2013 Pet Blogger Challenge

Thank you to Go Pet Friendly for the Pet Blogger Challenge. I’ve never participated in one of these before, but here goes. I look forward to learning about some blogs that are new to me through this challenge, and I hope my responses here are worth the electrons used to transfer them.
But first, pictures of my wonderful dogs, for those who haven’t seen them.

Three dogs lying very close together, all with their eyes riveted on the person taking the picture

Some nice focus from Zani, Summer, and Clara

Cricket looking beautiful, 2006

Cricket (RIP) just looking beautiful, 2006

1. When did you begin your blog?

In July, 2012.

2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?

I want to help dogs and their owners have happier lives together. I wanted to share my successes and failures with dog training with others who might benefit. I’m in an odd existential position, with no credentials yet a moderate amount of knowledge of learning theory and passionate ongoing contact with great trainers. I don’t feel comfortable dishing out a lot of advice on discussion lists, but I have opinions, hopefully fact-based,  on so many things, and I’ve got moderately good writing skills and quite a bit of experience writing.

Before I started my blog I went around frustrated a lot of the time with what I read on the Internet, because I had these passionate opinions and nowhere to put them. I don’t deal well with strife and didn’t want to have endless arguments on discussion lists. I would spend way too much time writing a post then either not post it, or post it and be nervous for days about the responses. Having my own home on the Internet gives me a place to flesh out these thoughts, include videos, and bibliographic references.

I have also always had a strong  belief that people learn best seeing dogs who do not already know a behavior. I felt like I could do demonstrations of a typical naive dog with a moderately inexperienced trainer (me!), and let people see what both success and failure looked like.

3. Is your current purpose the same?

Absolutely.

If so, how do you feel you’ve met your goals?

Writing has reawakened my passion for teaching. I love having a voice again, and the potential of helping dogs and their owners everywhere. I can say I’ve met my goals because of the feedback I get from readers. I am reaching just the people I hoped to reach, and many report back that my posts have helped them.

4. How often do you post?

I post about six times a month, an average of 1.5 times a week.

5. Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you?

I don’t keep a schedule. I blog “as fast as I can.” At this moment, for instance, I have 50+ partially written posts and/or just titles saved and ready to be fleshed out. So I don’t have a dearth of material.

If you don’t publish on a schedule, why? How do you think your decision affects your audience? How do you know when a topic is “post-worthy?”

I don’t ever want to compromise quality just to get something out. I know that some readers like the predictability of a schedule, but in this day of RSS feeds and FaceBook promotion, anyone who wants to know when I post has multiple ways of doing that. And I’m thrilled that people actually do!

My posts often have multiple supporting resources, so I can’t just dash them out. One post this year had a blog post, a home-made informational video that took weeks to get right, a resource page with a second by second analysis of  10 minute YouTube video (done with coordinated assistance from other observers), and a resource page with 12 other YouTube videos in contrasting pairs, two of which were made by other trainers (thank you!) specifically for the page. As I recall, I interrupted that work at least twice to publish another post.

As for “post-worthiness,” I post when I feel like I have something unique to offer, and when my writing muse demands it. I don’t write purely instructional posts for the most part, since I don’t have credentials or a lot of experience. So I probably wouldn’t write a post on, for example, resource guarding and what to do about it. But if I have interesting footage of my dogs resource guarding things from each other, I might post it with some commentary, in the interest of promulgating study of dog body language.

I have made one straight-on instructional video which I will blog about sometime. It is on teaching a dog to back up without using body pressure. I did it specifically because at the time I couldn’t find a single video on YouTube that didn’t use body pressure and I felt it really needed to be shown that you don’t have to walk or wave something in your dog’s face to make them back up. That’s the same impetus for my blogging. The strong feeling that “why hasn’t somebody said this?” or “why hasn’t somebody shown how to do it this way?”.

Before I ever studied Search Engine Optimization and discovered the Google Keyword tool, I would search Google and YouTube on the topics that I was interested in before I published, just to make sure that I was presenting valuable information that had not been overworked before. And when I find a niche like that, and feel like I am capable of speaking intelligently on it, I am absolutely driven to do so.

6. How much time do you spend writing your blog per week? How much time visiting other blogs? Share your  tips for staying on top of it all.

I probably write from 3-10 hours a week, and spend an equal time working on the videos that almost always accompany my posts. I read other blogs from 15-30 minutes a day, but I am a fast reader and can cover quite a bit of ground. I can’t stay on top of it all, but I prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. The one thing I try not to do is slack off on the training of my own dogs.

