eileenanddogs

Category: News

Announcements, awards, birthdays and more!

My iBook is Out!

My iBook is Out!

rememberme_rev2I am pleased to announce that the iBooks version of Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is available today!

I mean, really pleased! I’m not sure if this was the hardest version to create, but at this point, I am certainly the tired-est. 

This version is for sale only through Apple (iTunes or iBooks) and is optimized for the iPad. It’s also viewable on an iPhone or on the iBooks computer app.

Get "Remember Me" iBook from Apple

My book is also available at other locations as a paperback, a Kindle e-book, and a PDF. See the bottom of the post for purchase links for those versions. 

Screenshot Gallery

Click on a thumbnail for a bigger version. 

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Other Buying Options

Buy from Amazon      Buy from DogWise    Buy from Barnes and Noble

Buy from Google         Buy PDF (from me–goes directly to cart)       

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Please share this post–I know those iPad people are out there!

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Copyright Eileen Anderson 2016

 

Version 2

Join Me on DogRead!

Join Me on DogRead!

I am privileged to have been invited to be a featured author on the Yahoo group DogRead, the original cyber book club. I’ll be answering questions about my book, Remember Me: Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, from January 16th through 31st.

Come join us! If you aren’t already a member of DogRead, you can request membership at its Yahoo Groups homepage: Dog-Related online Book Club w/Authors.

Remember Me 3dI’ve set a 10% discount on my book in all markets worldwide from today until January 26, 2016. You can purchase it here: Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.

We’ll also be discussing canine cognitive dysfunction in general, but remember: CCD is a medical problem. No one can diagnose a dog over the internet, especially me. In my book I advise people in 27 different places to check with their vets! But we can talk about how best to live with our senior dogs, how to enrich their lives, and we can give each other moral support about the inevitable hard questions that arise.

Hope to see you in the DogRead group! Thank you so much to DogRead for inviting me, and to Dogwise for sponsoring the group.

Eileen Anderson and Cricket, a rat terrier with canine cognitive dysfunction
My dear rat terrier Cricket had cognitive dysfunction but had a good life to the very end

More About My Book

 

Copyright Eileen Anderson 2016

Pet Blogger Challenge 2016

Pet Blogger Challenge 2016

2016

Thank you to Go Pet Friendly for the Pet Blogger Challenge. This is the second time I’ve participated. I did the Challenge in 2013 when I had only been blogging for about 6 months. Now that it’s been 3 1/2 years, I feel like doing it again!

I look forward to learning about some blogs that are new to me through this challenge, and perhaps reaching some new readers in my little corner of the dog training world.

Join the Pet Blogger Challenge Jan 9th, 10th and 11th

1. How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone who is visiting for the first time, please give a quick description of the subject of your blog. I started blogging in July 2012, so I have been at it for 3 1/2 years now. My blog is about living with and training dogs, with an emphasis on sharing my experience as a serious amateur positive reinforcement trainer. I love writing about learning theory and spreading the word that we don’t have to hurt or scare our dogs to train them.

2. What is the one thing that you accomplished during 2015, either on your blog or because of it, that made you most proud? That’s easy. I finished my book on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and got the Kindle version out! Writing and especially publishing the book is a direct result of my experience as a blogger. I have gained confidence in my ability to put my ideas out in public and cope with the very large and sometimes critical audience on the internet. Much of that confidence is a result of interaction with my lovely, loyal readers. Thank you all!

3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? My favorite was probably “But It Worked for MY Dog!” I think it’s so important for people to realize that promoting an idiosyncratic or aversive training method is not good practice.

4. A common theme from last year’s challenge was that many of us wanted to increase the size of our audiences. Whether or not we intend to monetize our blogs, it seems we’d all like to reach more people. It feels good to know that we’re connecting with others, sharing a laugh or supporting a cause, and it’s motivating to see those numbers grow! What is one thing you’ve done in the past year that has brought more traffic to your blog? I am curating on Pinterest, and I’ve started to see the beginnings of a nice little referral source. Pinterest works well for me because the boards break things into topics so nicely, and I like having an organized place to stash my stuff for my own benefit as well.

5. Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? Why do you think it was so popular?  The post in 2015 that got the most views was “Before You Share That “Cute” Dog and Baby Picture.” I think it was popular because 1) the positive reinforcement training community is full of people who are trying to get the message out about the potential dangers of certain kinds of interactions between kids and dogs; and 2) I didn’t single out any particular individual or story. The post was not controversial in that it didn’t criticize any individual, beyond the use of a still from a public domain video.

