About Eileen

I live in the mid-Southern U.S. and have three dogs. I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music (performance), and a master’s degree in applied science with an emphasis on Active Sound Cancellation (noise control). I am recently retired from a wonderful non-profit agency that helped impoverished women access health services. I have worked as a performing musician and a university-level math teacher. I worked my way up the ranks in the publishing world, starting as a proofreader.

I teach a writing mentorship once or twice a year through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

I do freelance fact-checking on the topics of acoustics and behavior science, and freelance editing for both non-fiction and fiction. Contact me through the contact page for rates.

I came to dog training a typical way: I got a dog with problem behaviors. This was Summer. After a brief but all too long stint with local trainers who mixed aversives and rewards, I found the positive reinforcement training community on the Internet, then locally. I got turned on by behavior science and the wonderful realization that force-free training is not only humane and kind, but is science-based and shown to be extremely effective in training all animals.

It has become a passionate hobby and I spend the bulk of my free time training, learning about training and dog behavior, and writing about what I have learned.

What I offer in this blog is this: a window into what I learn from training dogs, and videos of dogs actually learning behaviors. My mechanical skills as a trainer don’t rise about the B level most of the time. I don’t practice timing enough, and I am not too good at raising criteria. (See the Blooper movie or Lumping It: A Public Service Announcement.)

But sometimes seeing the “warts” can be more helpful than seeing an expert run a dog who already knows tons of behaviors through a variant of something they already know. Those dogs tend to learn way faster than the dogs of us non-professionals. Or rather, our dogs obviously learn just as fast, but perhaps not what we were intending to teach them.

My own life experiences, particularly in teaching, curriculum design, technical writing, and making technology accessible to laypeople often can give me a sense of what may help people get over a hump in understanding or execution of training problems. I’m a pretty good problem solver and communicator, and I love a challenge. I hope to help some other people, learn from them and their dogs as well as mine, and spur some good discussions.

Upcoming appearances and media kit.

My training philosophy.

Guidelines for comments. 

Other Places You Can See My Work

56 thoughts on “About Eileen

  1. Eileen, fun to read about your passion. We got a dog three years ago (first one since I had one as a kid), and he’s overall been a delight to have. He certainly has his frustrating parts, too, but overall we like having him around.
    I still hope that someday we can get together….since the last time was when you were up in Tacoma performing about thirty years ago! Love, Neil

    1. Thanks, Neil! Yes it would be great to see you someday. That’s so cool that you hiked the John Muir trail. I enjoyed your pics. Certainly a view that most of us never get to see. Love, Eileen

  2. Hi Eileen!
    I just found your blog and I love your doggie family and that they are all rescued! We have 4 rescued little funny monsters, too (and 6 horses). We will be trying the new cue/old cue with our silly Huckleberry boy-he jumps up on my husband in certain circumstances and we needed an inspiration of where to go. Thanks! I look forward to getting to know your pack-I already have crushes on the whole crew 🙂 We use clicker training on our horses, too-it is such fun! Thanks for being out here and sharing your adventures with your adorable four pack 🙂

    1. Hi Sue! Thanks for your kind words. Anybody with crushes on all four of my dogs is a good friend already! We had horses when I was a kid and I always kind of wondered whether they even liked people very much….now that I see horses trained with positive reinforcement I know what the problem was back then. We weren’t particularly mean, but there wasn’t much fun in it for them. I love seeing clicker horses now. They are having such fun themselves. Let me know how it goes with Huckleberry. Your husband knows that if he EVER reinforces Huck while he’s in the jumping up position the behavior won’t fade away no matter what else you do, right? Good luck.

  3. Hey Eileen: Just wanted to let you know that I think you must have had a great family upbringing to tackle the range of experiences you’ve had. You seem very self-reliant and “can do”. Love it, and looking forward to following your blog. Suzy

  4. Hi Eileen, just found your site and enjoyed reading about you and the articles I have read so far. I am a force free dog trainer in Queensland Australia and will be using some of your articles to assist the students, and educate others on the techniques trainers like us use. Thanks for being who you are. Carmel Hodgins, Smart Paws Dog Training.

