Think about the Dos


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When thinking or talking about a behavior your dog does that you want to change, do you think about the dos or the don’ts?  The things you do want your dog to do?  Or the things you don’t want your dog to do?

Trying to plan the don’ts is a common thought process.  What do I mean?  Let’s recount a conversation I’ve had endless number of times over the years.


golden retriever sitting against my leg for some pets

Client comes to me with a behavior they’d like to change with their dog.  Let’s say how the dog greets people.  The conversation goes something like this,

Me: “What would you like your dog to do when they see other people?”

Client:  “I don’t want him to jump on them.”

Me: “I understand that’s what you don’t want him to do, but what do you want him to do?”

Client: Pause.  “I don’t want him to jump on people…” (clearly thinking, “Katrin what are you not understanding about what I just said!”)

Me:  “Ok, that’s what you don’t want.  What do you want?  Would you be ok if instead he barked at people?  Or sat in front of them?  Or looked at you?  Or stood behind you?  Or….”

Client:  “Well I don’t want him to bark at people!  [silent, ‘duh, Katrin!  of course I wouldn’t want that either!’] I don’t know what I want him to do, how about sit?”

Me:  “Great!”  Now we are getting somewhere…we can make a training plan for a dog to practice sit when he sees people.  (and depending on the dog and what I’ve seen thus far, I then likely make some recommendations on what alternative behaviors this particular dog would be more comfortable and successful with)

My point is if you focus on the don’ts, the door is open for many other dos.  If you only focus on that you don’t want the dog to jump on people, is the dog barking at them ok?  Is him biting them ok?  How about him peeing on them?  Or running around them in circles?  Or digging a hole when he sees people?  Or running away from them?  If you focus on the don’t, how can you help prevent many other behaviors you likely wouldn’t want either?

My encouragement for the day, think about the dos when you want to change a behavior.  What behavior do you want to increase in frequency?  Then make a training plan around that.



Andis Deshedding Tool


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It’s been a long long time since a grooming tool shocked me in a good way.  Honestly, it’s been a long long time since I was motivated enough by a review to purchase a new type of dog grooming tool.  I’m pretty traditional, sticking to my trusty greyhound comb, with occasional support from the slicker brush and ZoomGroom.  But a friend, who has australian shepherds, really recommended the Andis Deshedding Tool and I read a number of other reviews from people with a wide range of breed and coat type dogs that promised it only pulled out undercoat and didn’t cut the top coat as many deshedding tools do, so I spent the $20 and bought one, added it on to the dog food order for the month from

black rubber dog grooming tool with metal curved blades and the paper it came in saying andis deshedding tool

It arrived today.  I’m completely blown away.  I do not think I have EVER managed to get this much undercoat out of Tom with such ease in such a short amount of time.  And as promised, very very minimal top coat came out, 99+% of what I pulled out was fluffy soft undercoat.  Undercoat that is now in the trash and not all over my house.


Tom in harness and is cool coat after our grooming session lying on the floor waiting for me to be ready to go out on a route

Tried it on Zora too, again so much under coat, very very little top coat pulled out.  It was AWESOME!!

I was told the trick with it is to always use it following the grain of the coat, and to do it in as long strokes as possible.  Apparently if you use it against the grain, or in short choppy strokes, you can risk cutting and pulling out the top coat.  Not something I want to do.  Undercoat only is my goal.

I’m getting zero compensation from Andis or for this review.  I’m so impressed I feel compelled to tell others.  Seriously, I’m floored, which at this point in my dog life is pretty hard to do I’ll be honest.  Awesome tool and best $20 I’ve spent on the dogs in quite some time.

Strong Opinions


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Tom can be a very opinionated fellow. Makes what he wants very well known. Amazing how one so silent, can be so clear.

Black lab cross face staring up nose against my jeans

Toms “I want a walk” communication

Take for example today’s walk. There is a small couple block neighborhood about a mile up the street the dogs and I were walking in this morning.

