eileenanddogs

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Eileenanddogs: 2018 Pet Blogger Challenge

Eileenanddogs: 2018 Pet Blogger Challenge

These are my responses to the questions from the Go Pet Friendly Pet Blogger Challenge. 

For those who may be visiting your blog for the first time, how long have you been blogging and what is your main topic?

I have been blogging since July 2012: five and a half years now. My focus is positive reinforcement-based dog training. I have an interesting niche because I am fairly well versed in behavior science (for a person without credentials in that field) but I am not a professional trainer. So one thing I do a lot is to analyze my own klutzy training errors (sometimes with video). Sort of a real life “Don’t do as I do.” I also write about misconceptions in dog training and produce some more technical articles about learning theory.

What was your proudest blogging moment of 2017?

sandy brown dog with black muzzle waiting on floor at vet officeI think it was being able to blog about the successes of my formerly feral dog Clara. Clara got a rough start in life with no human contact. She came to me at about 10 weeks of age. She accepted me as her family, but every other human was greeted with growling. With the help of a fabulous trainer and friend, we did slow motion catch-up socialization for six years. There were some long plateaus, and even some steps backwards. But I realized this year that Clara has become resilient. She is more relaxed at the vet than most “normal” dogs. She is confident in new locations. She is much more comfortable with people. She has always been fabulous at home; now I can share her with the world a little bit. I blogged about this in November.

A Milestone for Clara: Socialization Work Pays Off

Also, a post of mine on conditioning my dog to the sound of Velcro got picked up and purchased by Clean Run magazine. (That’s in addition to four articles I wrote directly for the magazine this year.

Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)

It’s a tie between the post I wrote about my dog Summer and one where I defined a functional assessment in dog training. They are very different. The post about Summer was a tribute to my non-dramatic dog, my quiet dog, my alter ego. I wrote it before I knew she was sick. I published it after she died of canine hemangiosarcoma.

Unsung Summer

Changing gears a bit: my post about functional assessments may sound a bit dry, but actually it is a great help for people trying to find or assess a dog trainer. Putting it bluntly: hacks and one-size-fits-all trainers don’t do functional assessments. They don’t study the dog’s behavior, determine what is driving it, and design a plan with those things in mind. In the post, I explain the functional assessment and its purpose, and I teach readers how to recognize when a trainer is doing one.

What’s a Functional Assessment in Dog Training and Why You Should Care

In terms of your blog, how do you measure success?

Besides the usual—hits, shares, and comments—I feel that a post is a success if someone tells me that it changed the way they looked about something or helped them with their dog. I’m also very proud of my posts that are on the first page of Google, especially in the top spot.

In what ways has your blog changed during 2017?

I’d like to think that my writing has gotten tighter. When I first started blogging, I let my posts run as long as I felt like. I have always edited a lot, but in the past couple of years, I have started editing more for length. I don’t want to be one of those people who take advantage of the tolerance of their readers. I want to make things as pleasant and smooth and non-wandering as I can.

What was the biggest blogging challenge you overcame in 2017, and what did you learn that could help other bloggers?

When things get hard, what keeps you blogging? 

I hope I don’t sound like a jerk here, but things never get really hard for me when blogging. Some of the other writing and editing I do can get to be a chore sometimes. But blogging is dessert. I love it. I don’t have any problems thinking of things to write about—I have 100+ partially written posts in the works at any given time. Motivation isn’t a problem. Just carving out the time.

Looking forward to 2018, what are you hoping to accomplish on your blog this year?

I haven’t had a blockbuster post for a while. I like serious posts that bring something new to a subject. I have a couple in the works, including one on Herrnstein’s Matching Law. I’m excited about that. Yes, I’m a nerd.

In addition to what you’d like to accomplish, is here one specific skill you’d like to improve or master this year? 

I am working on setting up schema for my blog posts. It’s a way of adding coding to the posts that tells Google in a language it understands about the topic and technical aspects of the post. Posts with schema often appear in Google search results with a photo included and are presented in a more attractive way. I’m actually starting on my dog dementia blog and will get to Eileenanddogs.com a bit later.

Now it’s your turn! You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there a question you’d like answered, or an aspect of your blog that you’d like input on? Share it here, and we’ll answer you in the comments!

I would love to talk to others who are working on schema and other SEO enhancements of their blogs, especially WordPress users. I have specific questions about how to edit the WordPress code directly after using a plugin to set up schema. If anyone can help me with that, please comment! I’ll be happy to offer some other kind of technical support in exchange.

Thank you to Go Pet Friendly for the 8th Annual Pet Blogger Challenge!

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Copyright 2018 Eileen Anderson

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!

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