Eileenanddogs’ First Birthday!

Cartoonish picture of a pink birthday cake with one blue candle on itWow. One year ago today, on July 21, 2012, I published the Welcome post to this blog, the supporting “about” pages (linked at the top), and the Blooper movie. And thus my life changed.

Common tips about starting a blog usually include a recommendation that you should be able to think of either 5 or 10 topics you would like to write about before you actually start. I read that recommendation, sat down and immediately came up with about 30 titles.

It wasn’t a fluke. At this moment, I have published 82 posts. I have 70 drafts in the works. Some virtually complete, some only a title. So although I know I’m not immune to writer’s block, or the slowdowns that affect almost every writer from time to time, I have no dearth of things to talk about.

Head shot of a black and rust colored dog that looks like a small, slim beagle. She looks (and is) very friendly. Her mouth is open and her teeth are crooked.
Zani, July 2013

Starting a blog has brought my writing spirit back to life. It has given me a healthy way to focus all the thoughts and feelings (and arguments) I have churning around my head about science based training. It has helped me become a better dog trainer. It has made me a bunch of lovely new friends. I love having it. It’s like building a house, piece by piece, and having a bunch of generous people watching and cheering me on. (Can you tell I used to be in the performing arts?)

My friend Marge Rogers suggested my starting a blog in May or June last year. We were discussing a Yahoo group, probably ClickerSolutions. I was talking about how frustrated I got because I had Things To Say but could only say them in these fleeting discussions where I would often feel like I was just not heard. Not only that, but what I had to say felt so important and urgent to me. It was unhealthy, I thought, to go around bothered by a discussion on a Yahoo group. Marge said (probably not for the first time) that I should start a blog.

I remember almost exactly what I said. It was something to the tune of, “But my writing is reactive. Somebody says something or does something, it bothers me, and I am prompted to write about it.” She said that was OK.

Later I came to think that was a pretty silly concern on my part. What, all topics are supposed to spring fully formed from my forehead? Of course I react to what’s going on around me. Everybody does that! And it’s certainly not all negative. Plus there’s a synergy to it. The more I write, the more I have to write about.

A sable dog is reclining on a chaise lounge. Her head is propped on the arm rest and her eyes are sleepy.
Summer, July 2013

Also, interestingly, having a blog has helped me cope with disagreement better. I have always been fascinated by good (and bad) argument. Yet I personally have a thin skin and an obsessive mind, which make public criticism or contradiction pretty tough, even if it’s fair minded. If I get called a name, insulted, or even misunderstood by a random person on the Internet it can stay on my mind for days. But I predicted, and was luckily correct, that having my own blog would allow me enough control over the situation that I could stay mentally healthy about it. This blog is my Internet home and I have the ultimate say about what goes on here. I can set both the tone and the guidelines for discussion.  Just knowing I have the ability to disallow someone’s comments if they start acting really rotten really helps. And I haven’t had to do it yet!

I’ve had one truly unpleasant go-round with an angry commenter, but had beautiful written and personal support from a friend (thank you Sharon!) all through that encounter. I learned a lot about my own training philosophy from that situation.

I’ve had a topic I promoted heavily on this blog and that speaks to the very heart of me get heatedly criticized and dismissed by some prominent people in my own community. Some said that promoting this idea was harmful to the cause of humane training. That’s about the worst thing somebody could say to me. I do understand their criticism in part, but obviously don’t agree. That disagreement was a lot tougher to handle, but I made it into an exercise in trying to stay mature, keep to the high road argument-wise, be open to criticism, and stick to my ethics.

I’ve had one of my movies, this one where I used a stuffed dog to demonstrate some shock collar techniques, bother a prominent shock collar trainer so badly that she wrote a whole post of her own to mock it. A whole post on how silly I was to use a stuffed toy as a demo. Wow! That incident actually bothered me the least, and in retrospect I get quite a kick out of it. I try to be careful about where I put my energy, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that that post was just so silly that it didn’t merit a response from me. She either truly didn’t get it or was really grasping at straws. I confess that I like knowing that it bugged her.

I had my funny debacle of a contest, which at least got some persistent folks free books, and taught me another lesson about the curse of knowledge.

A tan dog with a black muzzle is reclining on a bed with a bright quilt. Her head is on a red dog bed. Her mouth is open and her teeth are prominent and bright white.
Clara, June 2013

On the other hand I have had the good fortune to have some early public successes and recognition. I have had two posts go truly viral, neither of which could I have predicted. They were Does Your Dog REALLY Want to Be Petted? and Dog Facial Expressions: Stress. Both body language posts, interestingly. I’ve had four other posts that were quite successful: They were

The last two were spur of the moment “shorties” and I was delighted that they became so popular.

