Valerie Pollard

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Valerie Pollard has been training dogs professionally since 1979, and specializes in working with behavior issues, including fear, anxiety and aggression. She has always had a keen interest in learning and has hosted seminars regularly with international trainers/behaviorists in that regard. Valerie has a degree in Art History from U.C.L.A. and has completed coursework for the Master’s thesis – but left the program to pursue working with dogs. Valerie believes that competing with your dog in any sort of venue can only enhance the relationship, whether it be AKC Obedience, Rally-O, Agility or Flyball. She has competed with her own dogs in the sport of Schutzhund, and attained the owner/handler Schutzhund III title with her GSD “Bodie”. She is also interested in British Working Trials as well as the Puppydog Allstar K9 Games as other challenging and fun ways to compete. Valerie is a charter member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a Clinical member of the International Association of Dog Behavior Counselors. Valerie prefers to think of animals in the following way, as described by Henry Beston in “The Outermost House”: "We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mythical concept of animals.....we patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."

Blog posts by Valerie Pollard

What Is a Dog Behavior Counselor

The field of dog training as such has grown so much in the past ten years:  new organizations and new certifications have blossomed.  The general public seems to be much more aware in many ways of what to expect and of varying options for their dogs. However, still not aware enough.....

When I read various lists and see the questions that so many "dog behavior counselors" are asking of their peers I find myself wondering again how we can be fair to the public, and mostly to the dogs, that we intend to service.    What should a Dog Behavior Counselor/Trainer be able to do?

Well, in my

 

Comments on Dog Training.....

There have been several comments lately on various dog lists regarding inaccurate perceptions of dog sports such as Schutzhund, assuming in general that because dogs are learning to "bite" that it must be an out-of-control and bad thing.  I began to realize that this was bothering me on a deeper level than perhaps it should - but why?  And then it occurred to me. 

 

Whatever Happened to Training a Dog?

I've noticed a disconcerting trend on the professional email lists lately. It seems that whenever someone asks a question regarding an unwanted behavior, all of the answers tippy-toe around various ways to manage the issue or how to prevent the dog from engaging in it rather than ever giving any solutions that might actually resolve the problem. Don't get me wrong - every trainer *should* know how to prevent and manage all sorts of issues, this comes right along with being a competent trainer. But shouldn't they also know how to use training to hopefully resolve the problem as well?

For example, just recently a question was asked regarding a large adolescent dog who was randomly jumping up on the back of his elderly, medically compromised owner: not a good thing. Something that could, in fact, result in that owner not being able to keep their dog. The responses ranged from:

a) tether the dog on a bed with a chew toy

 

I Wish We Could All Get Along

There are trends in things like dog training or child rearing that come and go through the years: to spank or not to spank; to use food or not use food, etc. Each trend reaches a peak and then slowly eases back until another new discovery or enlightenment comes along.

                  Dr. Ian Dunbar began the delightful trend of "dog-friendly" dog training all those years ago. What a revelation it was at the time: the idea of using food and positive reinforcement to teach basic commands; moving away from strict AKC-like standards to an outlook of more of a camaraderie between family and pet dog! Dr. Dunbar also emphasized reaching all dog trainers with these new ideas; not to turn anyone away, or revile anyone's style: it was more important to try and get as many trainers as possible on board with these new ideas.

 

In Memoriam To Chester, And Other Things

I always wondered how and why I might stop training dogs.  Working as a trainer is something I've always loved to do and no matter how I envisioned it, I couldn't think of any reason I would stop unless perhaps just getting too old and decrepit might put an end to it!  Now I know that sometimes Life has a trick or two hidden up its sleeve that you wouldn't have expected, and that those hands you are dealt, though they might look really good on the flop, sometimes end up surprising you before the hand is over.

 

Is a 200 Really Worth It?

Recently I was listening to a few dog trainers discussing the best way to teach a dog to retrieve a dumbbell.  Apparently the owner in question had completely burned her dog out on the exercise by repeatedly working on it in a manner that was very aversive to the dog - although she wasn't using forceful methods the dog was totally unmotivated to learn to take a dumbbell from her hand.

 

To Crate or Not to Crate, & Why

I'm writing this in response to a discussion on a dog trainer's list that occurred recently.  As most doggy people know the use of crates as a form of dog management has increased monumentally over the last two decades.  Back in the day people used dog runs or cages to put their dog in for various reasons - but you wouldn't have seen crates sitting in bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms like you do now.  You wouldn't see so many dogs essentially living their lives in a crate until their owner comes home from work.
 
The crate can easily be misused - as so many dog trainers like to say, "It's not the tool, it's the fool".  Or, "any tool can be misused".  This is true and too many owners (and even many trainers, ouch!) see nothing wrong with confining a dog in a crate all day long and much of the night too.  "It's the quality time that matters", they say, "not the quantity".  I must disagree.

 

What If It's Just All Wrong?

A few weeks ago a call came through from a gentleman who had just bought a Rhodesian Ridgeback pup for his autistic son.  He told me that he had researched the breed and decided it would be the best to train as a therapy dog for his situation. Already my brain was whirling, trying to figure out in which universe he had figured that a RR would be the best dog for his severely autistic child (I love the breed, they're just not usually the first choice for a therapy dog).  He then went on to tell me that he had never owned a dog before and wanted to try and do everything right.  This, of course, was a good sentiment and I hoped it would bode well for the whole situation.
    

 

Not Again?

I have just been involved in yet another tedious discussion with other trainers about their defense of using overly forceful methods to train a dog.  Tedious because there was a time when I had thought that many of these rationales were long buried in the past, and it’s hard and annoying to travel along those lines of discussion once more.

The problem is, in my opinion, that there is no consistent measure of how much is too much pressure to put upon an animal in training.  Therefore, when you find yourself in these arguments you never really know your opponent’s perceptions, or what they really mean when they say that they “use tiny “nicks” with an e-collar”, or “barely yank” with a choke chain.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen for myself that there can be a huge gap between what someone is saying, and what it really means (from my own perception, at least).

 

What Is A Shelter Dog?

What is a “shelter dog”, anyway?  Sometimes it seems that they are separated into a unique category, as if they are “different” somehow from all of the dogs living in homes, or being bred endlessly by breeders.  Yet, of course, they all started somewhere, obviously.  How did all of these faces that stare at us from behind the chain link get there?

There is a pyramid of cause:  it starts with those who breed.  It goes on to those who sell for profit, such as pet stores.  It continues with those who buy a puppy and either through ignorance or laziness or life circumstances the pup grows up “wrong” – lacking what they need to survive the reality of a dog’s life in the society of mankind.

 

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