Hi, My Name is Sierra and I'm a Crossover Trainer

What the actual heck is a crossover trainer? A crossover trainer is a dog training that started training in “pack” based, aversive or balanced dog training and adopted a science-based, positive reinforcement style of training.

Just like everyone else, I watched The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan when it aired in 2004, making me 14 years old at the time. My family and I tried some of his techniques with our dogs and saw success. Our dogs were already well behaved with no behavioral issues, we just affirmed ourselves as "pack leaders". It made sense to me then.

 My first dog Dyna!

My first dog Dyna!

When I was 17 I decided I wanted to rehabilitate dogs and teach people how to be "pack leaders" the way I learned how to do it from TV. I looked down on dog trainers because I had only heard negative things about carrying around treats to get the dogs to be obedient. Trainers also spoke to dogs with high pitched voices and treated dogs like human babies. Which is NOT something a pack leader would do. 

I kept my pack leader status on the down low for a long time. About 10 years after seeing the first DW episode I read my first positive reinforcement book. For 10 years I believed in corrections and pack theory. The first book I read was “Coaching People to Train Their Dogs” by Terry Ryan. I rolled my eyes several times while reading it and, to be honest, I don’t know why I kept reading. Just like other pack theorists, I thought I knew everything there was to know about dog training, so why was I reading a book written by a treat-peddler? When I was done with that book, I read another one, and another. I don’t remember when it happened, but one day I admitted to myself that I had been wrong all along and that I needed to change everything. My outlook on behavior, my approach and my methods. It wasn’t easy to admit I had been wrong and I was in denial about it for a couple months. As I kept reading book after book there was no way I could deny the science behind it.

Before I knew it I became one of those treat-peddling sissy poos who always has treats, talks in a high pitched voice and has their dogs on a harness. 14 year old me would be rolling her eyes if she had the chance to meet her future self!

 

Keep an open mind,

Sierra 

Sierra Molesworth KPA CTP

I'm so excited to announce that I passed all my assessments and graduated from the Karen Pryor Academy and now am a KPA CTP (Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner). In this post I want to talk about the process of becoming certified and what I had to do to accomplish this goal. In another post I will talk about why you must look for a certified dog trainer should you ever need professional help with your dog. 

There are many ways a person can become certified. The two main routes are a dog training school or credit hours paired with an exam. Both have pros and cons that I wont dive into here. 

In 2014 I decided that I would complete 200 credit hours, give three letters recommendations and take a test through the Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers. I floundered with hours because assisting in training classes only counted for 75 hours, it didn't matter how many hours I assisted, I was capped at 75. I wasn't comfortable with being a dog trainer and promoting myself as a dog trainer to acquire the hours needed to be a certified dog trainer through the CCPDT. It seemed backwards to me. After a while of being stagnant I knew this avenue wasn't for me. 

Two years into driving the struggle bus I decided to take the expensive plunge and sign up for the KPA. The 6 month program could have me done and certified pretty quick! I liked the structure and outline of the curriculum. My only hesitation was having to be a 'clicker trainer'. I put in an application, had an interview, provided two references and I was accepted! The school requires the student have a dog to train and complete the program with and one other species (non-dog) to train. I chose Tesla over Norma because Tesla is a spring chicken with energy and enthusiasm for days; she was so much fun to train and she obviously enjoys it, too. For my second species I chose a horse because my mom and I are not short on horses and that is the only other species I had regular access to. Most people choose cats or fish.

 Another species?! What does that have to do with dog Training? I heard those questions a lot. Training another species is a great way to sharpen observation skills and prove that not only are all animals capable of learning, but they are all trainable through positive reinforcement clicker training. We can teach them to do things we didn't think was possible. The most rewarding part of the training was teaching Sky to put her ears forward! Look at how purposeful she is. 