7. How do you measure the success of a post and of your blog in general (comments, shares, traffic)? Do you look strictly at the numbers, or do you have a way of assessing the quality of those interactions?

I love big numbers as much as anybody, but when someone writes in and says thank you and that my post really helped, THAT for me, is success. Even if it’s just one person.

8. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one issue you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

Right now I just don’t have any issues. Life is good. How about, “Read mine and I’ll read yours!” I give everything that comes my way a chance.

9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2013?

To gain more readers through word of mouth, and to maintain the passion I have for the project now. Blogging has given my work with my dogs a focus and a platform, and I absolutely love it.

Thanks for asking!

Eileen is seated on a short stool and Clara is lying on the floor. They are looking into each other's eyes. There are some training props on the floor.

Eileen and Clara training

I have pages on my blog for more about me and more about my dogs. 

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Copyright Eileen Anderson 2013

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About eileenanddogs

Passionate amateur dog trainer, writer, and learning theory geek.

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21 Responses to 2013 Pet Blogger Challenge

  1. titch990 says:

    Hi Eileen. We found your blog very recently, and it is wonderful. I love your blogging ethos, your content and the knowledge and understanding of our best friends that comes through in each post.

    I’d love to know what you do with your other dogs when you are training one of them. We can’t train both ours together as they learn in quite different ways so one click definitely doesn’t do for both. But if we remove one, or even talk it for a walk while the other is being trained, the remaining one is more attracted by where the other one has gone than learning (especially if it is nearbyand whinging because it can hear the clicker, or suspects there may be clicking elsewhere in the house). So both get less training time than we would like. How do you manage?

    You are also an inspiration to me to be more disciplined and get my blog going – I have lots of technical content (not dog related) that I have been collecting for blog articles, but not got round to writing/posting, so it’s interesting to hear that you have around 50 posts in draft. As with your content, it’s “how to” information that isn’t available freely elsewhere, otherwise I wouldn’t have had to find it out for myself in the first place.

    Keep on blogging!

    • Thank you for the wonderful comments, titch990! Boy am I getting my R+ today! Stay tuned for some info on training multiple dogs. I’ve done a method Sue Ailsby recommends with one of my dogs and it has worked a charm. I will replay here later with some specific info or a link.

    • Thanks so much, titch990! The short answer is that I crate my other two dogs right in the same area while I am training one. They get an occasional treat. However, there is a wonderful method for training a dog to lie quietly on a mat (or in a crate with the door open) while you train another dog, and I have successfully taught one of my dogs this method. I wish I had recorded the beginning but I didn’t. I first read about the method from Sue Ailsby, but I haven’t been able to find the piece. I think it was a post on the Training Levels list. Anyway, there is a mental trick. You have an “active” dog and the dog who’s going to learn to be on the mat while you do something with the active dog. The mental trick is that you put your focus on the “mat” dog. That is the dog who is learning the hard thing. You are training her to stay on a mat during distractions. The other dog is just a prop for now. The prerequisite is that the “mat” dog really should already have a history of lying on a mat for duration for treats, with moderate distractions. When that is the case, get out both dogs and tell one to get on the mat and feed her some treats one after the other. Turn away and give the other dog a treat really fast, then back to the mat dog with more treats, as long as she is staying. If the active dog is going to bother the dog on the mat, get a barrier. Basically you keep your focus on the mat dog but turn every few seconds and give the other dog a treat, then ask the active dog for easy behaviors and start treating that. Sits, hand targets, quickly turning back to mat dog. Then start extending the duration and difficulty of stuff you are doing with the active dog. Keep the treats coming for the mat dog. In a few sessions/days you can start to switch your focus and actually train the active dog. And this is the other secret I learned from Sue: it is not that you give the mat dog a treat every time the active dog does something right. You are teaching the mat dog that she is being trained and performing a behavior separately, all on her own. You can use a click or marker word for each dog separately and as long as you are facing them and focusing on them, they’ll generally get it. I have taught this to Pushy Clara, and she of all my dogs can stay on a mat while I do very active stuff with another dog. She knows that she’ll get the occasional treat, more than if she were just waiting in her crate. The only hard thing for her is releases. If I am teaching the active dog a duration behavior, sometimes Clara gets up when I give the other dog the release word. That’s because I don’t have their separate release words very well trained. But we’re getting that straightened out. Here’s a quick video of what Clara can now do. If we can do this, you can!

      https://eileenanddogs.com/?attachment_id=2416

      I hope you will publish your content! You never know whom you might help and communicate with.