6. What is one blog that you read religiously – other than your own – and what makes you such a devoted reader?  How about three? Dog Charming by Sonya Bevan, Awesome Dogs by Yvette Van Veen, and Fearful Dogs Blog by Debbie Jacobs. I love Sonya Bevan’s writing because she is so gentle and empathetic with dogs without being smug about it. Very understated, yet clear with her message. I fell in love with Yvette Van Veen’s writing a year or two back when she wrote a stunner of a blog about shock and doggedly, tirelessly, and logically answered every commenter who tried to argue with her. For weeks. And Debbie Jacobs has a genius for metaphor and humor and gets the right messages out about fearful dogs in ways that dog owners can understand and implement.

7. What resources do you rely on to enhance your technical, writing, photography, social media, or other skills that improve your blog? I’m a techie so I use lots of WordPress plugins and do things like convert popular posts into pages and use canonical tags to send the reader from one to the other while avoiding duplicate content demerits from Google. I read about SEO all the time and title and tag my posts very carefully. I draw the line at seeding in too many keywords–I don’t go beyond what will serve the text. I purposely write on learning theory topics where I can likely shoot to the top of the search engine results. For example, here’s the Google search for What’s an Antecedent Arrangement? I have positions 1, 2, and 8.

8. What is the best piece of advice you can offer other bloggers? Don’t start off with product promotion and sponsorship. You will never escape. It will mold your attitude, your writing and affect the tons of tiny decisions you make as a writer. Start writing because you have something to say. Sure, you can monetize without compromise, but take a long view. Build your voice and your audience first. Do that well and you will have a loyal following.

9. What is your vision for your blog in 2016? Do you have specific goals? I am going to be “booking a blog,” that is, putting together some similarly themed posts into a book. So I’ll be writing some posts specifically to fill in the blanks. (The topic is a secret for now!) Other than that, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I enjoy it so much.

10. You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there one blogging challenge you’d like help with, or one aspect of your blog that you’d like input on? I would love to talk to other people who host their own WordPress sites and talk about our favorite plugins. Am I a nerd or what?

Copyright Eileen Anderson 2016

Credit for 2016 graphic: Freebie from Canstock Photo. Thanks!

Webinar: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Webinar: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Has your dog been diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction?  Do you want tips about living with and caring for a frail or cognitively declining dog?

Join me in my webinar on canine cognitive dysfunction and dog dementia through the Pet Professional Guild on Monday, December 14, at 1:00 PM U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

Cricket-dementia-under-chair
My rat terrier Cricket standing with her head under a chair

I’ll be covering the definition and prevalence of the disease (much more prevalent than most of us knew!), common symptoms (including on video), the treatments that show promise, and questions to ask your vet. I’ll also discuss the commonalities with human Alzheimer’s, and most important, how to keep a dog with dementia safe and enriched. I’ll include the subjects of euthanasia and quality of life. Euthanasia seems to be an even more difficult decision for owners of dogs with dementia than with a dog with most other infirmities.

Even though the behavioral symptoms that arise with cognitive dysfunction mostly can’t be modified with training, I’ll talk about how trainers can help their clients with dogs afflicted with this condition.

There will be resources galore for further information including product descriptions, information about communities, and assessment and decision-making tools. Plus, the webinar will be recorded, and all participants will receive the URL for access. This is a great option if you can’t come at the scheduled time.

Cricket-and-Eileen-outside-keep
Cricket with advanced cognitive dysfunction late in her life

Hope to see you there!

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: What Dog Trainers and Owners Need to Know

This webinar covers general information from dog owner and trainer’s point of view. It should not take the place of a vet visit. If your older dog is exhibiting symptoms, please make a vet appointment now.

I’d Like to Thank the Academy

I’d Like to Thank the Academy

I got wonderful news earlier this week: I was nominated for and won an award from The Academy for Dog Trainers.

The Academy has yearly awards that are mostly in-house, but this year they decided to include a category for work done outside the Academy.

I was awarded the first “The Academy Applauds” award for my work here on eileenanddogs.com.

I am so honored.  Thank you, thank you, and thank you again!

Below is the letter from the Academy. I have also put a permanent graphic in the sidebar of the blog. And I’ll include a photo of my “statue” when I get it!