I’ve had my crossover to positive reinforcement training story generously hosted by Ines Gaschot at The Crossover Trainer. I’ve had a post highlighted by a writer on the Huffington Post, and another featured on a popular syndicated page with a crude name (available if you drop me a line), and best of all, was featured on WordPress’ “Freshly Pressed” showcase. It was the “But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie…” post above. (Here’s a link to Freshly Pressed but I think you have to have a WordPress account to access it.)

My blog brought me into contact with the amazing Susan Friedman, after which I took her wonderful course, a life-changing experience.

I have had another life-changing experience this year though, a heartbreak when my 17 year old tough-as-nails little heart dog Cricket passed out of this world. Readers’ kind words meant so much to me and were so helpful. I have posted about her dementia, about caring for her as a senior dog, and about losing her, but one of my favorites was for our 10 year anniversary together in December 2012.

I’ve been spending a bit of time looking at old photos and videos of her, and the picture below is a video still.

A small smooth coated white, black, and brown terrier with huge ears is standing very square on her feet and looking up.
Cricket at age 14, August 2010


While reviewing the readership numbers of my posts, I noticed some that I wished had been viewed a little more. (OK, lots! I’m greedy.) I have picked one to feature on my “birthday,” in case you have made it this far into the post.

My post and movie about Lumping in training directly demonstrate what “lumping” is, and what can happen when you do it. The video is from a bona fide training session where I made some careless errors. Zani, as usual, is the perfect demo dog: a good sport, but clearly making her feelings known about my klutziness. If you are a new reader, you probably haven’t seen this. I hope you’ll check it out.

Also thank you Ruth, Lynn, and Carol, and my Internet-friend-who-likes-to-stay-anonymous, who have been unfailingly encouraging and sometimes challenging. And thank you Marjorie, my faithful and fascinating commenter whom I feel like I have really gotten to know.

Thank you, all you wonderful readers. I hope you are as ready as I am for another year.

Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

48 thoughts on “Eileenanddogs’ First Birthday!

  1. Happy birthday, my friend. So happy to travel this road with you. Your blogs and our conversations stretch my thinking in more ways than one. And, you give me great resources to share with friends and students. Thank you!

    1. Oh Marge, thank you. I don’t think it would’ve happened without you. And I KNOW that some of the posts wouldn’t have happened without you! I gain so much from our discussions.

  2. Thanks for blogging! I find your reflections on your training sessions to be incredibly helpful.

  3. Happy Anniversary, Eileen (and all of your wonderful dogs!) Your writings have made a major contribution to all of us who strive to communicate with our animals. Thank you!

  4. I just found your blog a couple of months ago – and I love seeing new posts come up in my blogroll. Your writing has a lovely blend of real life, philosophical thought and good practice. Thank you.

    Now a question for which you may have an answer – what about dogs bred to fight? Arghh controversial I know; but I got myself a wee Patterdale 4 years ago. She’s my agility dog. I didn’t realise at the time that Patties were bred for badger baiting (and as I later discovered this puppy breeder did just that)! So now I have myself a great wee dog who can suddenly experience a red mist and go for one of our other dogs. It happened twice a couple of years ago with another terrier, and after much heart-aching, I decided to re-home the other dog. Now, suddenly, she is reacting to our 6 year old JR….. and she has now twice fought with her and given puncture wounds (February this year and last week). The problem is she locks on and then shakes her head and won’t let go even when the other dog is squealing.

    So for now we’re keeping the pair apart – I did that after the first incident and then re-introduced them after a couple of weeks and things settled. They have been amiable (or at least tolerant of each other again up to now) but recently the JR is starting to try and stand her ground….. Ho Hum. I have some thoughts, but would value your opinion on this……. Hope you don’t mind me asking – if nothing else you may now have yet another potential article! 🙂

    1. First, Sally thanks so much for your kind words! That’s what I hope for my blog to be.

      Second, I am so sorry about the situation with your dogs. And I’m sorry I can’t weigh in with any thoughts about it, except that it sounds scary and I would be taking every possible precaution. Can you work with a qualified behaviorist? This is the kind of situation that needs expert assessment. I would be comfortable offering some tips about finding one if you want to email me (sidebar of the blog).

      I didn’t know what Patterdale terriers were bred for. I don’t know much about them except that they are darn good looking and I like all terriers. The best of luck to you.

      1. Thanks….. certainly at the moment the safety of the JR is paramount. Sadly, I am not sure any behaviourist could really help, as 99.999% of the time the Patterdale is fine….. but no behaviourist can make promises of 100% success – and it might only take one failure to seriously harm the JR. I guess I should have researched the breed more, before getting her…. So for now it’s all management. 🙁

        And I’ll continue to read your posts with interest….. 😉

        1. You are right, no one ever anytime can give a 100% promise about a dog and I’m glad you said that. I was thinking more like a prognosis and management tips. It sounds like you have a handle on things though. Best of luck.