    1. Hi Carmel, thanks so much for writing! Finding out that my writing and videos will be put to use is one of my favorite things. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  5. Hi Eileen! I’m happy to find your blog and the “Training Levels” Yahoo Group and books. We have a lot in common– I’m an informatics specialist working at a conservation non-profit; I’ve recently stumbled on clicker-training and I’m sponging up all the information I can get! I enjoyed the first article I read and I’m looking forward to more.

      1. Hey there Eileen! Love your latest post! I am doing that with my two dogs and it is working pretty well. I learned it from Kikopup’s Emily Larlham, and also Kathy Sdao at ClickerExpo. I pretty much can’t do any other training in the house without doing mat-work with the “waiting” dog at the same time. Oh, and have you read *Fired Up, Freaked Out, and Frantic*? It’s great and covers mat-work and the amazing things that can happen from doing it.
        Take care and Happy Clicking!

  6. Eileen, thanks so much for your blog. I really appreciate your honesty, good humour and of course, your sweet dogs. I really love the way you have taken time to understand and accept their individual personalities, and your approach has encouraged me in my efforts to better communicate with my dog, and to embrace his own brand of dogginess! I don’t always get my clicking and treating right, but I’m so pleased I found out about positive methods on the good ol’ internet. They have added benefits too, I think, because they help foster deeper bonds between dogs and their humans. Thanks for helping to blaze a trail!

  7. Hi, Eileen.
    I’m so happy to have come across your blog! A friend and fellow trainer has been posting a few of your recent entries on Facebook. I love the way you write, as well as your message. I am also very interested to read that you got your degrees in music performance (and engineering science—how cool!). I am a professional musician, and I know several really good dog trainers (Sue Sternberg and Tracy Sklenar come to mind) who have come to the field of dog training from a career in music. Someday, I want to write an article about how what I have learned about dog training (operant conditioning, learning theory, animal behavior) has helped me to become a better musician.
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog!

    1. Nice to meet you, Melissa! Thank you for your kind words.

      What do you play? Or do you sing? I come from a whole family of singers, but grew up playing several instruments and ended up playing the harpsichord.

      Probably the biggest things that I carry over from music are being willing to practice skills and do lots of repetition, and a way of looking at the big picture that is hard to describe but you probably understand.

      I have a pet project I’m going to do one of these days. I’m going to teach one of the dogs (I used to think Zani, but she is the least skilled at auditory stuff. Probably Clara instead.) a musical pitch as a cue for a behavior, broadcast from a speaker in another room so there will be no visual cue at all. When we get it solid, I am going to start testing with other pitches and see how precise the dog’s pitch memory/recognition is. I’ve read varying reports. Pavlov tested it, but he used classical conditioning (of course).

      One of these days!

      Thanks for writing.

  8. Nice to meet you, too! I play clarinet in the Navy Band in Washington DC. My husband is a trumpet player, and enjoys playing a lot of early music, so I’m happy to hear you play harpsichord. One of my favorite instruments! We met at Indiana University. Do you still play?

    Have you seen this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y82sYIDxDoc Maybe you can do this with one of yours. 🙂

    I agree that the skills we learn as musicians—like repetition, breaking things down into smaller parts, and understanding the value of practice—can help us be better dog trainers. One of the skills I have learned as a dog trainer that I incorporate in my musical practice now is back-chaining. My clarinet professor in college mentioned this concept to me, but at the time 20 years ago, I thought it was just one of his “out-there” ideas, so I didn’t appreciate it then. Even today, when I tell my own children about it, and try to get them to do it while they practice their own instruments, they are resistant, and think it is one of mom’s kooky ideas. Ah, karma….

    Thanks for writing back.


    1. Come to think of it, one of my teachers recommended learning the end of the piece first. I had forgotten that!

      I don’t play much. There just isn’t time to do all the things I’m interested in!

      Yes, I’ve seen that video and the other ones. They drive me crazy! There are so many cues going on. It would be so cool if she would take it the step further it would take to be convincing. The day she steps behind a screen and plays random non-patterned notes and the dogs play them back to her will be the day I start to take the pitch recognition seriously. The training is amazing; I just don’t quite know what she has trained!

  9. Just found this blog through the Bark Busters piece you did, which was posted on Facebook by a friend. The blog is excellent and really useful. I and my three dogs will be learning with you! Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

  10. Hello Eileen

    Thank you for your blog and your videos. I recently took a Karen Pryor training, an abbreviated version of their professional training intended for pet owners. it was great fun for the dogs and for me, but i would like to keep learning. Your blog helps me do that!