Academy award

Back Atcha

Thank you to the following:

  • Jean Donaldson and the students of the Academy (not just for this award, but for the work you do and what you stand for)
  • All blog readers
  • All blog commenters
  • Everyone who has shared a post
  • Everyone who has subscribed to the blog or Liked the Facebook page
  • Everyone who has provided a graphic or photo
  • Everyone who has made a video for me
  • Everyone who has pointed out little errors
  • Everyone who has pointed out big errors, privately or publicly
  • Everyone who has helped me with drafts of blogs and movies
  • The serious learning theory mavens–at all levels–who help me tackle the hard questions
  • Folks who have given me an idea for a blog, whether they knew it or not
  • Folks who have said, “Attagirl!”
  • Folks who have disagreed constructively
  • People who translated a post into another language or subtitled a movie
  • Pet owners who have decided to venture forth and take those first few steps with a clicker and treats
  • Pet owners who have realized they needed in-person help and hired a positive reinforcement based trainer or vet behaviorist
  • My training “other half,” who seems to think everything I think
  • All you pro trainers out there on the front lines
  • People who provide and manage quality, free Internet resources and keep their eyes on the prize: helping dogs and their owners over all else
  • The Pet Professional Guild
  • My friends and family
  • And of course…..my dogs!

This recognition is some of the best R+ ever. I’ll prove it by writing more!

Related Posts

I have received one other “official” recognition previously: a post of mine was featured on WordPress’ “Freshly Pressed.” This was “But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie Every Time They Tie Their Shoes!”

If you want to read my reasons for blogging, check out this “interview”: “2013 Pet Blogger Challenge.”

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Eileenanddogs on YouTube 

P.S. Thank you!

© Eileen Anderson 2014                                                                                                             eileenanddogs.com

Thresholds in Dog Training…HOW Many?

Thresholds in Dog Training…HOW Many?

I recently gave a webinar entitled, “Over Threshold: The Changing Definition,” for the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). The webinar is still available as a recording, and I encourage any interested folks to check it out. It is not expensive. (And thank you to everybody who already came! That was so cool to recognize some names!)

I am outlining here some basics from the webinar. The reason I created the webinar in the first place was to allay confusion in the dog community about definitions and to aid in communication. I think some straightforward definitions and a “map” will help many people and their dogs.

I argue that there are three distinct, necessary, and useful definitions of the word “threshold” in dog training. They are:

  1. Sensory threshold as defined in psychology. Here is one textbook definition: The faintest detectable stimulus, of any given type, is the absolute threshold for that type of stimulus.—Psychology, Peter Gray, 5th edition, 2007. In the webinar I go into the history, discuss types of thresholds in psychology (yes, even within the discipline there is more than one), and cite several more definitions and supporting information. There are many sensory thresholds: hearing, different aspects of vision, smell, touch, etc. One way the psych definition of absolute threshold is unfamiliar to our common use of “threshold” in training is that it is the stimulus that is above or below the threshold of the organism’s sensory capabilities. We say, “That sound is under the threshold of hearing,” not, “The dog is over its threshold of hearing.”  Organisms’ responses to sensory stimuli are often invisible to the naked eye, and the responses generally do not correlate to overt, “dramatic” behavior.
  2. Threshold in the common training sense. You can find definitions of this usage in books by Leslie McDevitt, Debbie Jacobs, Laura VanArendonk Baugh,  and more.  These definitions roughly agree. Here is Debbie Jacobs’, which is very straightforward:  The threshold is the point at which your dog can no longer deal with a trigger before reacting in a negative way (with fear or aggression).” — A Guide to Living With & Training a Fearful Dog, 2011I argue that this usage of the term generally corresponds to the response of the sympathetic nervous system: the fight/flight/freeze response or the fear response.  In this usage, it’s the dog that is said to be over threshold, not the stimulus. I also cover usages of the term “threshold” by behaviorists including Steven Lindsay, Dr. James O’Heare, and Dr. Karen Overall. They discuss dozens of sensory, physiological, and behavioral thresholds, and always specify which one they mean.
  3. Threshold of stimulus aversiveness. This threshold is the point at which an existing stimulus becomes aversive, generally because of the intensity of the exposure. I gave this threshold a name, but I didn’t invent the concept. It is necessary to locate this threshold through our dogs’  behavior when doing both desensitization/counterconditioning protocols and operant learning processes. Jean Donaldson defines it thusly: In DS/CC,  “under threshold” is: An intensity of stimulus that elicits no fear (and so the intensity of stimulus that would not function as R-)…. Not “mild fear” or “manageable fear,” it’s NO fear.–The Pitfalls of Negative Reinforcement, PPG Webinar, 2012.  Attention to this threshold is necessary also in negative reinforcement protocols that involve escape,  since the stimulus exposure must be over the threshold of aversiveness in order for escape to function as negative reinforcement.