  5. muzzle Tov! Ha ha ha ha. That is how Dragon interpreted what I was trying to write, which is pretty funny for a dog blog. Let me try again, Mazel Tov! (I had to spell that out. Apparently Dragon doesn’t know much Yiddish.) I have been delighted and impressed by your ability to crank out well-written, clear, and instructive blogs so frequently!

    1. I really hope to see a post from you titled “Muzzle Tov.” It’s a classic. And now I’m wondering if you are testing other Yiddish phrases….

      Thanks so much, Sharon. I love doing this, and it’s lovely getting praise from such a good writer as yourself.

  6. I got my puppy in May and have been reading you ever since. I love this blog, keep at it!

  7. muzzle Tov! Ha ha ha ha. That is how Dragon interpreted what I was trying to write, which is pretty funny for a dog blog. Let me try again, Mazel Tov! (I had to spell that out. Apparently Dragon doesn’t know much Yiddish.) I have been delighted and impressed by your ability to crank out well-written, clear, and instructive blogs so frequently!

  8. Happy 1st Birthday! Wishing you many, many more. I really enjoy your blog and reblogged “Yes, You May Comfort Your Dog”. Looking forward to lots of more good stuff. “)

  9. Congratulations Eileen! I love your blogs, all of which are so eloquently and clearly written that they can be shared with any newbie. The fact you combine them with videos makes them all the more useful.
    I’ve sympathised with you on the loss of your lovely Cricket, but wasn’t aware of her back story regarding her dementia. I’m interested to read that blog now having had a dog, who passed in 2003 aged 16 years, who showed flashes of CCD during his last year.
    May you never run out of words, nor your proclivity on topics never dry up!

    1. Gosh, what a lovely thing to say about sharing them with newbies. That’s one of my goals. And I have some good friends and readers who try to keep me thoughtful in that department.

      Caring for Cricket was a once in a lifetime thing. I was so glad to have her that long, and it was so touching to work out ways to still do things together.

      Thank you for the wonderful wishes. Sounds like a blessing!

      1. I know exactly how you feel about Cricket ~ my lovely Shelley passed in March from renal failure which was diagnosed in 2010. When she was evaluated in Oct 2012 she was in Stage 4 and the months from Jan were very difficult in some ways, yet in others very, very close and full of laughter. As with you and Cricket it was a question of how much she could do, – particularly if she’d hadn’t had sufficient food – controlling pain, and yet, to the end she was still learning new behaviours/tricks. This is the most I’ve been able to write about her since she passed. I do want to, and will write a tribute to her when I can do so without dissolving into tears.

  10. I’m new to your blog & just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy it! Over the last several I’ve learned a little something new and was reminded of many things I’ve forgotten. You keep it up, girl! Kudos to you!

  11. ♫ ♪♥ (,) ♫♪♥
    …..~.| |~ ♪ ♫ HAPPY ♫ ♪
    …{░♥░♥░} ♫ BIRTHDAY ♪ ♫
    ¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤/ ♫ ♪ ♪ ♫
    I’m most interested to know a little more about you. I’m grateful that a lot of my questions have been answered in this wonderful anniversary blog. Some more I had….. When do you get the time to write? And how often? How long does each blog take you? Do you have a special “writing” place? Feel free to flick me an email if you think these questions might bore others 🙂 info@dogcharming.com.,au

    1. Sonya I love my birthday wishes! That’s magnificent! Thanks! I like your questions, too, and I will answer them here but probably not today. There’s one answer: Mondays are _not_ one of the days I have much time to write. I’ll aim for tomorrow. In the meantime here’s a blogger interview I responded to that has some more info about how much I write.

      1. Thanks. That link was interesting to read. If you ever get a minute…would you be able to post me some links or direct me to find out more about Google Key word tool that you mentioned in that interview? Still don’t know how you write so much in such a short time (from my perspective) – your content is really well thought out. Keep it up. 🙂

  12. I like blogs from the “big name” trainers but they often have forgotten what its like to be fumbling your way through in those first few years. Your blog makes me feel OK about the stupid mistakes I make, and has probably prevented a few stupid mistakes too as I try to learn from your experiences. Thank you!

  13. Eileen, I always look forward to your next blog entry, and enjoy learning from your viewpoint. Your writing is wonderful, heartfelt and clear, and my wish on your blog anniversary that you are still writing and communicating with us for ten (and more!) years.

  14. WOW! What a year Eileen. Happy Birthday, but the gift has been your blog to us your readers and to all their dogs who benefit from your understanding and compassion for all things DOG.
    Love your clarity, passion and humble willingness to share your experience and vast knowledge.
    You’re the best,

  15. I don’t believe you’ve only been here a year! Congratulations on a very successful first year, and all the best for years to come.

  16. I can’t remember anymore where I found your blog, but I’m in the process of reading it from the beginning. I love your writing style, your videos, and what I’m learning from you. I have an 18 month old vizsla, and I can tell you that he has benefitted from your blog! I also live in the Atlanta metro area, so hope to actually meet you sometime in the flesh!!

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