    In reading through your blog i saw mention at one point of a training club. That sounded like just what I need. Recently I had some feedback from professional trainers that my treat delivery is very poor and the dogs don’t target the target stick, they watch the treat hand. This is one of several areas where I feel I could use some coaching or feedback from humans on my training as I develop. I asked the trainers if they would consider hosting a training club. I am not sure they are enamored of the idea. They may envision a time when their facility is packed with non-paying former customers. I, on the other hand, need some ongoing feedback and coaching and I simply can’t afford to pay the NYC going rate of $100/hr for a trainer’s attention. Plus, from your site i can see that you can learn from watching others’ mistakes and a club would be a great place for that. Additionally I think it would keep up the energy and the focus.

    Do you have any thoughts on how we might structure such a club? You belong to one, don’t you? In NYC there currently is none. If the trainer is not interested in hosting it or sponsoring it I might do I myself or find another training facility that is game. I ask you because your site is the only place I have seen anything about one of these clubs from the perspective of a member. Any thoughts appreciated, and thanks for what you do!

    Best, Lynn

    1. Hi Lynn! Glad you like the blog. I’m going to send you an email about the training club idea. Thanks for the comment!

  11. I can’t find anything on your Youtube channel or the channel of Paws4fun about how to train the “retrieve to a container”, and I’d like to try that with my dog. Could you do a blog post on it, please?

  12. Hi Eileen,

    You are an inspiration to me! I have been a professional dog walker for 2 years now and I have felt so frustrated by my own lack of understanding about non aversive training. It’s so frustrating when I know that tradition methods don’t feel right but I don’t know what to do instead! The is so much advice out there that is unhelpful at best and cruel at worst. You seem to have a video for so many of the things I need to know and I love how clearly you explain what and why you do things. You have already changed the way I care for dogs I board in my home. The dogs barking at the noises made by neighbours has always been my biggest stress but now I am armed with treats and as soon as I hear any sounds coming from my neighbours I get in there first and start rewarding the dogs BEFORE they start barking! So simple yet I hadn’t thought of that! I pick up my own new puppy in 6 weeks and I am so excited about the kind methods I’m learning for you that I am going to use to train her . Thank you! x

    1. Jill, you made my day. Thank you so much for letting me know. Your kind words fire me up to write more. Good luck with your pup! Have fun!

  13. Thank you for your video on dementia it has reassured me. My dog Molly is 15 and has dementia I was told she would die soon. I was upset and thinking about her when I came across your article. It helped me immensely thanks again

    1. My little Cricket lived two years after her diagnosis, and they were good years. Good luck to you and Molly. Thanks for writing.

  14. Eileen, thanks so much for your book on ccd. The vet thinks my Sadie might be in the early stages, so your book came just at the right time for us. The vet put her on supplements, and we are going to take Donna Hills Fenzi class on games starting Dec 1 so I will have lots of ideas for fun things to do. Thanks again.

  15. Pingback: Entrainement au renforcement positif | Le Chien Coureur | Éducation & promenade canine
  16. Hi Eileen! I came about your website via a South African facebookpage (Animal behaviour Consultants of South Africa) and when I saw the video you made on Cricket calling in Clara the puppy, I was sold! 😀
    I watched some of your other video’s on your youtube channel, and I really enjoy listening to your calm voice and seeing your dogs react to it! I am currently studying to become a dog coach myself as I always wanted to work with animals, and since a few years I’ve been doing volunteer work at my local SPCA shelter.
    Just wanted to say: great job!
    Kind regards, Nats

  17. I just found your site. I have enjoyed reading a few of your blog posts and will be coming back to read and watch. I watched the piece about petting – I’ll have to video Franklin – I do believe he loves petting – he leans into me and paws for more … he is a various anxious dog and has so many issues – I’ve been through 4 trainers and equipment galore (he is 85 lb GSD mix 4.5 yrs I adopted 7 months ago – he pulls, is leash reactive to dogs, chased my cat into hiding upstairs for last 7 months, isn’t good in car, with vet, – I hope to learn more from your site and posts on my journey to help Franklin and me!

    1. Welcome! That’s great that Franklin loves touch. You might want to check out the Fearful Dogs and Reactive Dogs groups on Facebook. They are both very helpful and straightforward, no gimmicks. It can be hard having a difficult dog; thanks for doing all you’ve done to help him.

