesn't make noise or move on her own, but size-wise she is pretty close to an actual baby and proportionate unlike most dolls these days. Eventually we will need to find her a big sister or brother to help dogs with issues toward toddlers and more, but for now pumpkin is a great new addition!
She had her first session today and it went very well. For any one who wants to practice wIth their dog, what we used was our galaxy tablet to play assortments of baby sound fx from you tube. It was easy to hide it on our lap with pumpkin sitting on top, creating the illusion that the sound came directly from her. (You can also use your laptop, or CD recordings of baby noises, it's just as fun to be creative!) We put pumpkin into different positions- cradled, seated on lap, seated on floor, and held her up by the arms to simulate a small baby learning to walk. As we kept adjusting baby, we recorded her progress, and naturally about every 5 minutes she she continued to take positive steps toward accepting Pumpkin- respecting her space while still not being as fearful. Pumpkin's hand is shaped perfectly so that she can hold a small Zuke's training treat on top. We used this action toward the end of our session merely as a way to encourage and reward the dog for kindly approaching (we do not recommend trying this with a real baby).
Of course in any case, regardless of your dog's potential behavioral issues, learning the basics is always the first step. I would especially encourage learning the "leave it" cue so that in the instance of having a new baby your dog won't steal food from a wandering toddler's hand.
Do you have a dog that's fearful of children, or is your family expecting a new baby? Pumpkin is here with us to help you out, contact us to schedule your appointment now!
Tacomo is excited to announce we are now offering services/discounts to supporters of the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter! Our mission in this project is to help dogs find and keep their forever homes. Sometimes dogs who have homes need help (due to training or behavioral issues) to keep their place in the home, we want to be there for them as well.
Read how we are assisting here.
My name is Kim, I've grown up in this beautiful place we call Marquette, MI. I have always been a lover of animals and my love for them has only grown stronger with age. I love all animals from mice to cows, to pigs and frogs. Of course as dogs are the ones living most closely among us they have become my passion. I worked for a kennel for 2+ years, and I loved caring for the dogs all day. Being a kennel worker significantly benefited me while I was studying dogs however the time came to follow my calling. In April 2010 I graduated with my diploma in Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor from Penn Foster Career School, and have since begun building my experience in the field. I am currently owned (along side my husband Rick -who is also in the dog business as a groomer, and plays an active part in TacoMo as well) by 2 dogs named Rico Suave a 50lb adorable mix (His DNA came back as one parent being 1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/4 Pomeranian, & 1/4 Dachshund, the other parent while not confirmed is potentially an English Shepherd which honestly makes the most sense) and Smorzy a 50% Australian Shepherd/50%Shetland Sheepdog. They are a crazy duo and are not perfect by any means but I love having the tools to control their behavior whenever I need to. I love my dogs so much that TacoMo was named after them (Rico's nickname is Taco & Smorzy's is MoMo)! You'll learn by meeting me or reading my posts that while I can be a quiet person, I can also babble on forever!