At one of the crossings, Tom puts hard pressure on the harness to the left. He wants to go across. We aren’t going that way. I don’t know how to get home that way. I don’t even know if that way goes anywhere, it could be another weird cul de sac that this neighborhood seems to have plopped down in odd places I haven’t yet fully figured out.

I tell him so, “No, Tom, right.”

He stands firm. Clear he wants us to go on an adventure. Wants to go explore that other part of the neighborhood

“No, Tom, not today. right”

He says, “fine!” And turns right. Then stops dead.

“Tom, forward”

“No. I wanted to go left!”

“Tom. Forward. Hop up!”

He gives an exasperated sigh, and takes two slow steps forward. Pauses, double checking I won’t reconsider, decides I’m not going to give in, we really won’t go to the left today, and starts leading forward down the sidewalk I’ve asked for. “Good boy! Thank you!” I roll my eyes, mumble under my breathe “seriously dog”

Strong opinions. A dog with very strong opinions. Which is good in my life in the grand scheme of things. Having a guide dog who has no qualms telling me I’m wrong has saved my rear more times I care to recall. But does mean the occasional discussion.

At least once he’s decided I’ve heard him and not agreed, he does embrace what I’ve asked. Full speed ahead the rest of the walk. Good boy.

Zora and Dulce in all of this? Patiently waiting on my right. They’ve learned best to wait it out till the 2 masters of the walk sort out their differences. Lol.

Summer vacation


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Sometimes I forget how nice (and needed) it is to get away from the house until we go. One of my best friends was graduating from Canine Companions for Independence with her very first service dog and invited us to the ceremony, so off we went.

3 days and 2 nights on Long Island was a perfect little get away. Zora had fun staying with one of our walking friends, and Tom was over the moon for the change of scene, getting to work on the ferry, in the hotel and around the places we went. Hubby and I were happy get away from the house leaving work and house responsibilities behind.

Zora lying with her head on a Goose toy at our friend who was sitting her house

Ok, giving Tom a special ice cream treat didn’t hurt his enthusiasm either

Tom in harness sitting in the car ice cream on his chin

I’m so so so happy for my friend, she was matched with an amazing new partner. If you want to watch the graduation ceremony for the CCI northeast region, she was the graduate team speaker:

Yellow lab service dog sitting next to woman in wheel chair, me standing beside her and Tom lying down beside

It was a great little get away.

Little Bites of Weird


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If you asked me to describe how ground cherries taste I’d say, “little bites of weird.”  I don’t know what else to call it.

My hubby wanted us (really me) to grow ground cherries in the garden this year.  He has fond memories of them from childhoods spent at his grandparent’s on the cape.  So we bought a seed packet of them, and tossed them in the ground this spring.  As I dislike growing seedlings in cups in the house then dealing with transplanting them (most often unsuccessfully), I ignored all recommendations to start them inside ahead of time.  The seeds seemed to bear me no ill will for my decision.  In fact, compared to most people’s online reviews of seed packets of ground cherries from this company, my packet seemed to really enjoy not being sprouted in the house.  We have SO MANY PLANTS!!  Anyone want some ground cherries?  Drop me a line.  SO MANY!!!


Just a few of our growing ground cherry plants, tall green leafy plants with green unripe fruit

Anyway the first ripened little husks dropped to the ground.  I’ve had my first ever taste of ground cherry.  Little bite of weird.  No other way to describe it.  Not at all bad.  I guess kind of good?  Just weird.


The Phrase of My Week


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I came across this article, “This is Why Consent Doesn’t Exist for Disabled Folks” by Mia Mingus in the wee hours of this morning, and I immediately went “THIS!!!!!”  I now have a phrase that describes so much of what I hate about being disabled, “forced intimacy.”

This past week has been exceedingly draining due primarily to the incredibly high number of ‘forced intimacy’ encounters.  With transportation, in stores, on walks, making appointments, finding providers, with complete random strangers, and so on.