I believe that most of the problems in discussion of thresholds in the dog training community are due to two major points of confusion: 1) Whether we’re talking about the dog or the stimulus being over threshold (confusion between Definitions #1 and #2); and 2) The fact that many of us haven’t realized there is a difference between Definitions #2 and #3.

Mapping it Out

Here is a graphic showing these three different thresholds, and where the major types of protocols for working with fearful, aggressive, or reactive dogs fall among them:

Thresholds for blog
 This graphic may be shared for educational purposes with the copyright and credits included, and I would appreciate online citations to link back to this post or the webinar page.

The combination of desensitization/counterconditioning is performed under the threshold of aversiveness, as Jean Donaldson describes. Protocols using negative reinforcement (escape/retreat from the aversive stimulus) must take place partly over the threshold of aversiveness, or else the movement away is not reinforcing. They generally go back and forth over that threshold. Finally, flooding takes place at or above the threshold of fear response. In the webinar I split things out further and map six different protocols separately; I have roughly grouped them for this graphic.

I also talk about the ways that some of the thresholds move and change, through training, external events, and the emotional state of the dog. I describe how certain protocols become more difficult if two of the thresholds are very close. For instance, for wild animals the threshold of sensory perception of a stimulus and the threshold of aversiveness of that stimulus may be practically on top of each other.  I address the often-heard claim that there is no negative reinforcement happening if the dog is “under threshold.” (Which threshold?)  Also, I discuss which protocol is likely to take place closer to the stimulus—but also why the absolute distance is not a good point of comparison.

Conclusion

I will be working further on this topic, in part because of some great questions asked at the end of the webinar, so you may expect more from me about it at some point.  For now I encourage anyone who wants further information to view the webinar.

Please note that the webinar does not have information on how to perform the above-mentioned training/conditioning protocols, on reading dog body language, or other training tips. It’s not about how to train a fearful or aggressive dog.  But the feedback I have gotten from viewers is that it has clarified an area of considerable confusion and that it will help their training.

Related Posts

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

Threshold Webinar

Threshold Webinar

Guess what, folks? If you wondered why I’m not posting much right now: I am giving a webinar through the Pet Professional Guild and have been working my butt off on that for several weeks. The webinar is Over Threshold: The Changing Definition. Click on the image below to sign up. (There is a charge: $10 for PPG members and $20 for non-members. There is one CEU available for CPDTs.)

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, February 19th, at 12:00 – 1:30 PM Central Standard Time (6:00 – 7:30 PM UTC).

<<Note: The live webinar has taken place, but is still available as a recording.>>

This will be very different from any other discussion about threshold you have ever participated in.

Be ready to find out:

  • Why there are so many different definitions of “threshold” floating around out there;
  • Why the use of the term in psychology and the use of the term in animal training don’t quite “fit”;
  • What effect this confusion has on training, and discussions about it;
  • Where desensitization/counterconditioning; negative reinforcement protocols such as are included in BAT* and  CAT**; and flooding fall with regard to these different definitions of threshold; and
  • What we can do to clear up our discourse.

Yes, those are the waters I am daring to jump into. Hope you can come!

Click on the image or the URL below.

Eileen and three dogs threshold2

Over Threshold: The Changing Definition (Still available as a recording.)

Coming up:

  • All-Natural
  • Which Dog is Playing?
  • Invisible Cues
  • How Skilled are You at Ignoring? (Extinction Part 2)
  • Is My Dog a Drama Queen?
  • More Training Errors: Cautionary Tales (I seem to have an abundance of these)

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

* Behavior Adjustment Training by Grisha Stewart

**Constructional Aggression Treatment by Kellie Snider

Sharing the Blog

Sharing the Blog

Share!
Share!

Every once in a while someone asks me if it’s OK to share one of my posts or videos, or perhaps link to them from their webpage. How polite of them to ask!

And, um, the answer is YES! If you want to, please link. If you are moved to, please share.

I decided to write this invitation since I deliberately do not plead with people to share my stuff, to sign up to follow the blog, or to Like my FaceBook page. Those options are there for those who want them, but I promote them almost not at all.

It occurred to me, since people ask, that people may not really know that I would love my stuff to be shared around. So here is an invitation.

Pressure Tactics

I write a lot about negative reinforcement. One of the reasons, I admit, is that I personally hate pressure, nagging, and attempts to influence my behavior, especially by self-interested people. A good friend says of me, “You’ll get along just fine with Eileen as long as you don’t try to get her to do something she doesn’t want to do.” I have a huge opposition reflex.