  2. Carolyn M M says:

    Lovely, Eileen. I really enjoyed “getting to know you” and what drives you to blog. I admire the balance of writing, video and training that you seem to maintain — with 4 dogs!

  3. Loved your goals. If I already admired you before, I admire you even more now! I wish you much success! and many blogs that post ever! Sorry for the bad english.

  4. Coralee says:

    Great comments! I learned so much from your responses, thanks f or being so candid!

    • Thanks so much Coralee. That project turned out to be really fun and I’m glad you liked my responses. I learned a few things I hadn’t thought about before.

  5. Tegan says:

    I recently found your blog and started following. After reading this, your motivations and plans, I can see why I like your content! I look forward to continuing to follow your blog throughout this year and into your blog’s first birthday. 🙂 Happy blogging.

  6. gubabbaboy says:

    I really like the way you balance your wonderful photos and writing, along with your confessions. It can get a little, well, boring, to hear only of successes. You are a wonderful teacher and an inspiration. Love your humanity.

  7. Helen Gruenhut says:

    Your blog is a joy, and I love watching you train your wonderful dogs.
    How do you get to the goal of training every day? I have the time, my dogs are with me all day long; but often the days go by without any set apart training on my part. Help? I tend to get easily distracted by other things going on.
    Thanks

    • Thank you so much, Helen! For me I make very modest goals, set up things to make it as easy as possible to train, and don’t get down on myself if I don’t. Probably the most important thing for me is to have treats ready. For most training in the house now I use either their meal kibble or cut up pieces of Natural Balance roll. I try to have some always cut up, because I HATE cutting up treats. I keep jars of dry treats around. I use the concept of “splitting” in other ways as well. Do tiny things towards my goal. If I’m going to try to train in the morning, I’ll get out my training notes binder the night before and make some decisions about what to train, and leave the binder out, with whatever props I might need. On really busy days or days when I am mentally fatigued, I might pull out 12 pieces of kibble from each dog’s breakfast and do one thing with them. The littlest things can keep me training a certain behavior. My dogs don’t commonly wear collars in the house, so when it comes to stuff that requires collars and leashes, I often procrastinate. Just that one extra step of going to get three collars and some leashes can put that down to the bottom of the list. So sometimes I will have “themes.” OK this week all three dogs get to work on collar grabs or leash exercises so they are just going to wear their collars all the time. Finally, my friend Sharon Wachsler has a really nice piece called Tips for Tired Trainers. It is aimed towards people who are chronically ill or fatigued, but can be helpful to any trainer who is trying to make it easier for herself to train. I hope something in here is helpful! It can be a real challenge to train sometimes.

  8. Julie says:

    Hi eileen, your blog is just hands down great, I take something away from every post. In reference to Titch990’s reply…we recently added a new puppy to our household, and I am also trying to come up with some ideas. The one that seems to work best for us is putting up a gate so they are separated but can watch while the other is being trained. I give periodic reinforcement to the one waiting, then when I am done with the dog I am working with, we switch, and I train with the second dog while the first dog watches. Once they realized what was going on, they seemed to fall in with the rhythm, and wait their turn contentedly. Good luck! Julie

    • Thanks for your kind words, Julie! That’s the thing that keeps me blogging! Your training suggestion is great too. I do the round robin thing with three dogs. That’s great that you are starting with the puppy. There is another up side to it that I have discovered. That is, that training sessions last longer. While they are in the crate watching the other dog, waiting their turn, they are anticipating their turn. They’re not just lying around being bored. So even though each dog may train for, say, 10 minutes (in 2-4 minute “turns”), that experience is spread over half an hour.

  9. Helen Gruenhut says:

    Thanks for your reply, Eileen.
    I started scent discrimination yesterday. Whenever I train, I find the old saying, “It takes only a minute”. My preception is always greater than reality.
    When I train, I love it. It is my favorite thing. The dust will be there, hair on the floor; but the dogs will not always be there. They are waiting for my undivided attention.
    Seize the Day.
    Helen

  10. It’s so nice to meet you and your dogs, Eileen – thanks for taking part in the Challenge! Tips on training the dogs are always welcome, so I’m looking forward to following your blog. Best of luck in 2013 and happy new year.

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