I began my KPA journey in May with a local-ish instructor. I progressed through online chapters, trained the corresponding behaviors and then met together with my fellow students and my instructor for a weekend type workshop where I practiced skills and demonstrated what I had taught Tesla. I was with that group a short time as something came up and I had to defer to another group and start over again, which was a little discouraging and it put my graduation date months behind schedule. I could choose another similar-style group in Washington, and graduate even later, or I could join the 'national' group which was all online with a week long workshop in California, and I chose California. Everything went smoothly for me working online and submitting training videos to my instructor. The hard part was driving to California in January! I had to leave three days sooner than I anticipated to beat a snow storm. 

At the workshop I learned a lot about the intricacies of dog behavior and how to help dog owner's with behavior issues. I was also able to sharpen my observation and clicker skills by training the other student's dogs and shelter dogs! 

It wasn't easy. Like all learning experiences there were a lot of ups and downs, not just for me but for Tesla as well. Although deferring to another group set back my graduation time it really gave me the time to solidify training concepts such as shaping, which was a point of frustration for Tesla and I at first. I also learned how to be as clear as humanly possible when giving cues and how a lot of confusion can be cleared up by looking at your own behavior as the trainer. I'm thankful for the journey and the outcome and I am excited to see where my first year as a certified dog trainer takes me! 

There's one big thing checked off my 2017 goals list! Here's to a wonderful year.

 

Sierra

New Year's Goals

I do not believe "resolutions" work, but I do believe in setting and smashing your goals into a million pieces. And by smashing them into a million pieces I mean accomplishing them with great force, not killing them before they even get started. Here are some of my biggest goals of 2017:

Get freaking certified! OMg I've been working on this goal for a while now. But last year I signed up for the Karen Pryor Academy school. Finally gonna do it, going to be certified! There were a few hiccups and I had to defer to another class, setting my goal back six months. Next week I am driving my happy ass down to California, a 9-12 hr drive, to the week long workshop and tests. Wish me luck! I think Tesla and I will pass with flying colors. 

Doggy sport with Tesla. After getting certified and living happily ever after, I really really really want to get into a sport with Terse. We took 3 agility classes last year almost back to back and she excelled, and we both had a great time! This year I would like to get back into classes and find a beginner agility competition in Oregon, hopefully not far from me. If I can't find an agility chapter close to me, I could at least rent the space at my local doggy day care and practice agility there. 

Work-work balance. Some of you may not know, but I have another job. My family owns a cherry orchard and I spend a lot of time there doing cherry orchard stuff. Whatever that means, because I still don't know. I love the orchard and I love dog training and I don't see why I can't have both. Por que no los dos, verdad? My biggest goal this year, is to find a happy work-work balance. 

Raw fed dogs. Sandwiched between all these wonderful goals is my goal to get both girls on a raw food diet. Yes, that is as disgusting as it sounds. Especially because I am vegan and I don't eat meat or handle raw meat in my normal life, its pretty traumatizing. Norma is mostly on a raw diet right now and I've seen some improvements in her older age. I'd like to get both girls on the diet because of how awesome it is for their teeth, bones, and everything. The prep is what is holding me back. It's pretty time consuming if you go to the store and buy everything, measure it, chop stuff, separate each meal into its own container, 4 hours later you're hungry and your hands are covered in raw meat germs. Yuck. There are ways around this and I could pay an arm and a leg to have everything shipped to my house. Still need to separate everything out and find room in the freezer. I would like this to be accomplished before the summer. 

Those are my 4 dog and business related goals for 2017! I have a lot more personal goals for the new year but half of the fun is keeping them to yourself. What are your new years goals? Tell me in the comments!

 

until next week

Sierra

Tesla Recommended Doggie Gifts

Tis the season! Happy holidays! Ho ho ho. It's December y'all. The weather outside is super frightful here in Oregon. Roads are closed, people are snowed in and there is a sense of pandaemonium everywhere! Truth be told, I am one of those people who are snowed in. When you get 8-10 inches of snow and your driveway is a quarter mile long, it's just not worth the effort. In my cabin fever delirium I came up with an excellent gift guide I think you might be interested in. At the very least, your dog can appreciate. 

Please tell me you have a stocking for your dog. If you don't, I don't know what you're doing with your life. There are customizable stockings and ones filled with toys! Also, a variety of Christmas toys to put in your dog's stocking. We hoomans call these "stocking stuffers". The Christmas-themed toys do not appear to be for destructo dogs, proceed with caution. 