A person on a FB group I follow posted this morning about how they had an interaction with a fellow traveler on a bus.  A rather mundane conversation with a fellow traveler.  One that an able bodied person wouldn’t think twice about.  But as the fellow traveler, a complete stranger, never once commented, or brought up the person’s disability, the person, as such interaction is so rare, felt impacted enough to write about it.

Because such is so rare!  I can’t even remember the last interaction I had with a stranger that didn’t either begin, end or involve them making some comment or question about my disability.  Ok wait, I can remember one, the guy taking my ticket at a recent event, just took my ticket, scanned it and handed it back to me, saying only “enjoy the show.”  Can I tell you how rare that is?  That all he said was “enjoy the show?”

Oh and I have to give kudos to the New England Aquarium, I’ve been going through their volunteer application process, and they have been nothing but inclusive and excelling at treating me as a human being.  Seriously, most inclusive, trusting and believing my lived experience interactions I have ever had in a professional setting.  The fact that so often is not the case and I feel the need to pick my jaw up off the ground with every awesome interaction I have with everyone on their team, totally says something up the frequency of forced intimacy interactions and my expectation that such will happen and I need to steel myself for it.   When forced intimacy isn’t there, it’s such a breath of fresh air and I go “ohhhh!  So this is how everyone else lives!  How lovely!”

This daily reality of forced intimacy, forced vulnerability to gain access to so much including privacy or invisibility, is exhausting and draining (and down right infuriating at times).

So here’s my encouragement to all, the next time you see a complete stranger (or patron of your business or coworker or potential future employee) who happens to be a person with disability and you feel the need to strike up a conversation, imagine the conversation you’d start with a complete stranger/patron/coworker/employee/etc who happens to be an able bodied person, and say those words.  After the person picks their jaw up off the ground at the shock they are experiencing, or they take a moment to look around in surprise sure you must be speaking to someone else, they may just agree this weather we’ve been having is indeed very unusual and the worst.


Whistle Recalls


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I remember it being so challenging learning to whistle as a kid.  My dad can make a very distinct sharp whistle sound of the side of his mouth.  I’m not that talented.  But once I did learn to whistle, I’m functional at it.  Certainly not incredibly musically talented with it like Roger Whittaker:

But I can reliably recreate certain pitches in a set series.  Hence my whistle recall.

I love training a whistle recall because for me it is the hardest one to dilute and therefore risk lessening criteria on.  In order for me to whistle, it takes more cognitive thought than for me to just call out “come” or “here” or “Zora.”  So once I’ve made the decision to whistle, it’s easier for me to follow up on reinforcing the dogs appropriately, and the whistle over time gains a really high importance for the dogs, good things always happen when they find me after hearing the whistle sound.

Video Description: Zora out of sight and sound in the woods down a trail. I whistle. You hear her bell start to sound as she runs to me, then into the picture, coming to tap my hand with her nose.

I introduce the whistle recall early into my relationship with any of the dogs in my life, especially those who will potentially gain off leash privileges at some stage.  I pair the whistle to mean “good things (most often food, but depends on the dog) will occur at Katrin when you hear this sound, so get to her as fast as you can.”  Starting with no distractions, then as the strength of the conditioning builds, in increasing distraction environments, until I feel confident if I whistle the dog will stop what they are doing immediately and seek me out.

I will admit occasionally (most often when the dogs are at an age of thinking they don’t need no stinkin humans), if I whistle and get no response, I leave and let the dog get “lost.”  (me leaving often means I hide behind a tree).  When they finally “find” me we have the biggest party ever.  This only happens after I’m sure the dog has had a previous ton of conditioning on whistle = run to me as fast as they can for an awesome time.  As otherwise I wouldn’t have taken them off leash.  And then they earn a long line (and a lot more training reps) for a while longer until once again I feel confident they will come when they hear me whistle.

The whistle recall is valuable for me because a. I have to think a lot more to do it, b. it’s a distinct sound, and c. the sound itself seems to travel farther than just me calling out.

What’s your favorite trained recall cue?