Applying pressure on the web is easy. You know those pop up windows that either prompt or actually require you to put in your email address before you can see some content? That, my friends, is classic negative reinforcement. Even without the annoying window, it can be R-, if the reader feels pressure to sign up for something or share personal information or take any particular action in order to get to something that interests them.

Here’s one that popped up while I was reading the first few paragraphs of an article. I decided it wasn’t worth it. Even though they gave an option to bypass the window, I decided I didn’t like them anymore.

Caption
A pop up window that came up multiple times while I was glancing at an article

Here’s one that appeared after I scanned an SEO company and decided I wasn’t interested and was heading for the button to close the window.

A popup that appears when you try to leave this website
A pop up that appears when you try to leave this website without signing up for their services

After that I really wasn’t interested!

You won’t see popups on my blog or FaceBook page, as long as I am in control. (I can’t imagine a situation where I would lose that control, but I tend to avoid absolute statements. Especially regarding FaceBook!) And as long as I have the means, and the online providers don’t change the rules, you won’t see ads or anything else you have to click away on my blog or YouTube channel.

I do have empathy and respect for people who earn their living, or part of it, through providing online products and resources. I understand that the basic marketing principle is to provide some information for free, develop an email list, and use it to sell the product. Lots of folks are very generous with their information, and it’s fair to promote their goods or services that have a price tag as well. But just FYI, you marketers out there, I personally don’t respond well to:

  • Popups that appear before I can see anything at all on the website;
  • Popups that appear when I’ve spent 30 seconds on a website just trying to get the sense of it;
  • Popups that appear repeatedly after I close them;
  • And popups that appear when I try to leave.

It’s so ham-handed. I can make my own decisions, thank-you-very-much. Buh-bye.

I will certainly sign up for someone’s email list on occasion if they take a low pressure approach and put a signup box on the page somewhere, or if a popup comes up after I click to say I’m interested. And I have been known to pay for an ebook or other resource from someone after I sign up for their email distribution list. I’m not looking for a free lunch. I just want to make decisions on the merits that I perceive, not because someone got pushy.

There’s a difference between making it easy to buy something and hard not to.

My, this turned into a little bit of a rant, didn’t it?

Spreading the Word

So given all that, I’m an unlikely candidate for a proselyte, but that just goes to show you never know where life will take you.

One of my big motivations for writing is to share the message about training as free from force, pain, and pressure as we possibly can. Sure, I have an ego. I’m a writer. I want to be read. But I have an additional motivation. I want to share good training practices with the people who are teetering on the edge of what methods to use and are tired of battling with their dogs. I also want to reach those who always knew that was the way they wanted to go and support them. Anyone who wants to listen. I get huge positive reinforcement when people respond to my posts, riff off them, and spread them around.

So, I’m saying to you: if you think my stuff is helpful, I would LOVE it if you share it.

One of the main ways that a website, including a blog, gets ranked highly on Google is if other sites link to it. And sites that rank highly on Google get on the first page of results. For instance, wouldn’t you love it if this site came up high in the results if someone is searching on terms related to shock collars?  I would.

What to Share

Share whatever you like the most, feel the best about, and whatever you think will help spread the word about training without pressure and pain.

In the menu at the top of the blog, there are four menu items that lead to topical pages, but I will link them here as well:

But there are lots of posts that don’t fit into those categories. Along the sidebar there is a search box where you can look up an old favorite; a list of the currently most popular posts; and an archive where you can view older posts  by date.

How to Share It

At the bottom of each post and page is a panel that says “Share this:” with lots of sharing options. Feel free to pick one and click it! And if you have your own website or blog, feel free to link to any posts here that you like. You can highlight the URL at the top of your browser, copy it, and paste it to share.

How to Follow the Blog

In case you didn’t know of these options:

  • If you want WordPress to send you an email every time I publish a post, click “Follow Blog via Email” in the sidebar at the left.
  • If you want to follow me on Twitter, click here, then click Follow. I am not very active there, but I do tweet every new post and the occasional post from someone else.
  • If you want to get an announcement of each post on FaceBook, you can Like my FaceBook page.
  • If you want to follow via RSS, click on the RSS link in the sidebar.

Other Favorites

Just to share the love a little, here are my current top four favorite posts from other folks. Feel free to share them, too! (Note that I am breaking a cardinal rule here, and may be shooting myself in the foot by sending you off somewhere else right at this crucial moment. But hey, these are GREAT posts.)

Thank you, most of all, for reading!

And for sharing if you choose to.

Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

eileenanddogs’ First Birthday!

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

Feature

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

2013 Pet Blogger Challenge

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 2013 Eileen Anderson

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Cape Town, South Africa