OOOOOooooo festive collars!  You can really go crazy with these. Some even light up; what a time to be alive. 

If you are trying to keep your dog busy while you open presents or to keep him from destroying the tree give him something to chew on. Never leave your dog unsupervised with chewies. 

I like getting new dog beds around Christmas becuase I want my dogs to be comfy cozy during these cold months! These look more comfortable than my bed. 

I could go on forever, but I'm going to stop with that. I have to save some goods for the rest of the year! 

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase any of the items seen here from Amazon you will be supporting the blog at no extra cost to you. Win win. 

See you next week,

Sierra

Do You Know How to Greet a Dog?

Hmmmm, do ya? I bet most of you don't! 

For the most part, dogs don’t want to be petted by complete and total strangers. It would be like you walking up to a stranger on the street and giving them a hug. Some people are into that, but most are not. Most humans want to keep to themselves and not interact with strangers. The same cannot be said when we see a cute dog on the street. Most people use high-pitched, excited voices and immediately want to touch the dog in some way. Dogs don’t like that crap. Sure, Goldens and Labs have never met a stranger, but I’d like to see someone run up and give a Basenji a kiss on the head. This is why so many people are getting bit! They don’t/can’t read the body signals of an uncomfortable dog and keep pushing until the dog is so horribly overwhelmed and uncomfortable, that he bites. Children especially can’t see these signs and their parents haven’t taught them the proper way of meeting a dog. Here are the do's and don'ts:

 I don't recommend picking up a puppy you just met, but Tesla was game! Her and Alyssa are BBFs. 

I don't recommend picking up a puppy you just met, but Tesla was game! Her and Alyssa are BBFs. 

Don't: stare at the dog. I purposefully avoid all eye contact with strange dogs because eye contact is threatening in the dog world, literally the opposite of the human world. Humans are taught throughout life that eye contact is respectful. Don’t do that to a dog unless you really know each other. 

Do: Let the dog greet you. I’m not talking about shoving your hand in his face! Let the dog smell you on his own accord. Usually, he'll sniff the shoe and pants area as he can get a lot of information. Sometimes it can get a little awkward when he start smelling your personal areas, but he's not being crude, he's just getting information about you so calm down. 

 This picture was taken about an hour after I took Tesla from the shelter! She mets lots of people and dogs. She said hi to everyone there. 

This picture was taken about an hour after I took Tesla from the shelter! She mets lots of people and dogs. She said hi to everyone there. 

Do: Listen to the dog. If the dog wants to engage with you at this point he’ll tell you. He’ll lean on you or look up to your face; if he's not into you he'll walk away. It's really that simple. 

Don't: Loom overhead. If all systems are go and he wants to interact with you, feel free to get on his level and not bend over the top of him. This can be scary to some dogs, especially little dogs. Unfortunately, this is the way our anatomy is; we bend at the waist and most dogs are shorter than our standing arm’s reach. Thats why I suggest squatting or sitting in a chair where he can solicit attention from you. Not you shoving your attention onto him. 

 Tesla is so comfortable with Alyssa that she'll lay on her foot!

Tesla is so comfortable with Alyssa that she'll lay on her foot!

Do: Pet his body. Pet an unfamiliar dog on the chest, side or back. not on the top of the head. Have you ever been patted on the head when you weren’t expecting it? It’s very startling when you don’t see it coming. This is true for dogs as well. Most dogs don’t actually like being petted on the head at all! Stick to body scratches or belly rubs (if that's what the dog wants) with an unfamiliar dog. 

Sometimes I think people think I’m being cold when I meet a new dog, but really, I’m putting the ball in his court and trying to make him as comfortable as possible. I want to pet a dog that wants to receive attention, not force myself on him! I let a dog I'm unfamiliar with call all the shots and that's how it should be. For the safety of the dog and the human! 

PS. Always ask the owner for permission to pet their dog! They know their dog much better than you do. 

How do you greet a strange dog? I hope it follows these guidelines. 


See ya'll next week

XO

Sierra