  18. Hello! I was just wondering what breed your beautiful Clara is! We just got a puppy and he looks just like her but we cant figure out what he is. His mother is an Australian Shepherd but he looks nothing like her.

    1. I don’t know for sure! What I do know is that her mother looked like a small lab, and two of her siblings were marked with black and rust, like Dobermans. She has a very short coat, so I wouldn’t think she is part Australia shepherd. Sorry not to be more help. Enjoy your pup!

  19. Hi, Eileen. I was very impressed with your article on PPG regarding prong collars. I did respond to the article when I read it, but perhaps you did not see my response. I have lived in my community for over two years and have never seen so many prong collars in any place I have lived. I would like to hear yours and others suggestions about how to address this issue in my community. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    1. hi Beth,
      No, I’m sorry, I didn’t. PPG reprints my blogs with my permission but I can barely keep up with the comments on my own two sites, so I usually don’t respond over there. Glad you found your way over here!

      I have several years of observation and experience having to do with trying to persuade people/organizations/communities to use positive reinforcement based training and leave the “training tools” alone. The problem is that there is some truth to the phrase, “any publicity is good publicity,” and in some ways, writing about and talking about prong collars (for instance) just firms them up as an option in some people’s minds. I know, I know; I wrote an article about prong collars! But I believe it’s better and more effective to write about how R+ training works and to assert our values in themselves rather than making repeated responses to the claims out there about training tools. Easier said than done, I know! Just look back through my blog and see all the “reaction” posts.

      I have been influenced by the writings of George Lakoff; I highly recommend his book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.” He presents very strong evidence that arguing against things can actually strengthen people’s beliefs in them. I try to take his writings to heart but it’s hard!

      Anyway, those are my thoughts about it today. Thanks so much for your comment and coming to find me on my blog!

  20. Hey Eileen, I’m a dog trainer in Israel working for a dog training school and I really enjoy reading some of your posts!
    I was wondering if I can get your permission to translate some of them to Hebrew?
    With credit of course. Thanks in advance, and thanks for sharing your learning 🙂

    1. Yes! I would be thrilled! As you do them, I will list them on my translations page. I’ll send you an email so you can contact me that way. Thank you!

    1. Hi Marcy, unfortunately I can’t. But I’m pretty sure we are going to schedule it again. Be sure you are signed up to get blog announcements or follow my page on Facebook. I’ll be announcing the time. Sorry that the seats were limited!


  21. Hi Eileen, I came across your blog as I was searching for advise for my peace of mind with the recent passing of my 17 year old rat terrier Macy. When I read about your beautiful Cricket and her last years, it was like I was reading my day to day for the past 15 months. I had struggled with that day when we took her to the vet for the final time. I let guilt get a hold of me and although the last 15 months was very difficult with sleepless nights and rearranging my entire life to care for a dog with dementia, hearing loss, almost complete blindness and hind legs weakness, I was angry that all those responsibilities ended so abruptly. I foolishly thot I’d still have many years with her. But the last day she turned away from her food for the first time and I knew, the time was now as it will only spiral downwards and fast. Although your post on cricket is from many years ago, it still resonated and helped me today in 2019 and gave me comfort that it was time, the right thing to do, and that I should leave guilt at the door so that I can properly grieve the loss of a wonderful rat terrier whom I love dearly. Thanks Eileen for writing these words and helping me move on. God bless.

    1. Dear Phil,
      I’m so sorry for your loss of Macy. You are very kind to reach out. I’m glad my writing helped in a small way. I hope you can leave the guilt behind. You clearly love/loved her so much and I am sure she would thank you for the wonderful care you gave, including the hardest thing of all that we sometimes have to do. You are brave. Take care.

  22. Hi Eileen,
    I signed up for and enjoyed tremendously your Webinar Sound decisions.

    Today this story came from the Freekibble click site today. I immediately thought of you. I’m certain you know the technical sound theory behind what this man chooses to play. I found another shorter link with the story.

    One of your fans,

    1. Hi Carolyn,
      Thanks so much for the kind words and the link! I edited it out temporarily while I check it out first. Thank you for thinking of me!


  23. This is another reason that I love and trust your Blog. You verify information before posting. I know if it passes the “Eileen test” it is valid.

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